Updated: Sep 9, 2020
How does keeping your vehicle in good working condition save you money? I can speak from experience from having the cost of a new engine!! That's certainly the extreme but it happened with an oil leak and me not paying attention! Another good reason to keep your car or truck running well is that it will be less likely to break down and leave you on the side of the road which is not the safest thing in the world, and now you have a towing bill on top of the repairs. Lastly, a vehicle that is well maintained will also have a longer life and will have a higher resale value. That could even make you a bit more money!
Below is a about a 12 minute video going over a few of the 20 tips to keep your car running smoothly with the assistance of my husband, James who is an auto repair mechanic and owns his own repair shop here in town. Enjoy!! We will jump back in then with the full list!
Tire Pressure : 32-35 PSI is usually recommended. This should be in your owners manual. Tire gauges are small and can fit in your glove compartment. With the newer vehicles this has become an easier job to know when your tires may be getting a bit low. You will have a picture of your car show up on your dash and it will tell you what tire is low. This just happened to me the other day. I was coming home from work and I pass a gravel pit (there is a red flag) apparently I ran over a sharp rock or stone and within a minute or so the dash lite up with one of the tires having a low pressure. I didn't think too much because being the spoiled wife I am with an auto mechanic for a husband I figured I would have him look at the tire when I got home. Well, the next 20 minutes ride home was a bit tense as I watched the tire pressure continue to drop little by little. I soon realized I was going to have a flat tire shortly and I knew from my husband that you don't drive on a flat tire because you can ruin the rim and then you have to get a new rim and a tire if the tire can't be fixed! I started to get a bit nervous and the last thing I wanted to do was to call my husband at work and tell him he had to drive a half hour to deal with me and a flat tire. The fear of being stuck on the side of the road won out over the fear of getting my husband out of work and I called. He calmed me down and said watch the tire pressure and if it gets too low you will have to stop, pull over and call me and I will come and help you. I just barely made it home before it went completely flat and James was able to fix the tire and remove the rock I ran over. I did, however well deserved, got the lecture on driving around a gravel pit and try to avoid any larger rocks and gravel.
2. You feel you are not getting your normal fuel mileage it may also be related to a lower tire pressure.
3. Rotate Your Tires: Every 5-8000 miles. Promotes even wear on your tires. Alignment should be done every 2-3 years. Signs you may need an alignment are: Tires wearing more on one side. Your car feels like it pulls more in one direction or your vehicle seems to drift to one side all the time.
4. Knowing when to get new tires before you get stranded on the side of the road. The penny test. James demonstrates the penny test in the video but I will briefly explain it here. Worn tires are more likely to slide in the rain and get stuck in mud or snow. Here is a Wiki How To that explains in detail. https://www.wikihow.com/Check-Tire-Tread-with-a-Penny#:~:text=The%20penny%20test%20is%20an%20easy%20way%20to,and%20get%20stuck%20in%20the%20snow%20or%20mud.
5. Changing the Oil on your vehicle: James recommends every 3000 miles. The oil will get black indicating it is time to change the oil. Keeps the engine running smoothly with clean oil. Look at your owner's manual for the type of oil and how many quarts your vehicle takes. James shows you on the engine where you can find what type of oil to use also.
6. Checking Your Oil: James recommends checking your oil every other time you fill up with fuel. We show you how to check your oil in the video. I know first hand what happens if you let a slow leak continue. If you run your car out of oil it may be very possible you burn up the engine and will cause major expensive damage such as needing a head gasket replaced or worst case scenario having to put in a new engine. This happened to me and a new engine was 2500.00 and if my husband would not have been able to put it it in the cost would have doubled or more to take it to an auto repair shop. Often times this may lead to a decision to get another vehicle and may be a new set of car payments. Hearing your engine "knock" is not a good sound to listen to.
7. Oil Change James recommends changing the oil every 3000 miles. You should check your oil every other fill up make sure you are not low as mentioned above. The blacker the oil the dirtier it is and may indicate an oil change that is due. Here are 5 reasons why you should change your oil on time and regularly.
The oil cools the engine parts and can help from over heating this is why when you run your car out of oil it overheats and you can burn up the engine
It will increase the life of your vehicle
The oil lubricates all the moving parts and improves their function and decreases wear
improves gas mileage
Lastly it can help to remove sludge and debris that may be circulating inside the engine.
