To make sure your car lives for the longest period of time that it can, you need to take care of it.
Proper maintenance includes more than just taking your vehicle to a mechanic once a year. You also have to check your air filters, notice brake issues, and test your car for any irregularities.
As the vehicle owner, you are responsible for your car’s health, but without knowledge of maintenance, you may feel lost.
Today, we are going to walk you through the common issues of a poorly maintained vehicle, including how to look after your car at home and why these checks are so necessary.
The Importance Of Vehicle Maintenance
The obvious reason to maintain your vehicle is to prevent accidents. A low-pressure tire could cause you to skid and crash; a failing brake could cause you to skid and crash – basically, anything can cause you to skid and crash.
Although most accidents are caused by road negligence, too many are created by good drivers with bad vehicles.
However, there are other reasons for keeping your car healthy too.
Extends The Lifespan Of Your Vehicle
A car battery tends to last between 3 and 5 years. However, suppose you clean the battery, remove any corrosion (including on the terminals), and test its power. In that case, you should be able to bump up that lifespan for another couple of years.
Makes Gas Cheaper
If money is the main motivator in your life, then you should think about the amount of gas you buy every year.
Simple everyday maintenance can keep your oil clean and your engine healthy. A healthy engine uses less gasoline, which means you could save as much as $1,200 a year!
Reduces Large Repair Costs
The Car Care Council compiled a study and found that more than 60 billion dollars worth of maintenance checks were not performed per year. These checks were simple testing ignition and replacing worn brakes.
As these lost checks mounted up, the average driver had to pay double or more on repair costs when things went sideways.
Doing daily or monthly maintenance checks can massively reduce these costs. For example, being aware of your brakes and replacing them when they wear down will be a much cheaper cost than repairing a crashed car.
Common Issues Associated With Poorly Maintained Vehicles
When people think about accidents, they often believe that negligence or inattention on the road is the main culprit. But a person’s lack of care towards their car can also cause life-altering crashes.
For example, in the UK, 521 accidents were caused by defective breaks, and 459 were caused by under-inflated tires (2018). These figures are even worse in the US as 20% of all traffic accidents were caused by lousy vehicle maintenance.
To help you avoid being one of these statistics, we want to share the common issues poorly maintained vehicles have.
Frequent Poor Vehicle Performance
For many people, the problem isn’t a lack of desire but instead it’s a lack of memory. They simply forget about this crucial daily, weekly, and monthly task.
To help you stay on time with your maintenance, you can create reminders on your smartphone.
Later on, in this article, we will discuss the steps you should be taking and the time frames to follow. Add these tasks to the calendar, and make them recurring. Once they are on your phone, you won’t have to worry about reminding yourself ever again.
Remember that taking a couple of minutes every few days to look over your vehicle will save you time and money in the long run.
Unfortunately, some issues with your car will not be noticeable until you perform your checks. We will point these out in the next section of this article. The reason why we bring up these hidden horrors is because many drivers think a 3-minute “look” at their vehicle is enough to determine its safety.
This is incorrect.
If you only use your eyes to notice faults, then you could be driving around with an unsafe vehicle. You need regular maintenance and thorough checks to be sure that your car is safe to drive.
Some people wait for their “check engine” light to come on before lifting the hood of their car. Again, this is bad practice. The “check engine” light should be seen as a last chance tool. A final “you need a mechanic” warning.
If you had been maintaining your car as you should, this light would never come on.
Your tires need to be fully inflated to work both efficiently and safely. Underinflated tires create too much surface area when they roll along the roads. With more surface area than expected, more friction is needed to push your tires along.
This wears down your tank as you push for more gas to counteract the drag, creating a costly result. However, there is more than just money at stake.
More friction from the enlarged surface area also means more heat. As your tires heat up, they will either melt away the groves of the tire or pop the tire completely.
If the tire melts, the grooves of the material will fade away, creating less traction. With less traction, you are more likely to hydroplane. This means you will find it hard to steer and could skid into an accident.
If the tire pops, well, a myriad of accidents could incur.
There are 3 types of common break malfunctions – wear and tear, mechanical, and fluid.
Brake pads naturally wear down over time. On your routine inspections, you may see signs of overworn pads. As soon as any sign comes up suggesting the pads are getting old, you should replace the pads.
