Auto Repair Help

By Carl O’Reilly

Your vehicle is a very sophisticated and precise piece of machinery. Consequently, it must be properly maintained in order for it to operate properly. Whether you have a brand new vehicle or a used one, you can always extend its life and minimize visits to repair shops by practicing preventive maintenance. Unfortunately, too many people completely neglect their vehicles and as a result pay dearly for repairs that could have been avoided.

The following bits of advice represent the most common and crucial of the various preventive maintenance practices. By following these tips, you’ll greatly cut down on visits to repair shops and nearly ensure long and trouble free driving.

Make sure you perform common services (i.e. oil change, tune-up, and lube job) in routine intervals. If you neglect any of these crucial items, your engine will not perform up to par and you’ll cause unnecessary wear on key components.

Once a month, check key components of the engine cooling system. This involves checking the radiator fluid level, radiator hoses for cracks, and clearing away any debris from the front of the radiator. The radiator/cooling system must be functioning properly in order to keep your engine from getting too hot. Also, get in the habit of occasionally glancing at the engine temperature gauge while driving and checking that it’s not reading beyond the normal zone.

Once a month, inspect all belts for cracks and frays. If any belts look worn, have them replaced as soon as possible. If a belt breaks while you’re driving, you’ll generally be stranded.

Replace the timing belt every 50,000 miles. Why? Because, if the timing belt breaks while you’re driving, the engine will stop running because the valves and pistons will have been thrown out of synchronization. As a result, the pistons will slam into the valves – this generally ruins an engine. Although the cost of replacing a timing belt can range from $170.00 to $500.00, it is absolutely mandatory.

If your vehicle is equipped with an automatic transmission, have the transmission fluid checked every 12,000 miles. By examining the color and smell of the transmission fluid, one can determine if the transmission is operating at too high a temperature (i.e. black or brown in color and having a burnt smell indicate this).

Check the brake fluid level once a month. If it is low, you probably have a leak in one of the brake lines or the master cylinder. Add brake fluid and take your vehicle in for a brake system inspection as soon as possible.

Every month, check the tire pressure. By using an inexpensive device called a tire pressure gauge (available at any auto parts store) you can make sure your tires are at the recommended pressure. Refer to your vehicle’s user manual for the correct pressure reading. Keeping the tires at the correct pressure will extend their life.

Check the power steering fluid level once every couple months. If it is low, you probably have a leak in the power steering system and therefore should have it inspected as soon as possible. A failed power steering unit could spell disaster when driving at high speeds.

Replace the air filter once a year or more often if you drive in dusty conditions. Air filters are very inexpensive and simple to replace. A clean air filter will keep contaminants from entering your engine. Such contaminants (e.g. dirt) will accelerate internal engine wear.

Once every couple months, clean the battery terminals with a wire brush. Also, if your battery is not sealed, check the fluid level and if necessary, fill the cells with distilled water. The last thing you want is to not be able to start your engine due to a failed battery.

If you just purchased a new vehicle, make sure you break in the engine and transmission properly. Your dealer should have provided you with a guide for properly breaking in your new vehicle. By following this guide closely, you will set the proper pattern for reduced engine/transmission wear for the rest of the vehicle’s life.

Keep records and receipts of all services performed. By making a conscious effort to document all services performed, you’ll force yourself to stay up on various services that need to be done.

Lastly, it cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to regularly change the oil. If you do nothing else in the way of preventive maintenance, at least do this. If you don’t change the oil regularly you can be guaranteed your engine’s life will be cut short.


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