With the economy going the way it is, we all want to get the most mileage out of our cars, hopefully keep the cars a bit longer and have fewer repair bills. There are a number of easy things you can do to help with that, and in additional they will also keep you and your passengers safe. What I am recommending here is basic maintenance stuff. Unfortunately, like backing up your computer, most people don’t do it – especially as the car gets older and loses its luster. But, truth be told, that is when it really needs it even more. Also, all of these are something you can do yourself and save some money.
- Check Your Tire Pressure. Don’t just check the tire pressure when you see a tire going soft. Check all of them once a month. Under inflated tires will make a car use more gas and either pull or just driver badly. Over inflated tires also make the car handle poorly and have less grip on the road. And both under and over inflation will cause the tires to wear more quickly. You will save money and be safer if the tires are inflated correctly. And while you are down on tire level, inspect your treads to make sure your tires aren’t like me – going bald.
- Air Filter – Check it and replace the air filter at least every year. If you put a lot of miles on the car or drive a lot of dirty or dusty roads then you will need to do it more often. Although part of regular scheduled maintenance, this is something most people put off or forget. A clogged air filter can make your car run rich and drop your gas mileage. It also just makes it hard for the engine to breath and so lowers performance. (Note: some air filters are meant to be cleaned, not replaced.)
- Radiator Flush – It is a good idea to completely flush the cooling system in most cars every year and replace with the correct mixture of water and anti-freeze. Even in summer you need to run anti-freeze. In addition to keeping your coolant from freezing, it also raises the boiling point of water so that it can carry more heat away from your engine without boiling. (Note: This is the only tip here that may be a bit tricky with some cars, so do a little research on the Net before jumping in.)
- Check Your Lights – Headlights, tail lights, brake lights, and turn signals. Have someone walk around while you test all the different lights and their functions. This could save you from being hit in traffic and could also save you a costly ticket from your local highway patrol.
- Check Your Oil – Checking the oil on most cars is a very, very simple thing to do. Catching a system that is running low can also save you thousands of dollars. When a car runs out of oil, it turns in to a brick. But do not over fill the system either or you could damage seals and cause both leaks and damage to other systems. And, of course, keep up with your regularly scheduled oil and filter changes.
- Check Your Brake Fluid – While checking your oil, also take a look at the brake fluid (and clutch fluid if your car has it). Usually people don’t know they are running low on brake fluid until, hopefully, a light comes on or, in the worst case, the brakes simply fail to work.
- Check Your Fuses – You should always carry at least one spare fuse of every type your car uses. It is certainly no fun being stuck somewhere with no lights or wipers for the lack of a fifty cent part. Also, if you car is getting older, it is a good idea to take each fuse out every year or so and visually inspect it. This will not only help you to spot trouble before it happens, but the act of taking it out and putting it back in will clean the connectors of the fuse and fuse box. And what if you keep blowing the same fuse? Yes, you have a problem and need to have a professional track it down.
- Change Your Windshield Wipers – This should be done at least once a year. When you put the new ones on (or have the guy at AutoZone do it for free) you will be surprised how much more clearly and therefor safely you can see out the window. For added visibility coat the windshield every few months with Rain-X or an equivalent product. These products cause water to bead up and literally run off.
- Inspect The Rubber – This means that every month or two you should take a look at the belts and hoses in your engine compartment. You aren’t doing anything special, just looking for cracking or signs of wear. If you spot anything, either replace the item or have it replaced. If you have a question on whether it should be replaced or not, the guy at the local auto-parts store can take a look. Why him and not a mechanic? Because he doesn’t care if you replace it or not. Some mechanics may have vested interest in your replacing those items.
- Keep A Log – Some people do this religiously and put every single fill-up, oil change, and bug-splat in there. Others just keep major services and such. You should at least keep track of there major service and repair items, but your really should track the fuel consumption at least a few times a year. What you are looking for is not so much the actual mileage itself, but drastic changes in the mileage. I had a car that once consistently getting about 23 miles per gallon and then all of a sudden dropped to about 20. That let me know something was going on. It turned out that gotten something in the air filter that was clogging things up. If I hadn’t been keeping track I wouldn’t have know, would have wasted money, and could eventually have had major problems.
Well, there you go. Nothing major there, but if you do these things your are sure to help you car last longer and provide better service. Note that nothing here should take the place of or change the recommendations put for in your owner’s manual for service intervals and tune-ups. These are simply things to do between these times to keep you running more smoothly and off the side of the road.