Required Automotive Maintenance
Every repair and dealership will tell you, you have required automotive maintenance to do to your car. Most people question just how necessary all this maintenance is? Is it worth the money?
The necessity of automotive maintenance depends on the type of car owner you are. Those people who buy brand new cars and trade them off every few years. Don’t have to worry about automotive maintenance. You’ll never have to worry about your car breaking due to lack of maintenance.
On the flip side if you buy a $3000 or less car. Don’t worry about maintenance. You’ll already be trying your hardest to keep up on repairs.
For the rest of you. Those people of you who buy a low mileage used car, and want it to last until you run the wheels off. You need to do the maintenance on your cars.
Ever car needs regular oil changes. How often depends on the type of driver you are. Many people think if you run synthetic bend oil or full synthetic oil you can prolong your oil change intervals. This is sort of true. These oils don’t break down as fast as a conventional oil does. Thus you can run them from longer.
The mileage suggestions on oil changes are based off optimum driving conditions. This means you get in your car drive gently until it warmed up then drive at a constant speed for 20-30 minutes. Then you slow down allowing your engine to cool off before stopping and parking it.
Nobody drives that way. Most people start their car drive less then 10 miles and shut it off. This is the problem. Even with better oils you can’t change physics. When a hot service cools down it condenses the moisture in the air. Your engine does this. So every time your heat your engine up and cool it off quickly you get water in your oil. Now there isn’t a lot of water but any water is bad. So if you don’t get your engine oil up past boiling point of water for long enough to get rid of this water it will build up.
This is one reason you need to change your oil every 3000-5000 miles. Another reason is, your oil does more engine cooling than your coolant. Thus when you get your engine hot in traffic, then shut it off. It can burn the oil.
Unless you drive mainly highways, and for at least a 1/2 hour each trip. It’s best not to extend your oil changes out past 5000 miles even when suggested by the manufacturers. With all the things controlled but oil pressure and the tighter tolerances of newer motors. The money you spend money on changing your oil more often, will be saved by avoiding costly repairs later.
Tires are one of the most ignored items on a car. A majority of people figure they don’t look flat they must be ok. This can be the furthest thing from the truth.
You need good tires for traction. The less tire depth you have the less traction you’ll have on anything but dry pavement. This why many times you’ll hear a mechanic tell you, “your tires will last the summer”. The problem is rain. Tires without tread will hydroplane on standing water. This means summer or winter you need to have tires with enough tread on them.
Car tires start with between 9/32″-12/32″ tread depth. Where as truck tires start at 13/32″ and up tread depth. By the time the tread depth gets to 5/32″. You should start looking for new tires. By the time they get to 3/32″ left you will need to buy tires.
With the cost of tires now days you want to get the most mileage out of your tires. You do this by rotating them every 5000 to 6000 miles. Rotating your tires gives all four tires a chance a wear evenly. Thus you don’t get front tires that are bald while your rear tires are almost new. This is as long as your alignment is good.
Alignments aren’t just about your car driving straight. Your alignment can be so far off that it wears your tires out in less than 50 miles. Yet still drive straight. A cars alignment effects tire wear and drive ability. Thus having your alignment checked often is a good idea.
You will need an alignment when you get new tires, or have any steering or suspension work done. However it’s good idea to have it checked if you see abnormal tire wear.
Many new car transmissions have what they call lifetime transmission fluid. The claim is that the fluid will last the life of the transmission. Meaning is never needs to be changed out. This claim is 100% correct. In fact all transmissions come with life fluid. Since the automatic transmission runs on transmission fluid. The life of the fluid means the life of the transmission.
Transmission fluid is the life blood of your transmission, just like engine oil is to your engine. Thus you should change your fluid on a regular basis. How often is dependent on the type of fluid it uses. A good rule is before 100,000 miles. However some fluids needs changed every 30,000 miles. Check your owners manual or with your mechanic.
Brake fluid is one of the most over looked fluids in your car. It’s hydroscopic, this means it absorbs moisture. Which isn’t a problem if you leave the cap on your master cylinder and it is air tight. The problem is that it isn’t air tight, and people remove the cap to check the fluid level. Thus you get moisture in your brake fluid.
Moisture in your brake fluid does to bad things. The first is that is can rust your steel brake lines out from the inside. That’s a problem you don’t even know your brake line is rusted and could leak any second. No one wants a brake line to break on them. Mainly because they never do it while you are driving 1 MPH and have 10 miles of road with nothing in front of you so you can safely come to a stop. Nope they always do it in bad traffic when the guy in front of you slams on his brakes.
The other reason you don’t want moisture in your brake fluid is because it can boil. It’s not secret your brakes get hot when you use them. How hot? Hot enough to turn steel blue. Or warp 3/4″ thick steel, from the heat. With new brake fluid boiling at 400 degrees. While just 3.7% water in your brake fluid makes the boiling point goes down to 284 degrees. This means it doesn’t take much for old brake fluid that has moisture in it to boil. When water boils it become a gas. Brake systems are designed to work on hydraulic pressure not gas pressure. Thus your brakes stop working if the brake fluid starts boiling. Yet again this isn’t going to happen when you don’t need your brakes. This happens as your are coming down a mountain and you have been riding your brakes trying to keep your car slow.
When should flush your brake fluid? There are test strips to tell you if your fluid is bad. If you or your mechanic don’t have these strips you can’t go wrong flushing your fluid every time you put new brake pads or shoes on. However if you live a very humid climate or the mountains, you may want to flush it more often.
Spark Plugs and Wires
Standard copper spark plugs should be changed out every 30,000 miles. Most newer cars use platinum or iridium plugs. These plugs can go 60,000 to 100,000 miles easily. However steel plugs in aluminum heads can become seized in. So waiting much longer 100,000 can cause huge expenses.
When you replace spark plugs go ahead and replace the wires or boots. Coil over plugs have a boot on them like a very short plug wire. If these boots are replaceable without replacing the whole coil do it.
Rubber wear socks out over age. The problem is until it causes a misfire you can’t really see the problem. Thus replacing the boots or wires prevents having to go back and replace them shortly after replacing the plugs. This saves money in long run.
Air Filter/ Cabin Air Filter
Your car’s engine is a big air pump. The more air that goes in the more power it makes. This air must be clean. Dirty air can damage your engine. Of course no one wants to replace an air filter that doesn’t need it. So a goo rule of thumb is if you can see light through it. Then it’s ok.
A very common misconception it that you can blow a dirty air filter off and it’s good as new. This is far from the truth. Yes it will look cleaner, but it will not function right. Your air filter has very small holes in it to let the air through without letting dirt particles through. When you blow your air filter out you make those small holes bigger. This means your filter no longer filters the smaller things out of your engine. Which means by trying to save $20-$50, you just put your engine at risk of damage.
The cabin air filter on the other hand will not damage your engine if it get’s dirty. However if your cabin air filter gets plugged up, it can put undue stress on your blower motor. While the cost of many cabin air filters are not cheap replacing your blower motor is even worse. Thus replacing your cabin air filter once a year can save you money in the long run. As a bonus is will also keep the inside of you car cleaner, and help out those of us who have allergies.
By doing the required automotive maintenance you can save yourself money in the long run. Maintenance is all about making sure your car doesn’t have a lot of expensive repairs that need to be done to early. Yes car’s break down and not about of required automotive maintenance while prevent parts from just wearing out. However it will make parts last longer thus getting you more life from your car. Don’t skip your maintenance and be gentle with your car and it will treat you great for a long time.