9 Car Maintenance Tips for Any Owner
While there are undoubtedly many maintenance tasks vehicle owners can do themselves, we will focus on ones with significant impacts that don’t require highly specialized tools or a lot of time. Any car owner can perform these to help keep their vehicle running smoother and safer between regular mechanic visits.
Locations of engine parts will vary, but your vehicle’s owner manual should have a diagram and instructions on accessing them appropriately.
1. Tire Pressure
Keeping your tires at the correct PSI can help keep you safe on the roads and keep money in your pocket. Properly inflated tires will last longer, handle better, and help your gas mileage.
You should check your tire pressure monthly in the morning before driving anywhere. If you need to inflate a little, do so until the gauge reads the recommended PSI for your vehicle, not the max PSI specified for the tire itself.
Most gas stations have air pumps available if you don’t have an air compressor at home or in your car. And, if you find yourself regularly having to pump more air into the tire, you may have a leak that needs fixing.
One of your car’s most important safety features, headlights, helps you see the road while letting others know you are there. Like any light bulb, they will burn out eventually and should be replaced as soon as possible. If you keep a spare bulb or two on hand, swapping out to a new light can take 30 minutes or less.
Depending on the model of your vehicle, you might not even need a single tool. Open up the engine compartment, unplug the old light from its wiring, and swap. Always make sure your car is off before swapping out any electrical components.
Another way to keep your headlights in good order is to keep them clean. Over time your headlight casing will get dirty, making even good bulbs less effective. Restoration kits are readily available, and after some sanding and buffing, they can look like new again.
3. Engine Oil
Every owner should know how to check the amount of oil left in their vehicle’s engine. The oil keeps all the internal parts operating smoothly, so you need an appropriate amount of clean oil to prevent excessive wear and damage.
Grab a spare rag or paper towel, then pop the hood. Make sure to wipe the dipstick clean of all oil and then completely reinsert to read the oil level accurately.
The dipstick should have two lines, an upper max and a minimum line. If your oil falls below the bottom line, add more. Just make sure not to exceed the upper limit.
Make sure to get your oil changed regularly as well. If you have the tools and know-how, this task can be done by the home mechanic. Just be sure to dispose of the old oil properly.
If you don’t have a lift or appropriate floor jack, you will probably need to take your vehicle to a mechanic to get the oil changed.
4. Wiper Blades
Make sure to keep your wiper blades in good operating condition so you don’t get caught out by rain and other weather.
The easiest way to check if they are still up to the task is to hit the washer button. If they leave streaks behind, you should swap to a new set.
Installation is easy and doesn’t usually require any tools. Simply follow the package instructions for a pair that fits your vehicle.
5. Engine Air Filter
Just like it needs clean oil, your engine relies on clean air to operate correctly. Remove the filter from its holder and hold it up to the sun or strong light. If you can’t easily see the light behind it should be replaced.
Most filters recommend changing for new ones annually, but check more frequently for build-up if you do a lot of driving.
While you have it out, consider pulling out a vacuum to clean the assembly and filter. Just be careful not to smash the filter’s pleats.
6. Tire Tread
You should keep a regular eye on how your tires are wearing down. While gauges specifically to check tire treads are pretty cheap, you are good to go as long as you use something accurate to around 1/32nd of an inch.
Make sure to measure the depth about 1 inch in from the side. A good tread depth should be 6/32nd or deeper, and if it reads 4/32nd or less, you should consider getting new tires soon.
Even if the tread depth on one tire looks okay, measure in the center and an inch from the opposing side. If the tread depth is different across the locations and tires, your vehicle’s alignment may be off and needs to be readjusted by a mechanic.
Keeping your battery terminals clean of corrosion and engine build-up can extend the life of your battery and prevent damage to your alternator and charging systems. A simple wire brush might do the trick for minor corrosion, but battery terminal spray cleaner can help with stuck-on particles.
Pop off the terminals to clean them and the battery posts, thoroughly dry surfaces before reassembly. To help prevent further erosion, you can also use acid-neutralizing felt pads on the battery posts.
While you have the terminals off of the battery, give them a check as well. If they aren’t clamping securely or you see any green corrosion on them or the wire, it means the copper has started to deteriorate, and you should replace the terminals soon.
9. Spark Plugs
This last item will require a little time and patience, but if you have a ratchet or socket wrench, you can pretty easily swap out your spark plugs. Most spark plugs should be changed every 30,000 miles, but check your vehicle specifications to see if you should change them more frequently.
The critical thing to remember is to do one plug at a time. They are installed in a specific order, which cannot change, so it is best not to risk mixing up the wires.
When installing the new plug, do so by hand and then tighten until snug before reattaching the wire.
Jody’s Automotive Is Here to Help
Bring your vehicle to a trusted mechanic for those things you can’t take care of yourself at home. If you are in the Jonesville, NC area, swing by Jody’s Automotive, and we can help get you sorted with anything from routine maintenance and tune-ups to minor engine repairs.
Contact us with any questions and to set up an appointment. With over 20 years of experience, Jody and his staff can handle all makes and models with a range of services to prevent “Major Havoc” with your vehicle.