Caring For Your Vehicle
When you purchase a new or used car, it is essential that you are keep a check of your oil, automatic transmission, coolant, power steering, and brake fluid levels on a regular basis, because these fluids are the lifeline of your vehicle. Run out of any one of them, and your vehicle will break down.
It is probably a good idea to check your fluids every few days after purchasing a vehicle, in order to determine if there are any issues that are causing any loss of these vital fluids that keep your car in tip-top shape.
Every now and then, take a gander under the frontal area of your car to see if you have any leaks.Take notice of the color of any fluids you see dripping from your car. The color of the fluid will give you a clue to what is leaking and where to tell a mechanic to look at if you do have any leaks.
Tan - Likely an oil leak
Tan, clear, or red - Power Steering
Red - Likely a transmission fluid leak
Green - Likely a coolant leak
Clear or very light tan (particularly near tires) - Likely a brake fluid leak
NOTE: During the summer months, and after using the air conditioner, it is normal to see clear water dripping from your car, even for a few minutes after you have shut off the engine, most often coming from the right hand side of the vehicle near the firewall area of the vehicle. Condensation forms inside your car as a by-product of refrigerating the air and a constant drip is very normal.
Most vehicles will have a set of matched tires on them. Sometimes a tire is replaced, for various reasons, with one that will not match. As long as the tires are all the same size, which can be found on the side of each tire, and if all four tires are inflated to the same pressure, your car should drive like it is designed to.
Most cars and tires are rated to have the tire pressure 32 pounds per square inch (p.s.i.) to35 p.s.i. Trucks will often require more pressure in their tires. Always refer to the sidewall of the tire to see the recommended pressures. Tires inflated properly make the car drive better, it most definitely has a positive effect on fuel mileage, and it assures the maximum life of your tires.
Tire gauges are very cheap. You can purchase one at any auto parts store. Many convenience stores have air compressors available, which take quarters to operate, with air gauges built into the hoses that are used to inflate the tire.
The above tire is not wearing well, likely due to either an alignment issue, or it could be due to worn out shocks or struts. An additional cause could be that the tire is not balanced correctly. Here's a way to determine what the problem is;
A. If you feel a tire "hopping" when driving at speeds over 50 mph, it is likely out of balance. It is relatively inexpensive to have a tire balanced.
B. If you are driving and if you very briefly turn loose of the steering wheel and the vehicle wanders to one side or the other, the vehicle likely needs to be aligned. Alignments are moderately expensive, but are not overly-expensive. Shop around for the best price.
C. If, after hitting a bump in the road, any part of your vehicle bounces more than once, and that tire happens to be located on that corner of the vehicle, your shocks or struts are worn out. Shocks are far less expensive than struts, which can cost as much as $250 to replace.
Shocks and struts should always be replaced in pairs, either on the back or the front of the vehicle.
Coolant comes in two colors. Most vehicles maniufactured before the year 2004 will mostly utilize coolant that will be green in color. Vehicles manufactured after the year 2004 will often use coolant that is red in color, which is known as DEX-Cool. It is important to use the coolant mixture that is recommended for your vehicle and to keep it full of coolant at all times.
Severe engine damage may occur if your cooling system runs low of coolant.
Checking your coolant levels is easy and quick. Most vehicles are equipped with an overflow container, similar to the one depicted above. When the vehicle engine is cool, coolant should be at the "low" or "cold" level. After the engine becomes warm, the heat will cause the coolant to expand and rise to the "high" or "hot" level.
It is advisable to just inspect the overflow container without removing the cap. It may well be under pressure if the vehicle is warm.
Never, and I do mean never...remove the steel radiator cap when the engine is warm or hot.
When desiring to assure that the radiator is full of coolant, only check it when the engine is cool. You can be severely burned by hot coolant, which is under pressure, if you attempt to remove the radiator cap when the engine is warm.
Changing the oil and oil filter on your car on a regular basis will keep your engine in top shape for years to come. Lubricating any non-sealed items on your chassis will keep those parts from wearing out prematurely. Not many cars these days require chassis or steering component lubrication, but some still do.
