We all know we should be doing it… Preventative vehicle maintenance, that is. Keeping our vehicles healthy before problems arise is the most surefire way to keep your vehicle running smoothly, safely, and for many years to come. But, when there is so much maintenance to be done, it is tough to know what all to keep up with! That’s why we have compiled a list of some of the most important maintenance you should be keeping your vehicle up-to-date with, and why. Don’t forget to print yourself a 10% off maintenance coupon before coming in to see us!
1. Check and Replace Your Fluids
Even if you don’t ever learn how to change your fluids, you should learn how to check those fluid levels. In some cases, you can see the tank level directly, but most have gauges or dipsticks you can pull out to check current levels against a notch that indicates optimal levels. Even if your owner’s manual doesn’t have much to say about checking your transmission fluid or antifreeze, don’t be afraid to open the hood and see if you can find it. If you’re running low, add more (if you can) or get it changed. Most importantly, never ignore a leak.
What to check?
Even if you don’t think it is time to change your fluids, you should still be checking the regularly. An abnormal amount or color in your fluids could point to a more significant vehicle problem that needs attention.
- Engine Oil – check monthly – replace every 3,000 to 5,000 miles*
- Transmission fluid – check monthly – replace every 50k to 100k miles*
- Coolant – check semiannually at least – replace every 2 years*
- Brake fluid – check when your oil is changed – replace every 2 years*
- Power Steering Fluid – check every month – replace every 50,000 miles or keep topped off*
*See your vehicle’s manual for more specific recommendations.
2. Replace Timing and Serpentine Belts
A timing belt runs the engine camshaft (or camshafts in a dual-cam engine). It’s called timing belt because its main job is to precisely time valve opening and closing with up-and-down movement of the pistons. Timing belt replacement is one of the high-price maintenance items that many motorists have to deal with. How often does the timing belt need to be replaced? Timing belt recommended replacement intervals vary from 60,000 to 106,000 miles. [TestingAutos.com]
The serpentine/drive belt or v-belt is a rubber belt that connects the alternator, power steering, and AC to the part of the engine (crankshaft) which transfers the power from the engine to those components. Without this belt, the battery will not get charged and none of the electrical accessory components in the car will work. The serpentine belt and v-belt are also known as “drive belts.” [YourMechanic.com]
What happens if a timing or drive belt breaks?
There are two types of engines: an interference and non-interference. In an interference engine, if a timing belt breaks while driving, there is a good chance that the engine might be severely damaged. A non-interference engine will stall, if a timing belt breaks, but further damage might be limited. The difference is that in an interference engine, valves that are fully open will be hit by the piston as it travels to its top position. In a non-interference engine, there is still some clearance between fully open valves and a piston in the top position. [TestingAutos.com]
Because of the high amount of heat in the engine, the belt can develop cracks over time and eventually break. If the belt breaks, the steering wheel will be difficult to turn and driving will be hazardous. In some cars, water pumps are driven by the drive belts. If the belt breaks, water and coolant needed to keep the engine cool will not properly flow to the engine. The engine will overheat, potentially causing severe damage. [YourMechanic.com]
3. Replace Your Engine Air Filter
For each gallon of fuel burned, the engine uses up to 10,000 gallons of air; thus why it is easy to understand how vital a clean air filter is to the proper operation of a car. A new air filter will increase gas mileage, reduce emissions, allow optimal air flow and improve engine performance. In addition, changing your air filter regularly will protect the engine and vital internal engine parts from excess wear and damage that result in driveability issues and potentially expensive engine repairs.[CarsDirect.com] Air filters are fairly inexpensive to replace and should be changed every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, but see your vehicle’s manual for specific instructions. Keep in mind that your air filter may need to be replaced more frequently if you drive in dusty, smoggy, or otherwise contaminated air often. If you drive in a lot of stop and go traffic, this will also cause your filter to need replacement sooner.
4. Replace Your Brake Pads
Braking is perhaps the most important safety feature of your vehicle. The brake disc rotors are a vital part of the braking system. The discs are circular metal plates in which the brake pad is forced up against to slow or stop the car. The smoother the surface, the more efficiently friction can be obtained to slow your car. So when new brake pads are fitted, machining or replacement (if worn below acceptable roadworthiness limits) of disc rotors will ensure your safety and the maximum possible braking efficiency. For safe and efficient braking, new brake pads must fit perfectly against the disc rotor. [TyrePower.com]
When Do My Brakes Need Replacing?
The wear on your brakes depends largely on how much your drive and your style of driving, plus how much traffic you regularly encounter. Look for the following signs to know that your brake pads need replacement:
- Loss of grip when braking
- The feeling of your car pulling left or right when braking
- A sloppy, soft or low brake pedal
- Shuddering through your steering wheel when braking
- Squeals, screeches and high pitched noises when breaking
- Your brake system warning light flashes
- Your car takes longer to stop than normal
5. Rotate and Balance Your Tires
Normal wear can cause your tires to wear differently or unevenly, ultimately causing some or all of your tires to wear down and need replacement sooner than they ought to. Tires may wear differently depending on their position on the vehicle, your driving style, and the condition of your suspension. Regularly rotating your tires helps evenly distribute tire wear – helping you get the most miles out of your tires while maximizing traction on all four wheels. On front-wheel-drive vehicles, front tires tend to wear faster than rear tires due to added pressure/resistance from steering. [Goodyear.com]
It is generally a good idea to have your tires rotated once a year (or when you get your oil changed), or more if you drive over 10,000 miles annually.