What better time to do some routine vehicle maintenance? A family road-trip is a great excuse to check your vehicle, so get in gear and tend to those that need attention on your automobile.
Some of the key elements I always like to touch when it comes to maintenance are those items that are necessary to operate a vehicle safely. These items include, but are not limited to; brakes, tires, belts, fluids and wipers.
First off here's my little disclaimer: All of my recommendations are rules-of-thumb in the industry, for specific maintenance schedules please check your owner's manual or contact your local authorized dealer.
I want to share a few maintenance steps that apply to everyone. Most of you find yourselves at the gas station once a week or every 150-300 miles. So 4 times a month you have an extra few minutes to care for your car. Don't hook up the pump then sit on your
rump, make use of this down time and check these items
With all the constant hype about horsepower and top speeds of new cars, who has time to talk about stopping? This should be the most important element in my opinion being that stopping a car will more likely save your life than being able to do the ¼ mile in 13 seconds.
Always listen, look, and feel your brakes. If you here an odd squeak, this most likely means your pads are worn down to the wear bars and need replacing. Do a visual of your brakes when rotating your tires. Look for glazing of the rotors, or uneven wear of the pad or rotor. Feel for your brakes; do they pulsate or does the car pull one direction when applying them? If so, it's time to get them addressed.
2. Check your tires: The only thing that keeps you on the road is your tires. They may look big but each contact patch (a.k.a. footprint) can be as small as 3"x6" which isn't much for a 2 ton automobile. Tire manufacturers also state it's not uncommon for tires to lose an average of 1-2 pounds of pressure per month. So, take the time to check the tire pressure at least once a month and while doing so visually inspect the tire for any potential damage and uneven wear.
Do not go off the sidewall for tire pressure! This is an old practice that needs to end. The correct tire pressure is specific to the car, not the tire itself. The pressure on the sidewall is stating the max pressure allowed for that tire not what the actual operating pressure should be.
DOT has required since the mid-nineties that vehicle tire pressure be noted not only in the owner's manual but on the car. For most the pressure ratings are in the driver's door jam but others vary. For example; BMW puts their tire pressure on the inside of the gas door. It is found that 80% of flats occur when there is 20% or less tread on a tire.
3. Check your belts:
The typical rule-of-thumb for belts is to replace them when you see 5 or more cracks per inch. I go a step further and replace belts if they are glazed over. Glazing will often cause squeaking and slipping of the belt. They cost very little and are pretty easy to replace.
4. Check your oil: Even the newest of cars potentially "use" oil.. Oil has more jobs than just to lubricate all metal parts in your engine. Oil is also there to prevent friction buildup, to transfer heat away from the combustion cycle as well as to clean out chemicals and buildup in the engine. As temperamental as some engines are today this is more important than ever to maintain proper oil levels.
Be sure to check what specific grade oil your vehicle takes. Almost every manufacturer puts the required oil weight on the oil cap, if not check your manual. The oil stick can be found on the side of a standard motor (European and some domestics) and the front of a transverse or "side-set" motors. Most oil stick handles are red but some aren't so look hard. Your owner's manual can show you the exact location as well.
5. Check your wiper blades: In some parts of the country you get extremes from below freezing, to 90+ degrees out. If that's the case for you, I would almost just replace your wipers every 1-2 years. In more ideal climates like California, you can go for years without replacement. This is another inexpensive item to replace, and very easy to install. If they streak, smear, of skip...replace them. It's all for safety!
Motor on, Lance