Vehicles today really don’t require the attention they once did. In fact, these days all you have to do is listen to your mechanic since he most likely will let you know when to take care of what needs to be taken care of.
Yet, with the simplicity that has been set in place due to auto-reminders and routine maintenance schedules, we still don’t seem to follow the habits we easily could be. The people with the craziest schedules (the ones who drive their cars more every day) seem to have forgotten the importance of routine check ups, and the over-achievers spend too much time trying to get oil changes sooner than they really need.
Although maintenance intervals are now more widely spaced, even the newest cars require scheduled service to live long, productive lives. Whether yours is the latest model or you paid it off years ago, the trick is giving your car the maintenance it was designed to receive.
Every car is supplied with a maintenance schedule — in the owner’s manual or in a separate maintenance log book — that details that vehicle’s needs. A few minutes assimilating these requirements will help you avoid the following common car-maintenance pitfalls. Or you can create your own schedule, whatever works best for you, the importance is just knowing it is needed and necessary.
1. Proper Tire Inflation and Rotation
Tires leak air naturally and need the occasional check. Under-inflated tires can actually slowly suck up gasoline. Under, or over-inflated tires wear out sooner, and deliver the same emergency maneuver handling as marshmallows. You probably aren’t going to check tire pressures monthly, but how about twice a year? That’s not a lot to ask.
Furthermore, front and rear tires wear differently and should be rotated to even that wear. Most user manuals or maintenance schedules will let you know when this should be done.
2. Windshield Wiper Replacement
It’s much easier to avoid hitting things you can see! Simple as it is, that’s the concept behind replacing your windshield wipers before they fossilize into noisy uselessness.
Fall is the ideal wiper replacement time: after the blade-baking summer and before the fall and winter nastiness. Depending on location, wiper replacement may only be an annual affair in the South, like in Wilmington.
3. Tune-Up Timing and Saving
There are no more “tune-ups.” Valves no longer need adjusting, ignition timing is computer controlled and there are no carburetors to fiddle with. About all that’s left of the old tune-up drill are the spark plugs. These are often good for 100,000 miles, so don’t change parts to change parts. Instead, save up for those big 60,000- and 120,000-mile services when the timing belt, spark plug wires and coolant are due for replacement.
4. Fuel (Octane Overdose)
Here the rule is to supply whatever octane the engine is rated for and call it done. Higher-than-required octane does not yield more power or mileage, only oil company profits. Some engines are rated for premium 91 octane fuel but can burn 87 octane regular, thanks to the magic of knock sensors. In that case, run regular gas if puttering around surface streets, and premium fuel if full-throttle driving is part of your daily repertoire.
5. Oil Change Timing
Oil changes every 3,000 miles used to be required jobs, just like cleaning the accumulated dust from the corners of the molding in your house. Today, advances in engine design and lubricants make oil changes something to be done when the schedule calls for it, not when your grandfather says it’s time. Some cars call for 5,000-mile change intervals, some up to 15,000-mile stints. Others have a variable timer. Follow the schedule and use the oil called for by the manufacturer.
6. Worn out Tires
Tires wear out. The tire industry says tires are toast after five years, but they’re selling tires. It all depends on heat, sunlight and ozone conditions. If you’re not sure how old your tires are, a tire shop can read the date code stamped into the sidewall. Or your you can wait until they’re down to bear rubber and your mechanic will give you more than enough warning that its time.
7. Dirty Air Filter
Semi-clogged air filters hurt fuel economy. The question is, when is your filter dirty? Under a Norman Rockwell schedule of, an air filter might not see much grit. But grimy city surface streets or driving daily on a dirt road are often enough to overwhelm air filters. This one is about conditions. If you go near dirt, the air filter may need changing twice as often as the schedule calls for. At Atlantic Car Care, they will show you how dirty your filter is and you will understand.
8. Don’t Forget Your Brakes
This one is fairly obvious, if you notice anything different about your brakes — sound, feel or response — they are telling you to visit your mechanic. Now.
9. Tighten Your Gas Cap
Is the Check Engine light on? Then make sure the gas cap is on tightly before calling the dealer. No joke, this is one of the most common ways of setting off your car’s diagnostic system, since a loose gas cap defeats the fuel system’s venting arrangement.
10. The Garage in Your Home
Your house is your most valuable investment. Your car is likely your second most valuable investment. If you’re paying all that money, then why are you storing empty cardboard boxes and old holiday wreaths in the garage? Pitch that junk and put your car in the garage!
At Atlantic Care, we pride ourselves on letting you know what needs to be done and when, so you don’t have to. But if you don’t understand the importance of routine maintenance for one of your most valuable investments, than you aren’t going to listen to us either. First, understand that it needs to be done, let us take care of the rest!
Contact us today with questions or comments!
Atlantic Car Care
21 New Bern St.
Wilmington, NC 28403