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Cutting Costs: Proper Maintenance to Extend the Lifetime of Your Vehicle
Keeping your vehicle properly maintained is essential to warding off major repairs, and the cost of keeping the vehicle maintained is much less than fixing it or replacing it. Complete guidelines for maintaining your vehicle are found in your owner’s manual; however, the basics are the same for every vehicle.
Once a week, inspect your car visually. Look for leaking fluids, low tires, turn signals and lights that do not work. Check the exhaust: is it normal, or is your car billowing white or black smoke? Check out the meaning of any warning light that has come on and schedule the proper maintenance.
Once a month, clean your vehicle’s air filter. This task will increase your gas mileage, while helping the engine to run cleaner. To clean the filter, remove it from the housing, tap it on a hard surface to remove pollutants, then wipe the housing clean with a gasoline dampened rag. Never get the filter wet, as water will ruin it. If possible, place the filter back in the housing in a different position than you found it.
Every three months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first:
- Check the fluids and the tire pressure.
- Change the engine oil and the filter.
- Lubricate the chassis.
- Check all the belts and hoses. Tighten belts as needed, and replace any that are not up to par.
Every year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first:
- Rotate the tires.
- Replace all filters, including air and fuel.
- Inspect the cooling system hoses.
- Check the wear on the breaks. Replace as needed.
- Tune up the ignition system. This includes changing the plugs and checking the rotor and rotor cap, to insure all are firing correctly.
- Check the temperature of the engine thermostat.
- Check the vehicle for leaks and other problems.
Every two years or 20,000 miles, whichever comes first:
- Bleed the brakes to renew the fluid and remove contaminations from normal wear and tear.
- Flush the cooling system. Replace with distilled water, to prevent mineral build up, and anti-freeze, as specified in the owner’s manual. If recommended by your owner’s manual or mechanic, also add an over-the-counter corrosion protectant.
- Replace the automatic transmission fluid and filter.
- Check the pollution control valve; replace if needed.
As you are driving, watch out for things that don’t look, sound or feel right. New noises are often the first indicators of trouble. Don’t ignore unusual sounds. Likewise, if the car begins to vibrate, shake or pull to one side, check it out as soon as possible. Doing so will save you money in the long run, by preventing permanent damage. Don’t feel bad asking your mechanic to inspect the car, when something feels wrong.
(c) Copyright text and photo Christa Dovel 2010