Depending on the kind of drivng you do most often, and depending on which kind of oil you choose to run in your vehicle, oil changes should be performed every 5,000 - 10,000 miles.
Standard grades of oil should be changed more often. More expensive synthetic blends of oil, designed to last far longer, can be changed at extended intervals. Even standard grades of oil have advanced to the point that three month or 3,000 mile oil changes are no longer necessary.
Consult your owner's manual to understand which viscosity of oil is to be used in your vehicle at all times, and how often oil changes are recommended. Most shops specializing in oil changes know this information and they will be happy to relate it to you. If no owner's manual is available, your local parts store is another place where that information will be given to you at no cost.
My personal recommendation when seeking parts or supplies related to auto ownership is O'Reilly Auto Parts. I find they have the best prices and the friendliest staff around!!
I personally recommend Valvoline Instant Oil Change outlets if you need to have someone else service your vehicle. They do the best job, at a reasonable price, but be aware that they will often try to sell you items for your vehicle that can be purchased at a much lower price at O'Reilly Auto Parts, or elsewhere. Air filters, wiper blades, coolant and transmission services are among the more common up-sale items that are pushed by Valvoline outlets at convenience prices.
If they are needed, be sure to have them performed. If your coolant is bright in color and your transmission fluid is not dark in color, mileage intervals are not always indicative that those services are needed. Air filters need to be replaced if they are filled with dirt. You know if you need new wiper blades.
The above picture and the one below, depict what can happen if you fail to replace your brake pads before they wear completely out. Brakes need to be checked every so often for wear, because they will eventually need replacing, if you own your car long enough. If you are easy on your brakes, they should last 40,000 to 50,000 miles.
Most brake pads have a built-in warning system to let you know they are in need of replacing. If you hear a high-pitched squeal when running down the road, your brakes are likely nearing the end of their life.
When that squeal changes over to a scrubbing sound whenever you apply the brakes, you are damaging brake components that will cost you dearly if you continue to drive.
Brake pads are relatively inexpensive. Rotors and drums can be vastly expensive if you damage them beyond repair.
Most all vehicles on the road today have disc brakes on the front. Many vehicles have rear disc brakes as well. However, the vast majority of vehicles have drum brakes on their rear axles. These brakes do not offer any warning sounds before they are worn out. If you hear a scrubbing sound when the brakes are applied, they are likrly worn out and are in need of immediate attention.
If your vehicle is equipped with drum brakes, have them checked every 20,000 miles or so by a reputable mechanic.
Lightbulbs come in many shapes and sizes. Some are designed to last a long, long time, and some are not. The older your vehicle is, the likelyhood that your lightbulbs are not designed to burn for years at a time.
A. Turn on your headlights and check all your lights that should be on when the headlights are on. This will include all lights on each corner of the vehicle. Tail lights should be illuminated as well.
Every vehicle has at least one fuse panel. Many modern vehicles have 2-4 fuse and relay panels, located under the dash or under the hood of the vehicle. Having a diagram of each of them is almost essential. If you have an owner's manual in the vehicle, fuse information, including a diagram of each panel can be found in them.
In the absence of an owner's manual, I have found the internet most useful for obtaining PDF copies of some owner's manuals. Going to the vehicle manufacturer's websites has also been useful, if the car is ten years old or newer. Sometimes you just have to Google around until you find one. But...be careful to screen anything with virus scanning software before you download it. Scam artists and computer viruses are rampant on sites claiming to have the file you need.
Waxing your car can become an easy job when using an inexpensive buffer.
Insurance is very cheap, compared to the cost of replacing a good vehicle!! Opting for full coverage insurance, if the vehicle is going to be expensive to replace, is good protection, especially if you have limited funds to purchase a replacement vehicle if yours is destroyed.
Dealers who lure you into those expensive, extended warranties for unexpected repairs are selling you a mixed bag of goods. Most warranties are scams.
Most warranty claims are denied. The vehicle operators are usually blamed for issues that come up, or denials are issued because the particular repairs is not covered.
Throw 50 bucks a month into a savings account, and you will be money ahead if and when repairs are necessary.