About Car Maintenance

by Tom Keaton

Maintaining your vehicle is critical to help avoid breakdowns or future problems, and will certainly allow you to drive it for a longer time. It's not uncommon for an engine to get over 200,000 miles on it ,and even more, if maintenance is a priority. You know the old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." That certainly holds true when it comes to car maintenance.

The Facts

A vehicle's fluids such as motor oil, anti freeze, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, rear end oil and of course fuel, is the lifeblood's for a vehicle and should always be maintained to the proper levels. Each has it's own very important job to do. Motor oil keeps all the engine parts lubricated, and without it your engine would surely seize up. Coolant is critical to keep the engine block and cylinder heads cool and without it your engine would quickly overheat and can be ruined. Transmission fluid allows your car to be able to move forward and backward smoothly, brake fluid of course allows you to stop the vehicle, without it you would literally have no brakes. Power steering fluid allows you to turn the wheel freely. Rear end oil or fluid allows your drive axle to turn freely and without it you won't be going anywhere, and of course without fuel, well most of us have run out of gas at least once. Proper lubrication of the suspension parts with grease is also very important.

Features

Filters need to be considered as well, such as , oil filter, transmission fluid filter and fuel filter. These filters serve to keep the fluids running through the car cleanly and without harmful contaminents. Also, don't forget about the importance of a clean air filter which allows fresh air to enter. A dirty air filter will certainly slow you down and force you to use more fuel. The rule of thumb for oil to be changed has been 3,000 miles or even up to 6,000 miles or more if a synthetic oil has been used. A quality oil is critical in my opinion since oil is truly the lifeblood of your engine. There are so many different types of oils available. Some with a heavier weight and some lighter, full synthetic, partial synthetic, oils for cars with higher mileage and some suggested for newer cars, along with many possible oil additives. Check your owners manual and talk to people in the know about what possible oils and additives may be right for your specific vehicle. It is worth spending a little extra towards quality oil since this is the most critical fluid in regards to your engines operation and longevity.

Time Frame

Keep in mind that even though a fluid may be filled to the proper level, that the age of the fluid is also critical. Fluids, especially oil, willl break down over time due to heat and must be changed on regular intervals. There are also different grades of fuel available from 87 to 93 octane. Using the correct octane for your vehicle as suggested by the manfacturer will serve you well and adding a fuel injector cleaner at specific intervals is an easy way to perform maintenance. Fuel does age and becomes stale, whether it is sitting at the bottom of a gas station's fuel tank or in your car tank. Consider buying gas from only reputable stations where there a lot of activity to help ensure you are getting fresh fuel. There are so many other areas of a vehicle where maintenance is required, including your windshield wiper blades, proper air in the tires, lubricant treatments to rubber trim parts to prevent cracking, and replacement of worn hoses and belts is imperative.

Expert Insight

I could get on a "soap box" here, but I'll contain myself. SImply, the benefits of proper maintenance almost go without saying. I own and have owned cars with greater than 200,000 miles on the engine and know others with even more than 300,000. You have the opportunity to make that vehicle last just about as long as you want by providing proper maintenance. You also have control in regards to the interior and exterior paint. Proper cleaning, waxing and using products for protection from the sun will go a long way. Keeping the correct tire pressure with a proper front end alignment will allow those tires and your suspension parts to last longer. Having clean fuel, air and oil filters in place at all times will not only save you fuel but help protect your vehicle from untimely breakdowns. By performing regular maintenance, you will drive more trouble free and save big dollars in the long run by helping to avoid major expensive repairs later.

Misconceptions

There are common misconceptions regarding differnt types of oil, oil additives, fuel and maintenance in general. Some of the thinking is that oil is oil, and all the same. This isn't true, there are different types of oil for different situations. For instance, on an older car with normal wear on internal engine parts, a thicker oil is preferred to help fill in the gaps where thin oil may otherwise seep through and cause oil pressure to be lost. If you have a high performance engine and 93 octane fuel is suggested, then I would use it. A discount 87 octane fuel will still run the car but may not ignite properly and the engine may run rough or misfire which will waste fuel. Paper air filters work fine but once you have tried the more expensive mesh like filters you will most likely notice better acceleration due to increased air flow, providing greater horse power. Fuel filters often times get ignored and may get to the point where they are so clogged up they don't work anymore and you can end of with contaminents in your fuel system slowing you down or even choking the engine out. There are quality and discount oil filters and they do not work the same. Flushing out your radiator and cooling system versing just draining it out is quite different. Over a period of time, without a proper flush, the system can end up with clogs preventing proper flow which can cause over heating. There are other examples, and the phrase, "if it aint broke, don't fix it" doesn't pertain when it comes to vehicle maintenance. By keeping up with it, you should find yourself "fixing less.".

Identification

If you don't have an owners manual for your vehicle there are repair manuals for most all vehicles available to you at auto parts stores. These manuals will have a category for maintenance describing what is required along with at what time intervals they should be performed, along with a trouble shooting section to help you determine the causes and solutions for any specific problems. These manuals were designed specific to your particular make model and year vehicle. Owning one is a wise decision for a small investment.

About the Author

Tom Keaton has been writing professionally since 2007. His background includes experience in mortgage banking, pest control and classic-car restoration. Keaton has also worked as a licensed stock broker.