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Car Maintenance Tips

Properly maintaining your car is key to keeping it in top condition. It can also help ensure your safety, the safety of your passengers and your fellow drivers. Here are some ways to help keep your car running smoothly.

The Car Maintenance Checklist

Consider adding these items to your vehicle maintenance "to do" list:

Inspect and Maintain Tires

Knowing how to maintain your car's tire pressure can help reduce wear on the tires and helps ensure you're getting good gas mileage. Checking your tire pressure includes finding the recommended pressure, checking the PSI and inflating or deflating your tires accordingly.

A flat tire is a hazard that can be dangerous to you and your car. There are several preventative steps you can take to help avoid a blowout, including rotating your tires every 5,000 to 10,000 miles and watching for tire recalls.

Change the Oil

Routinely checking and changing your car's oil is essential to keeping its engine in running condition. Check your oil each month and change it as directed in the car's owner's manual.

You can change your oil yourself or take it to a service center. If you choose to do it yourself, learn the necessary steps to drain the fluid, set the correct oil level and dispose of old oil.

You should also know which type of motor oil is best for your car, regardless of whether you change the oil yourself or take it to a service center. This generally means considering three things — the oil viscosity, whether to use synthetic versus non-synthetic oil and your car's mileage.

Check the Fluids

There are several fluids that should be kept at the appropriate levels to help keep your car running properly. According to Popular Mechanics, you or your mechanic should check:

  • Engine oil
  • Coolant
  • Power steering fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Transmission fluid
A leak with any of these fluids can affect the way your car drives. If you spot a leak, you may be able to identify the fluid by its color. This can help you and your mechanic determine where the leak is coming from. It can also help speed up the repair process.

Test the Lights

A broken or burnt-out bulb is a safety hazard and might get you a ticket. Learn how to thoroughly inspect each bulb on your car. If a bulb is out, take your car to an expert to determine whether it's the bulb or the fuse that needs replacing.

Headlights are key safety lights on your car. Consider taking a few extra steps to help keep them shining bright, such as cleaning the lenses and replacing bulbs as they start to dim.

Replace Windshield Wipers

If your wipers aren't working like they used to, don't let the problem linger. Damaged or worn out blades can reduce visibility during a heavy rain or a snowstorm. Knowing how to inspect your wiper blades regularly and replace them when necessary is one way to help keep your car safe.

Change Your Engine Air Filter

A dirty engine air filter can allow dirt and other particulates into your car's engine and reduce its efficiency. Inspect your car's air filter once a year and replace it as needed.

Regular Checkups

Some routine car care tasks can be done at home, but others require trained technicians. Take your car to a technician if the check engine light comes on. Trained technicians can diagnose the problem through the car's on-board diagnostics (OBD-II) port.

A qualified repair shop will also be able to inspect and replace other core components like the alternator and the wheel bearings. Scheduling regular tune-ups will help ensure that your car gets other maintenance items repaired as well.

Have Your Brakes Checked

Your car's brake pads also require regular inspection. While driving, listen for any brake noise and pay attention to shuddering or vibrating from the brake pedal. If any concerns arise, consult a service center as soon as possible

Wash Your Car

Your car is subjected to all sorts of elements, from road salt and ice melt in the winter to tree sap and bird droppings in the summer. Some of these hazards are not only unsightly but can cause damage to paint and the undercarriage, according to AccuWeather.

Keeping your car clean may help prevent long-term damage. Find the car washing method that works for you and regularly wash your car.

Check Belts and Hoses

Keeping your car's belts and hoses in good shape can help keep your car running and may help you avoid a breakdown on the road. For example, if your serpentine belt breaks while you're driving, it may cause many of your car's systems to fail.

Having your belts and hoses checked at every oil change will help ensure that they're in good condition and don't need replacing.

Review Your Car Insurance

Just like regular car checkups, it's a good idea to review your car insurance policy from time to time. This can help ensure your policy's coverages, limits and deductibles are up-to-date and suitable for your current situation.

Keeping your car in good shape can help keep you and your passengers safe. And remember, if you're ever unsure about how to inspect or replace a car part, be sure to contact a local mechanic for help.

