It’s not what you’re doing. Sometimes it’s what you’re not doing. When it comes to your car, simple oversights can turn into costly repairs more quickly than you might think. Fortunately, a few simple car maintenance tips can help keep you out of the repair shop. But, if you’re guilty of the five things below, you could be negatively affecting your car’s performance and value.
This isn’t just about vanity. Whether it’s road salt from a harsh winter or bird droppings from that trip to the beach, your car’s paint is subjected to all sorts of elements. Keeping your car clean will help maintain that new-car look by preventing oxidized paint, corrosion and rust. Caring for your car’s paint may also pay dividends when you decide to sell it or trade it in, since a well-kept car may command a higher price.
Some oversights can lead to overheating, and making sure that all your car’s fluids are topped off is key if you want to keep your car running smoothly. Check your engine oil and coolant, as well as your power steering and brake fluid. If anything isn’t filled to the proper level, consult your vehicle owner’s manual to ensure that you’re adding the correct fluids to your vehicle, and make sure that you’re changing your fluids at the recommended intervals.
Having enough windshield washer fluid is important, too. Even though a low windshield washer fluid level won’t affect engine performance, you’ll appreciate it when you need to clear road salt or bugs off your windshield for better visibility.
Even though your tires may look fine, tire pressure shouldn’t be a “set it and forget it” affair. All tires will lose a bit of air as time passes, even if they’re in good shape, and it’s a good idea to check your tire pressure monthly to make sure that they’re inflated to the proper level. Don’t know how much air to put in? Check the driver’s side door jamb, rather than the suggested pressure on the tire itself, as SaferCar.gov says you should follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation. There’s usually a sticker on the door jamb that lists the pressure recommended by the manufacturer.
If you can’t find a sticker, consult your owner’s manual, which, in addition to listing the recommended pressure, should also provide some insight on when to rotate your tires. Rotating your tires at the recommended intervals will help ensure that they wear evenly, which means you’ll get the most miles possible out of your tires.
A study shows that a clogged engine air filter won’t affect fuel economy in newer cars. However, a dirty air filter can have a negative impact on how quickly your car accelerates. Changing your air filter at the recommended intervals should help keep your engine’s performance at its best. Check your manufacturer’s recommendations for how often to change your air filter, but checking and replacing your air filter is a quick and easy fix if it looks dirty.
Keeping your car’s belts and hoses in good shape is key to avoiding a breakdown on the road. A snapped serpentine belt could cause a number of your vehicle’s systems to fail, including your air conditioner compressor, alternator, power steering and water pump. A cracked or leaking hose could cause problems, as well, since an old or damaged radiator hose could cause it to leak coolant, which can, in some cases, lead your engine to overheat.
To keep things running smoothly, make sure that your hoses are checked at each oil change, and consult your owner’s manual to see when your car’s belts should be replaced.
It won’t take a lot of effort to make sure that your car is in tip-top shape. Paying a little extra attention to things like the fluids, belts, hoses and tires will help keep costly trips to the repair shop at bay, and keeping your car clean will help you get top dollar for it when you decide to sell or trade it in.