General Vehicle Maintenance
The classic "tune-up" was once the heart of the automotive business and
contrary to some beliefs, today's modern vehicles still need tune-ups to
keep them performing at the most efficient levels.
As the pace of technology quickened, the procedures required to perform a traditional tune-up changed dramatically. Highly sophisticated ignition and fuel systems are now the norm, using one or more onboard computers to control critical engine and transmission management functions.
If the vehicle isn't being properly maintained, you're not going to get where you want to go. As part of the 21st Century Tune-up on today's modern vehicles, the following systems should be inspected: battery, charging and starting engine, mechanical powertrain control (including onboard diagnostic checks), fuel ignition, and emissions.
To help ensure good performance, fuel economy and emissions, the Car Care Council also recommends that motorists take the time necessary to become familiar with their vehicle. Study the owner's manual to become thoroughly acquainted with the operation of all systems. Pay special attention to the indicator lights and instruments.
Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Winter
Mechanical failure - an inconvenience anytime it occurs - can be deadly in the winter. Preventive maintenance is a must. A well-maintained vehicle is more enjoyable to drive, lasts longer, and could command a higher resale price.
Some of the following tips can be performed by any do-it-yourselfer; others require the skilled hands of a professional auto technician.
Engine Performance - Get engine driveability problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a good repair shop. Cold weather makes existing problems worse. Replace dirty filters - air, fuel, etc.
Fuel - Put a bottle of fuel de-icer in your tank once a month to help keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Note that a full gas tank helps keep moisture from forming.
Oil - Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual - more often (every 3,000 miles) if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips.
Cooling Systems - The cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled about every 24 months. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.) DIYers, never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a pro.
Windshield Wipers - Replace old blades. If your climate is harsh, purchase rubber-clad (winter) blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on windshield washer solvent - you'll be surprised how much you use. Carry an ice-scraper.
Heater/Defroster - The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility. Newer models have a cabin air filter that should be replaced periodically. Check your owner's manual for the location and replacement interval.
Battery - The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. Routine care: Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. Avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves.
Lights - Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
Exhaust System - Your vehicle should be placed on a lift and the exhaust system examined for leaks. The trunk and floor boards should be inspected for small holes. Exhaust fumes can be deadly.
Tires - Worn tires will be of little use in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressures once a month. Check the tires when they are cold, before driving for any distance. Rotate as recommended. Don't forget your spare, and be sure the jack is in good condition.
Carry emergency gear - gloves, boots, blankets, flares, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, tire chains, and a flash light. Put a few "high-energy" snacks in your glove box.
Getting Your Vehicle Ready For Summer
Summer's heat, dust, and stop-and-go traffic, will take their toll on your vehicle. Add the effects of last winter, and you could be poised for a breakdown. You can lessen the odds of mechanical failure through periodic maintenance. Your vehicle should last longer and command a higher resale price, too! Some of the following tips are easy to do; others require a skilled auto technician.
Air Conditioning - A marginally operating system will fail in hot weather. Have the system examined by a qualified technician. Newer models have cabin air filters that clean the air entering the heating and air conditioning system. Check your owner's manual for location and replacement interval.
Cooling System - The greatest cause of summer breakdowns is overheating. The cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled about every 24 months. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.) DIYers, never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a pro.
Oil - Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual - more often (every 3,000 miles) if you make frequent short jaunts, extended trips with lots of luggage, or tow a trailer.
Engine Performance - Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended - more often in dusty conditions. Get engine driveability problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a good shop.
Windshield Wipers - A dirty windshield causes eye fatigue and can pose a safety hazard. Replace worn blades and get plenty of windshield washer solvent.
Lights - Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean dirt and insects from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
Tires - Have your tires rotated about every 5,000 miles. Check tire pressures once a month; check them while they're cold before driving for any distance. Don't forget to check your spare as well and be sure the jack is in good condition. Examine tires for tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. An alignment is warranted if there's uneven tread wear or if your vehicle pulls to one side.
Brakes - Brakes should be inspected as recommended in your manual, or sooner if you notice pulsations, grabbing, noises, or longer stopping distance. Minor brake problems should be corrected promptly.
Battery - Batteries can fail any time of year. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. Routine care: Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check the fluid level monthly. Avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves.
Emergencies - Carry some basic tools - ask a technician for suggestions. Also include a first-aid kit, flares, and a flashlight. Consider buying a cellular phone.
Keeping your vehicle in tune with the environment is definitely a win-win
situation. Besides helping the environment, a properly maintained and
operated vehicle will run more efficiently, will be safer, and will last
longer - up to 50% longer, according to a survey of ASE-certified Master
Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Winter
Some of the ensuing advice can be managed by any do-it-yourselfer, while others necessitate the expertise of a professional auto technician.
