While every make and model has its own nuances, every vehicle out there has basic service and maintenance needs. I have put together a few ideas and tips that are designed to help you understand the basic maintenance and service required by all cars and trucks.
1. Oil & Filter: Oil and filter changes are often thought of as the most important maintenance item. While extremely important, the old 3,000 mile change rule has become obsolete as oil technology has advanced. Many service centers still push for 3,000 mile oil changes (they are still a business in need of making money) but the majority of automakers today call for changes at either 7,500 or 10,000 miles. Some have even set the range as infrequent as every 15,000 miles! Above all else, be sure to follow your own car manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for the correct oil change intervals and this will save costs and waste in dumping useful oil.
2. Tire Pressure: Most people don’t think of tire pressure as contributing to a more efficient-running vehicle. The truth is, maintaining proper air pressure in your tires can improve gas mileage by up to 10 cents per gallon! Check the tire pressure regularly ― especially during weather changes. Cold climates reduce tire pressure. Goodyear experts report that pressure in a tire goes down an average of 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change. Why is this so important? Because under-inflated tires cause increased wear on the outside tire edges. This also generates excessive heat, and can reduce fuel economy by increasing rolling resistance because soft tires make the vehicle work harder, wear out faster, and give poor traction.
3. Fluids: Checking levels under the hood is great, but an easy visual spot-check of your garage floor or driveway for any fluid leaks is also a good idea. Spills could be from A/C condensation in hot weather (normal), but also look for spills that could be from antifreeze, transmission, brake, or power steering fluids.
4. Spark Plug Cables: Check to make sure they’re in good condition. Bad cables, just like bad spark plugs, can cause issues from something as simple as a rough idle to something more serious such as the car not starting.
5. Battery Cables: The cable bolts should be tightly attached with the connections free of corrosion. In other words, make sure your battery cables aren’t loose and that they are clean. Once corrosion sets in, it increases at a tremendous rate. Corroded battery cables will cause the electrical contact to be lost between the battery and your cable. This means that your car will intermittently begin failing to start. No one likes having a dead car. A simple method for cleaning the battery terminals on a car battery is to use a wire brush. There are multiple tools available for doing this, but I like to use my wire brush. If the corrosion is getting really bad, another simple solution is to mix some baking soda with water and use a toothbrush to clean it off. The baking soda neutralizes the acid and the corrosion comes right off. Once cleaned, petroleum jelly or greased battery terminals helps protect from further corrosion.
6. Drive Smarter: The simple reason to drive smarter is to improve your fuel economy. How you drive effects your gas mileage (as well as your safety). Sudden starts and stops accompanied by lots of accelerating or speeding increases gas usage. It also increases the wear and tear of your vehicle. Reduce unnecessary miles by consolidating errands. Have a goal in mind before you leave the house. Know where you’re going, what you’re looking for, and what you want to accomplish. Remember to always focus on the drive ― not on the time it takes nor those text messages.
7. Protect Your Paint: Opt for public parking spots away from busy areas to minimize door dents. Even though you may walk a bit, an open space farther away may reduce the number of irritating dents that inevitably show up after a trip to the store. An alternative is to pick up some magnetic car door guards from DentGoalie.com. These are removable panels that attach to your vehicle when parked. In other words, you only use them in parking lots and don’t drive around with them on your car. These magnetic car door protection panels come in two sizes and include security cables so sticky fingers don’t walk off with them.