Owning a car is a big responsibility. Not only does this vehicle mean freedom, but it also means taking care of it so that it runs well. Whether you need to know when to get it done by a professional or just want to handle the smaller things yourself, the more you know, the better.
Here are some basic parts of car maintenance that every car owner should know.
1. Changing the oil
Oil is an essential part of any vehicle. It lubricates the engine parts to prevent damage. If there is no oil, parts grind together and ruin the engine.
Dirty motor oil can also damage the engine because it causes build up on the parts, creating friction from parts rubbing together. Make sure that you check your owner’s manual for what kind of oil is best for the engine before you put any oil in your vehicle.
2. Checking tire pressure
The wheels are the only thing keeping your car moving. Keeping them functioning well is vital to preventing many different forms of damage.
The most basic form of tire maintenance is checking the pressure in them. The recommended PSI for tires is located on the driver’s door jamb, owner’s manual, and often on the tires themselves. Check the pressure about every month and do it before driving more than a mile to get an accurate reading.
Another good tip is to check the pressure in your spare tire while you’re in tire-checking-mode.
3. Jumpstarting a car
Batteries die sometimes and require a jumpstart. Rather than calling roadside assistance every time it happens, carry jumper cables in your car and know how to use them.
Find someone with a vehicle who is willing to loan you their battery. Put both vehicles in neutral and turn off the ignition. Attach one of the red clips to your battery’s positive terminal and the other red clip to the other vehicle’s positive terminal. Then, attach one of the black clips to the other car’s negative terminal, with the other black clip attached to an unpainted metal surface. Turn the ignition on your vehicle and it should start.
Remember not to turn your car off until you reach your destination.
4. Check fluids
Checking the motor oil level is good, but there are other fluids that need your attention too. Transmission fluid is another vital fluid that requires regular checking. It also has a dipstick that you check under the hood. Make sure the levels are steady and not leaking.
Other fluids to inspect are the coolant, brake fluid, and washer fluid. Each has a cover under the hood that needs to be removed and inspected. For the coolant, it is best to check levels in the transparent refill container, never through the radiator cap.
5. Keeping the battery clean
Knowing how to change a battery is one thing that most drivers should know how to do, but not everyone does. When doing all your other under-the-hood inspections, just make sure the battery is free from corrosion.
If you notice build up, mix baking soda with a little water and use a wire brush to apply a little solution and scrub. This will keep your battery functioning better and ready to shock if you need to jump it.
6. Examine belts and hoses
Most cars and SUVs use belts in the engine to keep it going. The timing belt is especially important. Check all belts for tears, rips, cracking, glazing, and any chunks missing.
If you see any of these problems, it needs to be replaced. Hoses also need to be checked since they prevent over-heating. Look closely to make sure there are no cracks, leaks, or bulges. If you find any, get them replaced.
7. Changing the windshield wipers
Windshield wiper blades are so important but rarely do drivers notice they need to be replaced until they are in the middle of a storm and can’t see clearly.
Check your windshield wiping blades a few times a year to make sure they wipe completely without leaving streaks and that they aren’t screeching when in use. If you notice either of these problems, replace them.
Once you have mastered these must-know car maintenance items, work to learn more. Understanding the basics about how a car functions can help you better take care of your vehicle. Not every car owner wants to do these jobs themselves, but it is important you know the basics.
Many driver’s education courses teach you the basic information, but getting out and trying it is the best teacher.