If you are like most people, you take the reliability of your vehicle for granted. Make sure you are doing everything possible to extend the life of your vehicle. Take care of the car and it will take care of you.
At least once a month, check all of your vehicle’s fluids. This includes the engine oil, transmission fluid, radiator fluid, brake fluid and power steering fluid. If anyone of these fluids is too low or runs out completely it could destroy major components of your vehicle. Be sure to check the color of the fluid as well as the level for radiator fluid, engine oil and transmission fluid. Radiator fluid is usually green, pink, or yellow. Be sure to flush the radiator if the fluid is a dingy brown color. Oil should be clear, not brown or black. When looking at your oil keep in mind that it starts out a golden honey color. Transmission fluid should be red. If it smells burnt, that may indicate that it has overheated. Brake, power steering and radiator fluid all need to be flushed about every 2 years.
One of the most important things you can do to lengthen the life of your vehicle is to change the oil regularly. It is recommended that you change the oil every 3,000-5,000 miles or every 4-6 months. If you are running synthetic in certain vehicles you may be able to get away with 8,000 miles and beyond but why take the chance. When changing the oil, make sure the oil filter is changed as well. New oil will also increase your MPG and ease the pain at the pump.
Changing your air filter is another routine maintenance item that shouldn’t be overlooked. Make sure that you install a new filter (or clean your existing filter if you have a reusable filter) every 12 months or 12,000 miles. This will ensure that your engine is getting a sufficient air supply and isn’t being choked due to a clogged filter. Fuel filters are another necessary replacement. Have it changed every 2 years or 24,000 miles.
Check your pads and rotors. Brake pads should be replaced when the depth on the pad is ¼ of an inch or less. If you wait too long you will begin to hear a high-pitched screeching noise when braking. This is an exposed piece of metal in the brake pad scraping against the brake rotor. This is your last warning. Beyond this is the risk of damaging the rotor and ultimately the calipers, both which are much more expensive to replace than pads.
Rotate the tires every 6,000 miles to reduce uneven wear that can decrease the life of the tire. If you have your tires rotated at a shop, they should be able to tell you if your car is out of alignment based on the wear pattern. Catching an alignment problem early can save a set of tires from meeting their early demise. Check your tire pressure at least once a month. Check the vehicle’s door jam on the driver’s side for proper inflation levels. Don’t reference the PSI numbers on the tires. Having properly inflated tires will help ensure the tires wear evenly and will help you get the best MPG possible.
These tips are just the beginning to helping get your vehicle to 200,000 miles and beyond. Driving smoothly and not racing around like a Formula 1 driver will also help the vehicles longevity. Always keep your ears tuned and listen for anything that may sound strange. If you hear a troubling noise and can’t pinpoint the problem, take your vehicle into a trusted mechanic to catch a small problem before it explodes into a larger one. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.