An inconvenience at any time, mechanical failure can be perilous during winter. Preemptive maintenance is imperative. A well-maintained vehicle not only offers a more enjoyable driving experience but also has a longer lifespan and may command a higher resale value.
Resolve any engine drivability issues (like hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) at a reputable repair shop. Replace clogged filters, such as air and fuel filters.
Add fuel de-icer to your tank monthly to prevent moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Maintaining a full gas tank also deters moisture build-up.
Follow the manual and change the oil and oil filter as directed, especially if your driving primarily consists of frequent short trips or stop-and-go traffic.
Regularly check the coolant level, condition, and concentration, and ensure a 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water. Refrain from removing the radiator cap until the engine has cooled down. Have a professional examine the drive belts, clamps, and hoses.
Replace worn wiper blades with rubber-clad (winter) ones to combat ice build-up. Always keep a sufficient amount of windshield washer solvent, and carry an ice-scraper.
Ensure that the heater and defroster are functioning correctly for passenger comfort and optimal driver visibility. Remember to replace the cabin air filter periodically.
Detect a weak battery accurately with professional equipment. Routinely remove corrosion from posts and cable connections and check the fluid level if the battery caps are removable.
Regularly inspect all lights and bulbs, replacing any burnt-out bulbs and cleaning lenses as needed.
Elevate your vehicle and examine the exhaust system for leaks. Inspect the trunk and floorboards for small holes as exhaust fumes can be dangerous.
Worn tires are ineffective in winter weather. Check tire pressure monthly, examine tread life and for uneven wear, and rotate tires as recommended. Also, ensure the spare tire and jack are in good condition.
Stock up on essential emergency gear such as gloves, boots, blankets, flares, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, tire chains, and a flashlight. Keep some high-energy snacks in the glove box as well.
Preparing Your Vehicle For Summer
The heat, dust, and stop-and-go traffic of summer can take a toll on your vehicle. Combine that with the wear from the previous winter, and you might be at risk of a breakdown. However, regular maintenance can reduce the chances of mechanical failure, ensuring that your vehicle lasts longer and retains a higher resale value. Some of the following tips can be easily implemented, while others may require the expertise of a skilled auto technician.
Have your air conditioning system examined by a qualified technician, especially if it's showing signs of marginal operation. Check and replace cabin air filters as directed in the owner's manual.
The primary cause of summer breakdowns is overheating. Ensure that the cooling system is flushed and refilled regularly, with a 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water. Check the condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses.
Adhere to the manual and change the oil and oil filter as recommended, especially if you frequently make short trips, travel with heavy luggage, or tow a trailer.
Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended, and address any engine drivability issues promptly.
Keep a clear windshield by replacing worn wiper blades and ensuring an adequate supply of windshield washer solvent.
Routinely check all lights and bulbs, replacing any that are burnt out and cleaning lenses as needed.
Rotate your tires regularly, check tire pressure monthly, and inspect them for tread life, uneven wear, and cuts. Have your alignment checked if there's any uneven tread wear or if your vehicle pulls to one side.
Regularly inspect your brakes as per the owner's manual, and address any minor issues promptly to avoid major problems.
Battery failure can occur at any time. Use professional equipment to accurately detect a weak battery. Maintain your battery by cleaning corrosion and ensuring the proper fluid level if the battery caps are removable.
Carry essential tools and a first-aid kit. Include flares and a flashlight, and consider having a cellular phone on hand.
Also being able to maintain your vehicle in harmony with the environment is a mutually beneficial strategy. A well-maintained and efficiently operated vehicle is safer, lasts longer, and according to ASE-certified Master Auto Technicians, can have a 50% longer lifespan.
The following tips can guide you toward wallet-friendly car care practices:
- Ensure your engine is well-tuned, as a misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as 30%.
- Adhere to the service schedules outlined in your owner's manual, replacing filters and fluids as recommended.
- Regularly check your tire inflation, as underinflated tires lead to wasted fuel and increased engine workload.
- Address any issues with wheels that are out-of-line, as uneven tread wear and vehicle pulling can cause unnecessary strain on the engine.
- Observe speed limits, as mileage drastically decreases above 60 mph.
- Adopt a smooth driving style, avoiding sudden accelerations and jerky stop-and-go movements. Use cruise control on open highways to maintain a steady speed.
- Avoid excessive idling, shutting off the engine while waiting for extended periods.
- Modern vehicles warm up quickly, so avoid prolonged warm-ups on cold winter mornings.
- Remove unnecessary items from your vehicle to reduce weight and enhance fuel efficiency.
- Store luggage and cargo in the trunk rather than on the roof to minimize air drag.
- Plan your trips efficiently, consolidating errands to reduce unnecessary driving. Opt for travel during lighter traffic times to avoid stop-and-go conditions.
- Consider participating in a carpool to further reduce car costs.
Remember that how your car runs, how you drive it, and how you handle its fluids, old parts, and tires all have significant implications on your finances.
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