8. Care for you wind shield wipers. This could be a real safety hazard if you cannot see out your windshield so don't neglect your wipers!! You should change your wipes if you hear a scratching sound that may indicate they are worn down and scrapping against the windshield and need to be changed. Check them about every 6 months for wear and tear. Check for peeling of the blade. These are getting worn out. If your windshield is dirty and the wipers are not effective in cleaning it, check your wipers. If you can look out your windshield and actually see the blades the rubber is worn off and you need new wipers!. Lastly if the wipers don't seem to touch the windshield or they seem to skip parts of the glass chances are you need new wipers.
9. Types of Fuel: Make sure you check your owner's manual to see what type of fuel you need to put in your gas tank. My daughter just bought a new vehicle and didn't know when she bought it that the engine was turbo charged and she needed a specific type of gas. Make sure you know what is the lowest cost fuel that you can run in your vehicle before you select the "cheap stuff". Is your vehicle made for "flex fuel" where you can use E-85 fuel or do you need regular unleaded or premium. I wasn't sure what the difference was and our truck engine is made for flex fuel so here is what I found. Flex fuel is better for the environment. Flex fuel uses leftover corn and other agricultural waste. More ethanol production means more domestic jobs. Flex fuel is cheaper than gas. E85 diminishes carbon dioxide in the air. It’s better for the engine of your car. Bottom line your vehicle will run better with the appropriate fuel the engine was made for.
10. Check the fluid levels: Most often when you get your oil changed professionally the shop will always check all your fluid levels and "top them off" if needed. If you are low on a particular fluid it may be an early indication that you may have a leak. There is nothing worse than a spring snowing melting type of day when you are driving behind a semi or passing one and you run out of windshield wiper fluid and you can't get the muck off your windshield and thus you can't see a darn thing! Next time you get your oil changed ask if they checked your fluids and if they noticed any concerns. Another bad deal is when you are out of coolant and your engine over heats because you may have a leak and now you are stranded on the side of the road with stream pouring out from under your hood! (Easter Egg #2)
11 Spark Plug/Tune Up: We are Half Way Through!! Thanks for Hanging in There! You should check your spark plugs about every 30,000 miles. If you are having trouble starting your car, or your check engine light comes on, if you find you are filling up your gas tank more often (bad spark plugs will cause you to use more fuel), or your engine rides "rough" or when you turn it off it still keeps on running! The spark plugs ignite a spark for the engine to allow it to start. If you opt to change your own spark plugs make note if they seem to have oil on them. They should be clean and if they are not, you may have an oil leak somewhere.
12. Changing your air filter: It is recommended that you change the air filter every 10,000-15,000 miles or about once every 12 months. If the air filter gets plugged your vehicle may run sluggish or poorly. The oil filter also keeps contaminants out of your engine.
13. Dashboard Warning Lights: Pay attention to the lights on the dash. Nowadays the dash boards are pretty sophisticated and most generally will let you know what the problem is. Sometimes the pictures are confusing and you may not be sure what they mean. Make sure you check your owner's manual for explanations of the warning lights if you are unsure. Generally speaking if the light is flashing vs. remaining just "on", that is a more serious problem and needs attention right away.
14. Brakes: One of the easy things you can do when you wash your vehicle is to rinse the brake dust off the wheels it helps to prevent rust and corrosion. Brakes should be inspected about every 6 months. This can coincide with your rotation of tires where the mechanic or do it your selfer will remove the tires to rotate them and it becomes a great time to check for wear and tear on your brakes. Some auto repair shops can "machine" your rotors to get an extended life out of them vs replacing them. If they are worn down too much there is no other way but to replace them along with the brake pads. Your vehicle may only need to have brake pads replaced which is much less expensive then replacing the pads and the rotors. Some signs you need to get your brakes checked:
Noise is the first thing you might hear. A screetching, or a rubbing grinding noise may be heard telling you that your brakes are needing to be services. If your vehicle pulls in one direction or the other may also be a brake issue.
If you feel like your brakes are "grabbing" or "vibrating" this is also a warning sign.
If your brake goes down to the floor and having trouble stopping you may have a brake fluid leak or rusty broken brake lines that need attention. Vehicles that sit a lot and not used often can have the brakes rust up on you.
Again, pay attention to your warning lights on your dash.
