It is not a sin to not know everything about automobiles. Still, as a discerning automobile enthusiast or owner, there are a few important things you should be aware of.
A lot of these have to do with car maintenance.
Regardless of how and why you own a car, if it is not properly maintained, it will not last long because maintenance is the lifeblood of car ownership. Not to worry — understanding what makes your car work and how to keep it in great condition is not as difficult as it may appear.
Things to Do to Keep Your Car Running Smoothly
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you accomplish these five essential maintenance tasks regularly, not only will your car thank you — so will your wallet!
1. Check Your Engine Oil
This is at the top of the list for a reason. No, the check engine light isn’t just there to haunt you; if it’s on, it could mean that your car has a serious problem and you shouldn’t drive it.
Your car is a machine, and keeping it well oiled is one of the best ways to keep it moving. Checking the oil levels in your car’s engine is as simple as pulling out the dipstick.
But first, make certain that the vehicle is parked on a level surface. If you’ve just parked it, wait a few minutes for the oil to settle back into place to avoid a false reading. Wipe the dipstick with a rag or paper towel, re-insert it into the tube, and pull it out again to get a reading. Anywhere between full and low is a good place for the oil levels to be. If they aren’t, it’s time for an oil change.
Don’t forget to take your car in for regular oil changes even if the level in the car is right. As a general rule, you should have the oil in your car changed every 5,000 miles or every three months.
Note: It is also a great idea to check other car fluids regularly. The three most important ones include the coolant, power steering fluid, and brake fluid. Not sure where they are or how to refill them? Refer to your vehicle’s manual.
2. Maintain Proper Tyre Pressure and Keep an Extra Tyre in the Boot
Tyres degrade and may burst or dwindle at any time. This is why it is critical to check the pressure in your car’s tyres regularly — not just the ones on the car, but also the spare that should be in your boot.
Checking the tyre pressure of the car may not appear to be necessary knowledge, but insufficient tyre pressure can affect the car’s handling. It can also cause the car to drag while moving, increasing fuel consumption or permanently damaging the tyre.
To do this, remove the valve-stem cap and insert a gauge firmly over the end, making sure it is properly fitted so there are no air leaks. Check the tyre’s reading and adjust as needed. In general, it is best to stick to the pressure recommended by the manufacturer of your vehicle.
While we’re on the subject of tyres, every driver should be able to change a flat. Knowing how to change a tyre can save your life (even though emergency inflation kits are becoming the norm). Learn how to change a flat tyre by following this guide.
3. Replace Old Wipers/Add Windshield Washer Fluid
Have you ever been driving in the rain with your windshield wipers broken? Was it by any means a pleasurable experience? Probably not.
This is why functional windshield wipers are a must-have that should not be overlooked. Clear visibility is essential for safe driving.
If you want your windshield wipers to last as long as possible, replace them regularly — usually every six months. Also, keep the reservoir filled with windshield wiper washer fluid at all times to keep your windshield clear of road grime and precipitation.
4. Keep Your Car Battery Close, and Your Jumper Cables Closer
Next to flat tyres, there is probably nothing more terrifying for a car owner than a dead car battery. So, you should always keep jumper cables and portable jump start devices in your car in case your car battery dies.
The most important thing to remember when attempting to jumpstart your battery is to not mix up the leads. Remember, “Black is not and Red is hot.” This means that black is the negative lead and red is the positive lead.
However, in modern vehicles, the negative cable does not have to connect directly to the battery; in that case, an engine bracket or metal part of the body will suffice. If in doubt, go with the battery.
Note: Always keep an emergency kit on hand. This includes a first-aid kit, tire gauge, flashlight with extra batteries, rags, gloves, a fire extinguisher, reflective warning triangles (3), foam fire sealants, duct tape, drinking water, a warm blanket, a raincoat, a tow rope, a glass wipe, a Swiss army knife, and cat litter (can be used as sand under your tyres for traction).
5. Schedule Regular Visits to the Mechanic
No, the automobile repair shop isn’t just useful when your car isn’t working properly.
A stitch in time saves nine, or in this case, regular visits to the mechanic will ensure that you do not have to deal with grounding car issues in the future.
Bring your car in to be checked for things like battery life, the state of your fan belt, whether the fuel and air filter need to be changed, whether the shocks and brakes are working properly, and more.
Remember to inquire about the shop’s engine cleaner service. A good engine flush can help dissolve sludge and loosen up oil deposits, restoring your engine to factory specs.
One Last Thing: The Car Vehicle Manual Is Your Friend
Even though your car’s vehicle manual may not be your number one choice of reading material, it is good practice to read it in its entirety. In doing so, it becomes easier to determine what the lights mean when they come on in your dashboard. Check engine light, anyone?
Avoid unnecessary trips to the mechanic. Check the owner’s manual first, and then try to troubleshoot minor issues on your own. If you’re not sure where yours is, look it up online.