When it comes to routine automobile maintenance, many women take a back seat. Not so with Lynette Shaw of Clarkston. When this mother of three was growing up, she learned the basics of car maintenance by watching her father and brothers tinker with their vehicles. Through the years, the single mom says that knowledge has paid off.
"You don’t have to be a ‘grease monkey,’" Shaw says. "But every woman should know some basics of car maintenance. Who wants to be stranded? It’s better to take care of things, so you’re less likely to have a break-down."
To increase the longevity of your vehicle and save time and money, consider these 10 maintenance basics offered by national automobile repair experts.
1. Read, check and inspect. Paul Davis, an adult education auto technology instructor, says reading the owner’s manual will help individuals locate, understand and operate different instruments on the vehicle and explain the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance intervals by time and mileage. “Whenever the oil is changed, check the manual to see if the car is due for one or more maintenance items,” he says. “Also, do a quick inspection of the tires, belts, hoses, lights, wipers and fluids. Do you see anything that needs to be addressed?”
2. Retain records. Archive all maintenance done on your car, says automotive technology educator John Hoopes. “For organizational purposes, use a notebook to record the type of service, who performed it, the date and the vehicle mileage. More importantly, keep a folder of all receipts, so you have concrete records if there is ever a warranty issue.”
3. Observe oil. “To increase the longevity of your car, change the oil at the manufacturer’s recommendation,” says Ed Kriston, AAA automotive expert. “Between changes, check the oil level regularly, particularly if you suspect a leak or have an older model. When the engine is cold, start the car and let it run for one minute then shut it off. Remove and wipe the dipstick then reinsert it into the tube and remove it again. Read the lines toward the bottom of the dipstick to determine the oil level. Add oil until it reaches the full line, then replace the dipstick. Use only the type of oil specified in the owner’s manual.”
4. Filling fluids. “Refer to the owner’s manual to determine where the receptacles for each of the fluids are, what the proper levels should be, how to read them, if the engine should be turned on or off and what type and grade of product to use,” says Davis. “Most important, don’t get them confused; put the proper fluid in the right receptacle.”
5. Appropriate inflation. Check tire pressure every few weeks, particularly when there has been a dramatic change in outside temperatures, says Kriston. “Use the psi listed either inside the driver’s door frame, in the glove box or under the fuel filler door. Some people go by the number stamped on the outside of a tire, but that’s the maximum pressure, not the recommended pressure. To get a true reading, check pressure when the tires are cold. And don’t forget about the spare.”
6. Detect tire damage. Cuts or grooves on the sidewall near the metal rim may mean the tire is losing air, says Kriston. “To check tread depth, turn the tires to the right or left, then hold a penny between your thumb and index finger and place Lincoln’s head down into the tread. If you see the top of his head, you need new tires.”
7. Battery basics. Hoopes says batteries more then three years old should be checked before winter and summer – times when most batteries fail. “If you notice corrosion on the terminal, brush it off with a baking soda and water paste; then rinse. But remember, batteries can be dangerous, so wear safety glasses and rubber gloves,” he says. “If there’s a substantial amount of corrosion, the battery may need to be replaced.”
8. Look at lights. “Pull up to a storefront that has glass, turn on your headlights, switch to high beams and then put on your turn signals. Check the tail lights the same way by backing in,” says Kriston.
9. Watch wipers. “If the blades streak, wipe them with a paper towel to remove build up,” says Davis. “If they still streak or chatter going across the window, get a new set. Tell the auto parts store your car’s make and model. They will give you the right size and may even put them on for you.”
10. Use your senses. “Look, listen, smell and even feel for changes in the way your vehicle operates,” says Hoopes. “Leaking fluid, knocking under the hood and pulsating brakes are just a few of the many telltale signs there is a problem that needs to be addressed.”