Modern vehicles are expensive, but one way to avoid headaches and purchasing a new ride is by properly maintaining your existing car or truck. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Not only can regular maintenance save you money but it can also prevent unexpected mechanical failures. Nobody wants to be stranded on the side of the road in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm. Keeping up with your vehicle’s needs is critical to a happy ownership experience and fortunately there’s quite a bit the average motorist can do to keep their ride running in tip-top shape.
Lubricating Door Latches
This maintenance tip won’t necessarily extend your vehicle’s lifespan very much but it sure can keep it from getting on your nerves. Squeaky hinges are irritating and can make doors and hatches difficult to open. Fortunately this problem is a snap to correct with a good spray lubricant, such as a lithium-based grease. Not only is this fix easy, it’s cheap, too.
Changing an Air Filter
Noisy hinges may be an insignificant maintenance item but one that’s much more important is your vehicle’s air filter. These elements prevent dust and grit from entering the delicate internals of your car or truck’s engine. Luckily these are generally simple and inexpensive to change.
Disposable paper filters can be purchased for as little as $20. Installing a new one is an easy way of insuring your engine has a good supply of fresh air. If you want a little extra performance and to help the environment you can invest in a washable, high-flow filter.
Checking Tire Pressure
Tires are the only part of your vehicle that ever touches the road — rather they’re the only part that SHOULD ever touch the road. Keeping your vehicle’s rubber properly inflated is critical to safe driving.
Traction and stability can be affected by tires that are either over or underinflated. Having a good pressure gauge is the only way of properly keeping tabs on this. You can get a simple analogue unit or even a battery-operated one with a digital display; either will do the deed without breaking the bank.
Of course there’s more the average motorist can do with his or her vehicle’s tires. Rotating them can increase the number of miles they last, saving money in the long run. All that’s needed for this task is a socket or tire iron for loosening the lug nuts, a good quality jack and some jack stands for safety, oh, and a bit of patience. Tire rotation involves removing every wheel.
The serpentine belt is what powers all of your vehicle’s accessories. It takes the engine’s rotation from the crankshaft pulley and uses it to turn other things like the water pump, alternator and air-conditioning compressor. Without a belt your car or truck’s engine would likely overheat, its battery would die and you’d be terribly uncomfortable in summer heat.
Changing your serpentine belt can be accomplished with basic hand tools in just a few minutes. Additionally these rubber components are very affordable so there’s no excuse for not taking care of this maintenance item.
Replacing Spark-Plug Wires (if equipped)
Spark-plug wires are a critical engine component. They conduct tens of thousands of volts of electricity from your engine’s coil to its spark plugs. Over time heat and vibration can break these wires down, leading to potential drivability issues including misfires.
If your ride is equipped with plug wires it’s a good idea to change them when the manufacturer recommends. Luckily this is usually an easy task; if you can plug a lamp into a wall socket you can probably change these.
Swapping Spark Plugs
More adventuresome motorists that are up to the challenge may find the job rewarding, it can also improve performance and fuel economy. Many vehicles these days come with spark plugs that are equipped with platinum-tipped electrodes. These are often rated to last for 100,000 miles so you don’t have to change them very often.
MSRP: $4.99 each
Doing a Brake Job
What good is a vehicle that goes but can’t stop? Everyone that’s ever had another car dart out in front of them knows that brakes are mission-critical to safe driving. Motorists that want to save some money can do their own brake jobs relatively easily with a few basic tools.
With proper instructions changing your car or truck’s rotors and pads, drums and shoes is affordable and relatively simple. What are you waiting for?
As previously mentioned, an abundant supply of clean air is important to efficient driving and the exact same is true of clean fuel. Replacing your car or truck’s fuel filter is a simply way of keeping it running properly.
Dirty filters can restrict flow and cause drivability issues. A damaged filter can even allow containments to enter your vehicle’s fuel injectors causing even more issues, leading to pricey repairs. Head off these woes by changing your fuel filter.
Changing your ride’s oil is one of the simplest and most effective ways of keeping it running well for years to come. A good quality lubricant will protect internal components from the damaging effects of friction, heat and other combustion byproducts. A premium filter will prevent any particles from damaging delicate internal components.
With large swaths of North America experiencing winter’s deep freeze keeping your car’s cooling system in order is critically important. Old, worn-out coolant won’t protect against temperature extremes as well as fresh stuff will. Also, if you’ve never flushed out you vehicle’s cooling system it can be full of gunk and corrosion, which can plug the tiny openings in the radiator or block a thermostat, resulting in overheating.
Transmission Fluid and Filter Change
Now we’re getting really ambitious! Drivers that want to maximize their savings and do a whole lot of good for their vehicle can change its automatic transmission fluid and filter. Self-shifting gearboxes are some of the most complicated components found in modern cars and trucks. A clean, fresh supply of fluid is absolutely necessary to keep these components functioning properly.
With good instructions, a decent selection of hand tools and some patience you can change your vehicle’s transmission fluid and filter. Some manufacturers claim to offer transmissions that are “filled for life” but this is a little suspicious. Changing the fluid and filter every 30,000 to 50,000 miles cannot hurt and will most likely add years and tens of thousands of miles to your car or truck’s life expectancy.
Finally, one of the best recommendations we can make is picking up a good service manual. These books offer invaluable advice on how to repair and maintain your vehicle. They’ll walk you through even complicated procedures once step at a time so you can succeed in making necessary repairs. A service manual is a smart investment if you plan on keeping your ride after the factory warranty expires.