Maintenance misses that may cost you
BY JEFF TAYLOR For Sun-Times Media March 26, 2012 1:09PM
When I first started to drive, I wanted to know everything about how a car worked. I changed oil, light bulbs, antifreeze and progressively worked up to bolting on exhaust components and rebuilding an engine.
The cars I was able to afford did not include “sealed for life transmissions” or 100,000-mile platinum spark plugs. If I wanted to drive, I had to keep my cars going myself.
The proliferation of nationwide service chains, competitive dealership costs and the complexity of the modern automobile have all led to owners delegating simple/regular vehicle maintenance to others. This results in a growing number of owners who don’t keep up with regular maintenance on their cars.
Here are basic maintenance/service mishaps to which owners can fall victim.
A lack of information. A simple way to help prevent a vehicle meltdown is as easy as opening the owner’s manual and actually reading it. As little as 30 minutes of thumbing through the pages can make a big difference. The manual includes recommended service intervals, operation and safety tips.
Fluids are vital. Your vehicle’s operation and component reliability rely on a cadre of fluids. Maintaining proper fluid levels seems like a no-brainer, but many drivers consistently operate their vehicles when they are low on oil, transmission fluid or coolant because they don’t check. A simple check can prevent catastrophic component breakdowns and thousands of dollars in repair bills. Fluid levels, color or smell also can help to identify future problems that may be preventable or at least prevent a surprise breakdown that can leave you stranded. The important thing to take away is to keep tabs on these vital fluids.
Give it a second to warm up. We’re all crunched for time these days, but by allowing your engine to idle for at least 20 to 30 seconds before pulling out of your driveway or parking space permits the oil time to circulate in the engine to help reduce powertrain wear — even in warmer temperatures. Get oil circulating to lubricate internal parts before putting a load on your engine.
Reckless driving. “Drive it like you stole it” tactics, including hard acceleration from a standing start, brake stomps and driving over road hazards (potholes, speed bumps) will cause excessive wear and damage or shorten the life of suspension components. While this kind of driving is not a maintenance issue, it is something you can control and keep in check.
Address leaks. Whether they are fluid or exhaust leaks, address them immediately to prevent mechanical breakdowns and keep you and your passengers traveling safely. If you smell something, see even small amounts of smoke or notice fluid on the ground, get your vehicle checked out. You normally come across these types of issues in older vehicles as gaskets/hoses break down or exhaust components rust out. Exhaust leaks are serious, as fumes can leak into the passenger compartment. Fluids leaking onto a hot engine can cause a fire.
Check your tires. Check for even tread wear as this can tip you off to potential suspension problems down the road.
Regular maintenance. Many drivers believe that if the car is working (moving) they can put off maintenance or save money by not getting a something checked out. Popping the hood once in a while for a simple look underneath can reveal a leak, corroded wire or loose component. Pay attention to warning lights, sights, sounds and smells as these are indicators of problems that will only get worse as time and miles go by.
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