Auto Care Tips Guide – Proper Vehicle Maintenance

You might not be an auto mechanic or have any more interest in your car beyond its ability to get you from point A to point B. However, it is important to take care of your car with more than a regular visit to the drive-in car wash. If you can arm yourself with a little bit of knowledge, you’ll soon be able to spot and address minor car problems. You might not do a valve job anytime soon, nor should you, but if you know when to change the oil (or have someone else change it), how to fill the coolant, and what to look for in worn brake systems, you'll extend the life of your automobile and save yourself money in the process. This page will help you get on the road to proper auto care.

Why Bother?

Regular maintenance on your automobile is imperative. This is because, if you continually maintain its various systems, they will be less likely to fail and cost you loads of money down the road. This is not only important in terms of general operating performance, but in terms of safety, too.

For instance, if you don't maintain your braking system you could run into real trouble when they fail at exactly the wrong time. Your lights are another area that are in need of regular inspection and maintenance. If others cannot see you, or if you can't properly see the road, you could end up in an accident. The police may also issue you a ticket for a busted tail or headlight.

Your car insurance may also be impacted by how well you maintain your car. While your regular payments might not feel the impact, your insurance company might fail to pay a claim if your car was not in top operating condition. For instance, if your weakened brakes resulted in an accident, you might not receive funds to fix your bumper. Also, if someone rear-ends you because your taillights were out, your claim could be rendered void. Insurance companies

Warning Lights

When your car's warning lights go off there is usually a reason. These days, warning lights can tip you off to low tire pressure, overheating, or serious engine trouble. You should always investigate the matter when a warning light is triggered. Many things can be handled on your own, such as topping off your coolant or pumping up tires, but a Check Engine warning should probably be addressed by a professional mechanic.


If the fluids in your body run low, you often feel the impact. The same goes for the fluids in your car. Always keep an eye on your various fluids and top them off as necessary. Contemporary cars often offer a warning signal when you need fluids, so heed the warning. You should also consult your owner's manual to ensure that you use the proper fluid. For example, if you own an Audi or Volkswagen you cannot use just any anti-freeze fluid, you need a special type. Failure to use the correct coolant fluid might result in a ruined engine, or at least a large bill for cleaning the system of the errant fluid. Similar concerns apply to your car's oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, etc.

While most fluids can be added on your own, if you are concerned that you aren't using the proper fluid, or if you're unsure as to where it goes, consult a mechanic. A friendly mechanic may even offer to show you how and where to top your fluids. Better yet, do a little online research. There are countless videos for specific types and models of vehicle that you could use to be certain you are putting the right fluids in the right place.

Tire Pressure & Tread

Your tires are everything. They literally represent where the rubber meets the road. Thus, you shouldn't wait for a warning light to tell you that they are at low pressure; instead, make it a habit to check them on a regular basis. Note that temperature changes can impact tire pressure. Cooler temps result in lower pressure.

While you are checking your tire pressure, give your tires an inspection. Look out for worn treads and missing valve stems, along with any other abnormalities. If you live in an area that receives regular snow in the winter, make sure to have snow chains on hand. You might also consider installing studless snow tires to ensure season-long preparedness.

Exterior Inspection

You can integrate a tire inspection into a comprehensive exterior inspection. Take your time to inspect your car's exterior, including wiper blades, lights, license plates, and general body condition. Even if you are in the middle of a dry season, make sure your wiper blades are free of debris and give them a test run with your wiper fluid.

Your lights should also be fully operational for your safety and legal compliance. Each car takes a unique set of bulbs, so you might want to stock up when you can. Replacing a bulb is easy. If you have trouble, or are unsure, there are plenty of YouTube videos detailing the process for a wide range of automobiles.

Finally, check the condition of your car's body. Look for rust spots, dings, and scratches in your paint. In areas that salt the roads, you should become skilled at inspecting for any rust issues to the car's chassis. Also note your auto body panels. Sometimes panels can come dislodged when their fasteners wear out. It is often easy to fix this matter, but it can become serious if the problem persists.

Engine and Interior

You're probably not a mechanic, but you can still do a lot for the general upkeep and maintenance of your car. You should thus do a visual inspection of your car's engine and interior. If you've done this on a regular basis, you will likely be able to spot when something's amiss.

