Auto maintenance is something many of us don’t think about on a regular basis. However, from both a safety and long-term costs perspective, it’s good common sense to prevent issues before major problems arise. Remember what Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He was referring to health, but we think it applies to cars as well.
We’re all familiar with routine maintenance such as oil changes and manufacturer’s recommended services, but there other important items that are just as important, but often get overlooked. To keep your car in tiptop shape – and keep you safe – here are some items to add to your car maintenance to-do list:
- Air Filter Replacement
Most vehicles have two types of air filters – one for the engine and the other for the cabin. Your engine air filter is designed to trap dirt and debris that can damage internal engine parts such as the cylinders and pistons (hint, hint, expensive repairs). A clean air filter also helps increase fuel economy, acceleration and reduces emissions. Some studies even indicate replacing your air filter can improve gas mileage up to 10%.
Cabin air filters are important as well because they filter the air you breathe in the car. If you are noticing poor air flow from the vents, or foul-smelling odors, it’s time to replace your cabin air filter.
- Transmission Fluid
Most car owners know you need to periodically change the oil. However, you may not be aware most manufacturers recommend that transmission fluid is changed every 30,000-60,000 miles. Transmission fluid breaks down over time, decreasing the lubrication of the internal transmission parts. Decreased lubrication increases friction and friction causes heat – both causing wear and tear on your transmission. By replacing the fluid at recommended intervals, you are improving lubrication and increasing the life of your transmission.
- Battery Terminals
Today’s car batteries are designed to be maintenance free; however, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay attention to your battery. There are two main issues that plague your battery and can potentially leave you stranded – corrosion and loose connections. Corrosion is the white, powdery substance that can accumulate on the battery terminals. Corrosion keeps the battery leads (wires) from making a good connection. A poor connection means your car may not start. A bad connection – whether by corrosion or loose terminals – also reduces the likelihood your battery is being charged properly while you are driving – again, potentially leaving you with a dead battery. Using a wire brush you can easily clean the battery terminals to ensure a good connection. Simply take a small wrench and remove the battery leads and clean the terminals and wire leads thoroughly. Oh, don’t forget to keep jumper cables or a jump starter pack in your car just in case.
- Wheel Alignment
Incorrect wheel alignment causes undue wear and tear on your tires. Tires are designed for many miles of use, so ensuring proper alignment helps your tires last longer and decreases your overall vehicle ownership costs. Worn out tires are also a major safety issue. If you notice your car pulling to one side or the other, or drifting when you take your hands off the steering wheel, chances are you have an alignment issue. Realignment is a relatively simple repair and having this checked periodically makes good common sense.
- Proper Tire Tread and Inflation
As with proper alignment, two other often overlooked items with tires are tread depth and proper inflation. Tread depth is easy to see (visually) and most people can easily spot when they need new tires. Proper inflation, on the other hand, is not as easy to spot.
Both underinflation and overinflation wear down your tires faster and also wastes fuel. It is also another major safety issue, impacting your car’s ability to steer, brake, and accelerate properly. You can learn more about tire safety here.
Make sure you stay safe and stay on the road. Proper auto maintenance helps you do both. Your cars user’s manual will also list other routine maintenance items you should consider and it’s worth putting a plan in place to periodically check these items.