The first thing you can do, as I’ve briefly covered already, is have your car regularly inspected to maintain safety and reduce the cost of a repair. Your vehicle not only needs regular visual inspection; it also needs a diagnostic inspection too, to make sure all the parts (the battery, for instance, or the transmission) are in good and working order. The diagnostic inspection will help your mechanic to pinpoint potential problems within your vehicle without having to actually take the car apart, which will save you a lot of money in the long run.
You will recall that I also said previously that not all maintenance areas can be done on your own. While this is true, and you will likely need a trained mechanic to inspect and repair your car when something major goes wrong, there are a few important things that you can check yourself that will keep your vehicle running smoothly, and help to reduce the likelihood of problems down the road. These inspection points are:
Performing Oil Maintenance On Your Vehicle
This is basically the lifeblood of your vehicle, and is what keeps your engine’s parts rotating and operating smoothly. Inside your vehicle, however, exhaust gasses from the cylinders will contaminate the oil, and heat will also reduce the thickness of the oil, making it less effective. Your vehicle’s manual should have information on how often it is recommended to have the oil changed, and will also have instructions on how to properly check the oil content yourself.
Performing Maintenance On Your Vehicle’s Air Filter
This is, as you might have guessed, a filter for your engine. Over time, the atmospheric conditions and number of miles you’ve driven will contaminate the filter. This can lead to a greatly reduced gas mileage, horsepower, and can also cause the engine to run much rougher than normal, and even cause it to stall, if it’s bad enough.
Performing Maintenance On Your Vehicle’s Brake Pads
The maintenance on these varies depending on how you drive, as well as the weight of your vehicle and the quality of the pads themselves. Basically, the more often you brake, the more frequently you’re likely to have to change them. If you are in heavy traffic often, you will have to change your brakes more often. Thankfully, most brake pads come with a built-in wear indicator, so you won’t necessarily have to take it to a mechanic to have them tell you whether they should be changed or not. Remember – just because they squeak, doesn’t mean they’re bad. Of course squeaking brakes can be an indicator of this, but they also could just be dirty, so check your vehicle’s manual if you’re not sure what to look for.
Performing Maintenance On Your Vehicle’s Tires
Take it from someone who’s had many a blowout on the road – CHECK YOUR TIRES. It can be difficult to remember to do so, but how long they will last again depends on how you drive, and checking them every now and then will help you to know where you are on needing to get them replaced. Thankfully, tires have built in wear indicators as well; there are ridges between the tread, and when the tread is on level with these ridges, it’s time to get new tires. You can also be on the lookout for little bubbles in the tires or other imperfections that aren’t there normally, which will also indicate that your tire is going bad, and needs to be changed.
Now, I know that not everyone is comfortable checking and working on their own vehicle. However, performing these simple checks every now and then will honestly save you a lot of money down the road, and they aren’t hard to do. Your owner’s manual is your ally, so if you’re ever not sure about something, consult it! You may not understand everything that’s written down, but it’s an extremely helpful guide to everything about the workings of your vehicle, and you’ll be glad you have it.
The last thing we’ll talk about is the importance of immediate repair. If something is going wrong on your vehicle, or causing your vehicle to ‘act funny’ – i.e. making strange noises, not starting properly, etc. – then getting it checked out and fixed as soon as possible is the best way to avoid major damage to both your vehicle and your wallet. If a light on your dashboard tells you to check your engine, have it checked. If your brakes slip or your engine feels like it’s jerking while you’re driving, have it checked. It may seem like a hassle, but trust me, having to take your vehicle to a mechanic is much better than not having a working vehicle at all. Take it from someone who’s been without a car before due to a lack of regular maintenance (I was a teenager; what else do you expect? I didn’t know!), having to rely on others to get you where you need to go is not a fun ordeal.
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