Mechanical malfunctions are less common than the other two, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. You may notice that your brakes are making a strange noise or that they feel less resistant when you press down the pedal.
These are signs that something might be wrong with the mechanics of the brakes themselves. As soon as you notice these worries, take your car to a mechanic.
Brake fluid issues are often shown through sticky or slow returning pedals. If you notice these issues, take your vehicle to a mechanic.
Steering Linkage Wear
Steering linkage (also known as power steering) refers to the mechanics around your vehicle’s steering. A slight touch on the steering wheel can help you easily and dramatically turn around a tight corner. This feat used to take 3 rotations, but now a gentle touch can get your wheels into the right location.
If this system wears down, you will have less control over your car. This could mean that your car keeps turning left when you’re telling it to go straight, or it could mean that those quick turns become a slow maneuver.
If your steering is slowly wearing, you may notice that one day it completely snaps. This snap could happen just as you are taking a tight corner, creating a horrible accident. As soon as you notice that the car isn’t moving as it should, take it to a mechanic.
Loose Lug Nuts
Lug nuts are the nuts that keep your hubcap attached to your wheel and keep your wheel attached to your car. Without them, your wheel will come off, and you will be left in a deadly situation.
You can tell when your lugs are beginning to loosen, as the wheels will shake when you drive. You’ll be able to feel the shaking as you steer the car, and if it’s bad enough, the vibrations might continue through the whole vehicle.
As soon as you notice this problem, you need to pull over and repair these loose lug nuts. Do not start driving again until this problem has been fixed.
Rust can start creeping up on your car at any age. It happens when the metal has been exposed to too much moisture.
There are three types of rust; surface, scale, and penetrating.
Surface rust can be treated if you go to a repair shop in time.
Scale rust occurs when surface rust has been left for too long. It will start to corrode your car, leading to mechanical problems.
Penetrating rust is when scale rust has been left for too long. To save this car from the junkyard, you will need to replace its body parts.
If you let a rusting car continue on the road, you could experience gas leaks, steering failure, or any number of accidents.
12 Simple Maintenance Steps You Can Perform At Home
We have talked about the doom and gloom of failed maintenance checks and their repercussions. Now, we need to show you how to look after your vehicle, so none of these accidents happen to you.
Follow these 12 simple steps to keep your car safe.
Inspect And Maintain Tires
You should check your tires once per month as a minimum. As you inspect your tires, you should be looking for wear and tear on the materials and pressure levels in the wheels’ bounce.
Your tires will have a recommended tire pressure either attached to the information about your tires when purchased or in the driver’s door. There will be a number along with the acronym PSI, which stands for Pound-force per Square Inch. When you are pumping up your tires, aim for this number.
If your tires are at the appropriate pressure, then you should move on to wear and tear. If the tires no longer have grooves on the wheels, this means that they have been worn away. You should replace these tires. Ideally, the tires should be replaced before the groves have started to disappear.
This might seem like an unnecessary tip, but a dirty windshield is a natural safety hazard. If bugs, dirt, or debris are stuck on your windshield, your view of the road will be obscured. You might not notice a child coming onto the road, as they were small enough to fit under that smudge.
You should wash your windshield weekly using a sponge, soapy water, and a squeegee to remove streaks. The most efficient method is to pull the squeegee from the middle of the windshield to the sides. This will help eliminate streaks.
You should also clean your headlights, license plate, and brake lights. This way, your lights will be bright enough for their use, and people behind you can see when you break.
Being clear will keep the other drivers on the road aware of your intentions.
Check Oil Levels
Your oil level is critical to keeping your car healthy. The oil lubricates the moving parts of your engine. Without it, the pieces will grind and wear down or simply stop working.
The second function of the oil is to move the heat caused by the engine away from the combustion cycle. As it lubricates the machine, it moves through a filter stopping your car from exploding from the heat it creates.
So without the right oil levels, your car’s engine will either grind down, stop working or catch fire. This is why your oil levels are so important!
You should check your oil every week and use your vehicle manual to gauge what the best level should be. Then you need to check the current levels.
Checking the levels is easy. Simply follow these steps:
Step 1 – Put your car onto flat land, so the reading will be accurate.
Step 2 – Find your vehicle’s dipstick (it normally lives near your engine and has a symbol of an oil can).
