Part of being a responsible car owner is performing regular vehicle maintenance. Not only does regular maintenance keep repair costs low, but it also prevents breakdowns and tire blowouts from occurring. If you’re unsure of when essential maintenance should be performed on your vehicle, this guide is a great place to start.
Engine oil lubricates moving parts to ensure efficient operation. When oil levels are low, premature wear will occur, which can eventually lead to failure of engine components if oil is consistently low. That’s why it’s recommended you check your oil levels at least once per month, when the engine is turned off.
Open the hood and look to the left of the engine. You should see the dipstick, which usually has a yellow or orange cap. Remove it from the receptacle and clean it off oil using a rag or paper towel. Replace the dipstick and remove it again to take the oil level reading. If full, the oil should reach the top line or marker. If the oil level is too low and it’s been three months or more since your last oil change, schedule one as soon as possible.
Transmission fluid also acts as a lubricant, in addition to cooling parts of the transmission as it circulates. Unlike engine oil, transmission fluid doesn’t dissipate naturally. Low levels usually indicate a leak in the system, which should be addressed right away.
You only need to check transmission fluid once per year. While most vehicles should be turned on when checking, consult your manufacturer’s documentation to be sure. The dipstick is usually located near the rear of the engine and looks similar to the engine oil dipstick. Take care when removing it, as the fluid will be hot. Check the fluid level the same as you would engine oil: remove and clean the dipstick, replace it, and remove again to see where the fluid lies in relation to the line or marker.
Brake fluid can become contaminated with water from condensation, or from sediment caused by corrosion. Contamination affects performance of braking systems and can damage components to the point of failure. Most vehicles require brake fluid to be changed, often every two to three years. However, consult your owner’s manual to determine your specific schedule.
Newer vehicles have a reservoir that shows brake fluid levels, but older vehicles require you to remove the cap. It can usually be found in front of where your brake pedal is mounted inside the vehicle. Wipe off the cap before removing it to prevent debris from getting into the brake fluid. Once the cap is removed, look for the full line or marker to determine whether levels are too low.
Coolant is integral in stopping your engine from overheating. Because it plays such an important role, you should check levels at least once every two weeks. The best time to check levels is when the car has been off for several hours, so first thing in the morning is optimum.
Look for the translucent white reservoir, which is often connected to the radiator via a hose. Look at the side of the reservoir for the cold fill line. If the level is beneath this line, consult manufacturer documents for the right type of coolant to use and fill the reservoir until it reaches the marker.
If you’re unsure of the proper pressure for your vehicle, check the sticker on the inside of your door jamb. While PSI (pounds per square inch) is also listed on the sidewall of tires, this number refers to the maximum vehicle load, and it’s unlikely you’ll be carrying the maximum load while driving.
Check all tires, including the spare, at least once per month. You can check it by going to a gas station/convenience store, many of which have air pumps. Unscrew the cap on the valve stem sticking out of the tire and press the air pump wand into it. It should produce a reading of your tire pressure somewhere on the pump.
We Help Keep You on the Road
Even with the right maintenance, your vehicle will still require repairs from time to time. Visiting experienced and skilled mechanics, like our team at ABC Paint & Body, ensures affordable, reliable service every time. In addition to dent repair and paint matching, we also offer automotive service and brake inspection. Call 575-524-2004 to schedule an appointment or contact us online for more info.