Thursday, November 7, 2013

How to maintain a car

With so much emphasis on car buying, few people consider the maintenance requirements of an automobile. The modern car may have as many as 75,000 parts, and the malfunction of just one can make your car behave very strangely. Maintaining a car in good condition will help you to keep it safe, drive it for a long time, and someday sell it for a better price.

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    Establish a simple plan of attack. One way to think of this is to use the acronym TOWBIF which stands for Tires, Oil, Windows, Brakes, Interiors and Fluids. Use your owner's manual to establish a schedule for your car.
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    Tires. Make sure they are properly inflated to the manufacturers specified pressure. Tire gauges are cheap and easy to use. Tires should be replaced when tread wear indicators are showing between the treads. Ask you local tire dealer if you are unsure how to identify tread wear indicators. Check your tires every other day for pressure and every week for wear. Have them replaced when they become worn beyond acceptable limits.
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    Oil. Oil is the blood of you car, and without it, the car isn't going to go far or quietly. Have your mechanic demonstrate how to check your oil properly, and have the oil changed every 3000-3500 miles. While oil manufacturers have claimed that their oil can last 10,000 miles, it is generally best to use the same oil for no more than 5000 miles to maximize engine reliability and efficiency over the long term. Check the oil regularly, about once a week, and change the oil or have it changed when you reach the 4000-4500 mile limit.
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    Windows. Make sure that all windows, mirrors and lights are clean and not broken. Replace any broken lights or mirrors as soon as possible. Have small windshield cracks by a windshield repair center to determine whether the windshield can be repaired or needs to be replaced. Check regularly for cracks and damage.
    • Allow plenty of room if when following behind other vehicles that could throw objects from the road or lose debris from their loads. Even a small pebble from the back of a gravel truck can damage your windshield.
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    Brakes, belts, and battery.
    • The braking systems of modern cars are designed to be replaced periodically to maintain maximum braking efficiency. Have your brakes checked by a mechanic once per month. If you notice ANY problems with the brakes, take your car to have the brakes serviced immediately. If the brakes fail, you can have a very serious crash.
    • Check the belts or have them checked regularly for wear and tension. Very loose belts often make a loud squealing sound; have yours serviced if you hear this noise.
    • Check the battery once per month for corrosion and clean it or have it cleaned and as needed. Avoid running your battery down, if possible. Even with a jump start, it's hard on the battery. Batteries do eventually get old. If you must replace your battery, also check the alternator and distributor to make sure that they are still functioning properly.
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    Interior. Clean and vacuum the interior as needed. The interior is often a point of selling power when it comes time to trade the car in or sell it. While many may not care about the oil or tires, if the CD player won't work, or the interior looks a little dirty, the deal is off. It's been said that the value of the car is held in the cabin, and that statement holds true. If you ever want to trade the car in or sell it, every quarter spent at a pay vacuum will be paid back to you with interest!
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    Fluids. The other lifeblood of the car are the fluids that the drive train must have. Coolant, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, windshield washer fluid, brake fluid, and other fluids need to be checked at a minimum of once per week. Ask your mechanic to demonstrate the method to check these.
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    Lights. You can check your own lights if you have someplace you can park near reflective glass windows, or you can ask a friend to walk around your car while you turn on different lights. Make sure to check your headlights, taillights, reverse lights, and turn signals.
    • Notice where your headlights point and correct it or have it corrected as needed. They should be pointing down and towards the outside of the road, not straight out, up, or towards the center. You can see the light pattern on the road ahead of you. Misaligned headlights can be distracting or hazardous to drivers ahead of you or in oncoming or adjacent lanes.
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    Windshield wipers. It's not difficult to replace worn wiper blades yourself. Replace just the blades once a year as needed before the rainy season. You can also replace the entire wiper assembly if needed. If you do a lot of driving in wet weather conditions, you may also want to apply a water repellent treatment to your windshield.
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    Emission control systems. Depending on where you live, you may be required to get your car checked for emissions periodically....... Generally, a professional must perform the diagnosis. Oxygen sensors and EGR valves are two common culprits

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