Easy car maintenance schedule to avoid costly repairs
The choices are clear: Either spend money on a new car every few years, or keep the same trustworthy one for a longer period of time. With appropriate maintenance and care, an average car can run great and look sharp for many years. As rising fuel costs are whittling away household budgets, existing or prospective car owners may become more sensitive to maintenance and service costs in the near future.
The key is to follow a rigorous maintenance schedule, which can help avoid costly repairs. Take a look some easy maintenance steps, put together here by Bargain Network:
There's no one better-suited than the owner to wash the car and give it other much-needed touches of love. Wash and wax the car frequently, keep it looking clean inside, and check the level of different fluids, such as oil, coolant and transmission fluid. Also, learn to change the oil and filter yourself. Most manufacturers recommend doing so every 3,000 miles or three months, whichever comes first.
Help the car breathe
The engine will run better and cleaner if the air filter is changed at least once a year. People with long commutes or those who do a lot of "stop and go" driving should pay special attention to the air filter, and might need to change it more often. Signs that a vehicle is experiencing battery failure may include: dimming headlights and interior lights, slow engine starting, "check engine" light is on or accessories failing to operate.
The cooling system of a car is a vital feature that many people tend to disregard. To function properly, the engine has to be well-lubed and cool at all times. Use the proper coolant, and check the hoses regularly. Also, try to warm up the car for at least three minutes every morning.
Keeping the right inflation pressure for all four tires improves overall performance, including fuel economy. Air pressure and proper rotation of the tires will help ensure the car stops properly and stays on the road.
The muffler, catalytic converter and other parts of the exhaust system can wear out, weakening the power of the engine. Examine the exhaust system at least once a year, as part of the car's periodic tune-ups.
The way a car is driven adds to its overall wear and tear. Taking off fast and coming to a stop quickly, tailgating, and excessive use of the breaks are some bad habits to avoid if the goal is to help prolong the life -- and gas mileage -- of a car.
Motorists should check their owner's manual for a schedule of recommended maintenance intervals the vehicle manufacturer. If the owner's manual has been lost, many Web sites, such as the National Car Care Council's offer a recommended maintenance schedule for vehicles.
Check washer, coolant and other fluid levels at every oil change. In addition to these essential tips for improving a car's endurance, consumers should also replace the battery, fuel filter, belts, hoses, PCV valves, spark plugs and others, according to the manufacturers' repair book. Six-month savings: Hard to calculate, but most drivers could recoup the cost of two oil changes, or around $50.
Inflate tires to the recommended pressure to improve gas mileage and extend the life of the tires. Inspect tires for wear and appropriate tire pressure. Tire problems are the leading cause of breakdowns.
Check belts and hoses
Check belts and hoses for signs of wear. Belt or hose failure is the second leading cause of roadside breakdowns and one in every five vehicles on the road needs to have a belt repaired.
"By keeping up with the maintenance on their vehicles, drivers can sharply decrease their chances of an unexpected breakdown," said Bruce Bonebrake, master mechanic and host of Weekend Mechanic on the DIY Network. “Staying on top of vehicle maintenance will not only keep your car on the road and increase your gas mileage but most importantly keep you and your family safe," he said.
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