Article Originally published allstate.com

How to Protect Your Car From Rust

Rust never sleeps: Here's how you can protect your car

No matter what type of automotive rustproofing protection you favour (electronic, one-time spray, factory coating or annual treatments) there are large gaps in warranty coverage from even the best companies out there. First things first; if you operate a vehicle on public roads 12 months of the year, there really is no such thing as rustproofing. About the best we can hope for is to slow down Mother Nature’s ravage of our daily drivers so that the loan payments end before the sheet metal. We really can’t stop rust altogether.

All rustproofing suppliers offer pretty much the same warranty; they will repair or replace outer sheet metal panels if rusted through from inside/out and if all other guarantee conditions have been met (annual inspections, reapplications, etc.). But what about all the other steel and iron on the vehicle? Cast iron and steel suspension and steering components, fuel and brake fluid lines, exhaust systems, fuel tanks and straps can all be affected by rust and can bring major repair bills. Is there anything we can do to extend the life of these components?

1. Park carefully. Parking your vehicle on grass, dirt, snow or poorly drained surfaces is just asking for rust to come and take up permanent residence in your vehicle. As our vehicles spend most of their idle time at our place of residence, tackling the home-parking front can go a long way to keeping rust at bay. If you think investing in a driveway improvement is too expensive, ask your regular repair garage for some cost estimates on replacing brake rotors, exhaust systems, suspension control arms, fuel tank and the like and you’ll quickly find the financial justification. Don’t rest easy if your parking lane is paved. Old cracked asphalt surfaces can provide just as much moisture to the undercarriage of your chariot as a dirt field in spring. Even applying a layer of asphalt sealer can help out.

2. Keep it clean. Most of us like to keep the paint work and interior of our vehicles clean, but what about the underbelly? If you drive on gravel or dirt roads or take an off-road adventure from time to time, the mud and gunk that can collect underneath your vehicle will act as a moisture trap increasing the speed with which your wheels will head to the scrap yard. Check horizontal surfaces under the car/truck such as control arms, skid-plates, axles, etc. from time to time and do a little down-and-dirty cleaning when needed. If you don’t have a pressure washer, a garden hose and stiff brush will do. You may have to jack the vehicle to improve clearance, so make sure you take the necessary precautions with proper jack supports and wheel chocks and have a spotter standing by.

3. Keep it full. One of the most expensive repairs a driver can face because of rust is the replacement of a fuel pump module (the electric fuel pump and level sender unit located in the tank). While the interior parts of this piece (which can range in price from $300-$1500 plus labour) are well protected, its metal top plate and output lines are very exposed and prone to rusting. Fuel tanks and their parts can be attacked from two sources of moisture leading to rust. The first is external and the second is internal condensation caused by the difference between liquid fuel and outside air temperatures in a humid environment. Keeping the fuel tank topped off during the wet seasons can help to reduce the condensation effect. It also provides better traction in snow and on icy surfaces.

4. Blow it clean. On trucks and SUVs with large fuel tanks, the dirt, dust, and road grime that can collect on the top of the tank can lead to premature rusting of the fuel pump module. The labour involved in periodically lowering the tank to inspect and clean off its top can be pricey and can make it hard to justify as a means of extending the life of the pump module. A safe DIY method involves spraying compressed air on top of the tank while it’s mounted in its location to dislodge any debris or gunk. Use safety goggles and go easy on the air nozzle trigger as small stones can hurt when propelled by compressed air.

5. Spray it on. While no rustproofing company will guarantee undercarriage components against rust, that’s not a reason to not have the more vulnerable iron and steel parts treated. You can purchase aerosol cans of rust inhibitors at most auto parts stores, or you can have the pros take care of it for you. If doing it yourself, avoid getting any spray on brake rotors, drums, linings, or calipers. Keep it off hot surfaces such as catalytic converters and exhaust components as well as away from electrical wiring and connectors. Don’t overdo it. It’s better to perform annual touch-ups rather than try to lather on enough protection for the next decade.

Article Originally published driving.ca
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