Every vehicle needs a certain amount of routine maintenance to keep it running efficiently
and to help avoid costly repairs. In many instances, this maintenance can easily
be done by the vehicle owner at little or no cost. Unfortunately, the average vehicle
owner either spends more money than necessary to perform these tasks, or is lax in
making sure routine maintenance is completed, resulting in unnecessary expenses.
1. Checking and maintaining proper fluid levels in your car is required to maintain
your vehicle, as well as help insure that your vehicle runs properly.
a. Be sure to check the following fluid levels on a regular basis and “top them
off” as necessary: oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, radiator coolant, and power
steering fluid. If you have a vehicle that either burns oil or has a slow oil leak
or other fluid leak, you may want to check that fluid level more often.
b. Checking fluid levels and topping them off is easily done by yourself without
any professional help or cost, except for the replacement fluids which can be purchased
at minimal cost at many stores. If you do not know how to do this, ask a friend
or neighbor to show you, or next time your car is in the shop for maintenance ask
a technician to show you. Or just follow the instructions included in your vehicle’s
owner’s manual. One point of caution, if you are removing the radiator cap to check
radiator coolant level, do not remove the cap unless the car is cool, otherwise hot
fluid from the radiator could rush out of the opening and burn you.
2. Tire maintenance is also important to increase the life of your tires, improve
fuel economy, to minimize flat tires and blowouts and improve road handling.
a. Check the air pressure in your tires every few weeks to make sure they are inflated
to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure. Maintaining proper tire pressure
will improve fuel economy, while extending tire life and improving tire performance.
Check your owner’s manual for the proper tire pressure, or refer to the sticker
that is usually on the inside edge of the driver side door. You can buy a tire pressure
gage for less than $5 and check the pressure yourself. If your tires require air,
this is available at most gas stations either free or for a charge of less than $1.
If you do not know how to check tire pressure or add air to the tires, ask a friend
to show you, or stop at a tire or auto parts store and ask them to show you. Remember,
if one tire requires air and the others do not, it could be because of a slow leak
in that tire. Check to see if you can see any nails or other holes in the tire.
If you suspect a leak, mix some dishwashing soap and water together and spread it
on the suspected spot. If you see bubbles expanding, it is because air from the
tire is leaking into the soapy water. If you do need to have a tire repaired, call
around to see what the cost will be, as it can vary widely from vendor to vendor.
b. Check the condition of your tires every few weeks to make sure your tires are
not wearing unevenly, as this will reduce the life of your tires and possibly lead
to blowouts. If your tires are wearing down uniformly in the center, but not on
the outside portion of the tread, the tire inflation is probably too high. Conversely,
if the tires are wearing down on both outside edges but not in the center, the inflation
is probably too low. Both of these conditions can be corrected inexpensively simply
by ensuring tires are properly inflated, If the tires are wearing down on one side
but not the other, this is probably caused by poor vehicle alignment, particularly
if the vehicle is pulling to one side or the other. This will require a vehicle
realignment performed by a professional. If your tires are wearing in an inconsistent
manner with a “cupping” or other random pattern, they may need to be balanced, particularly
if the vehicle is also vibrating, or you may need new shock absorbers, particularly
if the vehicle seems to be bobbing. Try getting the tires balanced to see if this
fixes the problem before investing in shock absorbers.