As you look over the engine compartment, first take a look at your battery. Look for excess corrosion. If there is a bit of corrosion, coat it with baking soda and then dribble hot water on top of the pile. When the mix starts bubbling, don't worry, but use an old toothbrush to get rid of the corrosion.

Take a look at the various belts and give them a wiggle. They should be tight but with a bit of give. Also look for any signs of wear or fraying along the edges. Another item to check is all of the various caps and closures under the hood. Tighten them and note any irregularities, such as evidence that fluid has leaked. This is also a good time to check your coolant, wiper fluid, oil, and even brake fluid. Please note that if your brake fluid needs constant replenishing you likely need a new Master Cylinder. Consult your mechanic for a professional diagnosis.

Air Filter

Your car, like you, relies on air for proper functioning. Thus, it needs clean air and unobstructed airways to fuel combustion in the engine cavity. For that reason, you need to check your air filter on a regular basis. If the filter seems totally coated with grime, you can do a simple cleaning by knocking it on concrete to loosen the debris. If that's not enough, air filters are cheap and easy to replace.

Battery :

Your car needs a healthy, well-charged battery to make sure you can crank the machine on the first time, every time. Do a visual inspection of your battery and check for corrosion, problematic wires, or physical damage. In the case of damage to the wires or the battery itself, consider replacing or servicing it immediately. If the battery looks fine, but isn't holding a charge, it’s time for a new one. If your new battery still doesn't seem to hold a charge you may have problems with your alternator or elsewhere in the electrical system. If that's the case, please consult a mechanic.

Find a Mechanic :

A good mechanic can be invaluable to ensuring years of happy driving. While it is ideal to find someone close by, also look for mechanics that offers you a fair deal and with whom you feel comfortable. If you are not using a dealership mechanic, look for shops that specialize in cars like yours. This seems especially pertinent if you drive a Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, or Mercedes. Those cars tend to have specific mechanical quirks that require unique tools. Similar issues apply to specialty engines such as a diesel, hybrid, or electric car.

Regular Check-ups :

Just as you visit your doctor for regular check-ups, you should schedule inspections for your automobile. While your competent mechanic might do a quick overview when they perform a routine oil change, you can also schedule a more thorough inspection for every 50-100,000 miles. If you drive a high-performance car, you might schedule yearly inspections.

Also, if you are planning a particularly long, multi-day, or multi-state road trip, have your mechanic give you the okay prior to loading up. The last thing you need is a preventable problem when you're miles from home.

Always Have Proper Tools and Supplies with You

Before you head out on the road, make sure you have a set of tools and other equipment just in case the worst happens. Every car should come with a jack and other tire tools. You should also have a well-maintained spare tire, fix-a-flat kit, or a donut temporary tire. It's not a bad idea to have a few other simple tools: an adjustable wrench, both a phillips head and a flat-head screwdriver, and a pair of needle-nose pliers just might save the day.

To ensure maximum preparedness, stock your car with thermal blankets, road flares, a flashlight, an ice scraper, and a reflective jacket. You might also consider carrying a bit of drinking water, a blanket, and jumper cables. Snow chains are also vital if you live in an area prone to snow. Note that if your winter travel includes crossing mountain passes, you should be prepared for sudden and treacherous wintry conditions.

Car Insurance Discounts

If you want to maintain low premiums on your automobile insurance plan, there are a few simple things you can do. First off, make sure that you don't incur any claims against your policy. You can take a defensive driving course and otherwise train yourself to be an alert, engaged driver at all times. Secondly, you can do things like strive to drive less, use auto-pay for your premium payments, and even maintain a strong GPA, if you're still a student.

Another way to help keep your payments low is to perform regular maintenance on your car. When your brakes, lights, wipers, blinkers, and other systems are operating at peak efficiency, you can avoid many mishaps. Even if your burned-out taillight isn't a factor in an accident, it may result in a ticket. Check with our local laws to see if a fix-it ticket will show on your driving record. Often those will not unless you don't fix the problem in a timely fashion. If your car is well-maintained, you can fix all of these minor problems before they get out of hand.

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