15. Keeping Your Vehicle Clean: Using quality car/truck care products will extend the life of your vehicle by reducing the risk of rust. Water is the enemy of keeping your car rust free. Pay special attention to any scratches or dents in your vehicle where it gets down to the bare metal and this is a spot that may rust sooner than later. Pay attention to your paint job. Flakes that come off and expose the metal are areas where rust may set in. Look for a quality rust prevention products or undercoating for your vehicle. Wash your car regularly and wax a couple of times per year. Keeping your car clean in the winter is necessary to help try to prevent rust. Rust can get so bad that the under carriage or frame may rust and detroy the integrity of it and cause safety concerns. Keeping the inside of your vehicle clean will help maintain the seats and other areas of you vehicle plus reduce the germs that may be lurking about!
16. Critter Control: Yes we do need to talk about this especially if you live in a rural area. I can't tell you how many times James has come home and told me stories about vehicles that won't start and get towed into the shop and after several minutes of checking things out he finds a mouse nest and chewed wires! I have nothing against mice wanting to raise a family in a warm environment but come on!!! This can be hazardous to your car!! If you have a vehicle that is not used over the winter and you bring out that nice sports car in the spring and it won't start, you might just have a little mouse issue!!
17. Battery Maintenance: Checking your battery connections for corrosion can help prevent the unexpected "My car won't start". It is always a good idea to keep a set of battery cables in your vehicle. If you are not comfortable using them chances are someone close by might be but may not have cables. If you are at all able to park in a garage this will for sure help to extend the life of your battery. No real good reason to keep your vehicle in a heated garage just protected from the cold, wind and weather will do. Battery acid is caustic and you must be very careful when handling. You do not want it to tip over and make sure it is secure in your car and not bumping around. Batteries may last anywhere from 2-7 years depending on many things. The less the vehicle is used the sooner the charge wears down and it is harder on your battery. The more the vehicle is used the better charged the battery is. Climate will make a difference in the length of your battery life. Believe it or not, if you live in warmer climates that actually reduces the life span of your battery due to the heat breaking down the chemicals in the battery and causing it to wear out more quickly.
18. Headlights and Bulbs: Of course the number one reason to keep your headlights clean is so you can see better!! If you stop for gas and it has been muddy or rainy take a moment to wipe off your headlights. If your headlight is cloudy or yellow it will not produce as much light. The sun can have damaging effects on those lights. In some cases I have seen that you can get the headlights restored and get the cloudiness and yellow haze off but you may need to replace the headlights. CARFAX had a nice article on taking care of your headlights and suggested changing both bulbs together so the light is unified or even. CARFAX also mentioned that if you hit a pothole or jolt your vehicle you may cause one of the headlights to get out of alignment which can lead to vision problems in the dark. This happened to me and what a big difference it made to have the headlights re-aligned. It was so much brighter!! Last tid bit of info I got from CARFAX was to do the "garage door test". Pull up to your garage door with your headlights on and see if the lights are in alignment with each other. You can see their complete article here: https://www.carfax.com/blog/5-tips-to-maintain-your-cars-headlights
19. Hoses, Belts, and Cables: Bottom line is look for cracks, fraying or splits in any of the belts, hoses or cables. It is easier to replace them then to wear them out and have them brake and you are once again stranded on the side of the road. Consumer Reports did a great job of explaining how to check all of these things and here is the link: https://www.consumerreports.org/car-repair-maintenance/how-to-inspect-car-belts-and-hoses/
20. Last, but for sure not least, is your vehicles Heating and Air Conditioning: While this may not keep you from going down the road, it may make for a very unpleasant experience if you do not have either one! Fuses, wires, compressors, all kinds of things can go wrong here. It is best to let a professional mechanic handle this one but I will be honest that most mechanics do not like these types of repairs because so many different things can be the issue and need to be sorted out. James always tells his customers that it is best to set up a routine maintenance appointment in the spring and fall before the extreme weather hits and make sure you ask your mechanic to make sure your heater and your air conditioner works and you don't find yourself without one or the other or both!!
We have made it through this long blog post but I hope that you found the information of value and that it can help save you both time and money in the long run. If you are looking for more tips on saving time, money or both go ahead and click here and get signed up for our monthly newsletter to be informed about what all is going on around here and get a "heads up" about new blog posts and offerings by Cabin Creek. In the message box please feel free to let me know a suggestion or a topic you would like to see covered.
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