Step 3 – Pull out the dipstick.
Step 4 – Clean the dipstick with a paper towel.
Step 5 – Put the dipstick back in (make sure it goes all the way).
Step 6 – Pull the dipstick back out again without tilting it.
Step 7 – Look for the marks on the dipstick.
Normally you want the oil to have reached between the two lines/dots/marks. If the oil didn’t go past the 1st line/dot/marker, you should top it up.
Check Fluids Often
Although we have already talked about your oil levels in detail, there are 4 other fluids you should be checking.
In total, they are:
- Oil Fluids (Engine Oil)
- Brake Fluid
- Transmission Fluid
- Power Steering Fluid.
Your engine oil is the only one you should be checking on a weekly basis, but the other 4 should still be checked regularly.
With all of these fluids, you can follow the same method as before. Check the manual for what the levels should be and where you can locate the dipsticks. Then measure each container to make sure they are at the appropriate levels. You can do this once a week to keep everything simple or once a month.
Change Oil Every 5,000 Miles
5,000 miles might be your weekly grind, or it could be a 5 year total, so use your mile counter to judge this change.
The reason why we change our oil is to get rid of any debris or dirt that might have found its way into the system. These impurities can clog up your engine, making everything run slower, and can even break your machine.
To change the oil, follow these steps:
Step 1 – Move your car to flat ground.
Step 2 – Remove the oil filler cap.
Step 3 – Remove the oil plug.
Step 4 – Let the oil drain out.
Step 5 – Remove the oil filter.
Step 6 – Install a new oil filter.
Step 7 – Put in the oil plug.
Step 8 – Refill the engine oil.
Step 9 – Allow the car to run for 5 minutes so the new oil gets into position.
You can dispose of the old oil at a gas station.
Change Air Filter Every 12,000 Miles
Your air filter is the main reason that your combustion engine works. The air mixes with the gas, the spark is released, and the engine starts.
To make sure your engine keeps working correctly, the air needs to be pure; this is where the filter comes in. Without it, your engine might not start.
Replacing your air filter will only take a minute and cost around $20. Simply take out the old one and put in the new one.
Rotate Tires Every 5-10,000 Miles
Your front tires and your rear tires will wear down differently. If you want to save money and allow your tires to have a complete usage, you should rotate them every 5,000 miles or so.
This will allow your tires to wear down equally, creating a safer experience for longer. It also means you don’t need to replace your tires as often. However, when the time to replace them comes, you will have to change all four instead of just two.
Wash Your Car Regularly
We have talked about rust and how it can harm your car; however, there are many ways in which your vehicle can erode. Everyday issues like acid rain, grease, grime, bugs, sea salt, sunlight, bird poop, and tree sap can all eat away at your car’s metal.
Washing your car will help remove these corrosive elements before they make a dramatic dent in your vehicle. Although failing to clean your car won’t have an instantly negative effect, over time it will reduce your car’s life expectancy.
Depending on how smoggy or polluted your area is, you should wash your car two or three times a month.
Test Your Lights Regularly
A broken light is an instant safety hazard, but lights that are pointing the wrong way can be a danger too.
If your lights point too high or too low, they could create a glare. Glares can distract other drivers and cause crashes.
Of course, you should replace your lights if you notice them dimming, flickering or if they stopped working, but every 6 months you should test their aim too.
To test the aim of your light, follow these steps:
Step 1 – Find a flat land with a wall or surface.
Step 2 – Put your lights on, and aim them at the wall.
Step 3 – Measure the length and width of the two lights, using tape and sticking that tape to the wall.
Step 4 – Drive forward about 25ft.
At this point, the intensity of the light should be brighter, but the shape should be smaller. Although you have moved the car, the middle of the light should still aim at the center of the tape-cross you had made.
Step 5 – If the light isn’t aligned with the cross, it means the bulb is tilted. Re-adjust the bulb until it’s straight.
Replace Windscreen Wipers
Just as you should be cleaning your windscreen often, you need to make sure your wipers work efficiently too. If it’s raining and the wipers cannot remove the liquid, then you will be left with an obscured view.
Every couple of months, you should inspect your wipers and judge whether they can effectively remove snow or heavy rainfall. If they do not work as they should, then you should replace them.
Check Your Brakes
As we said before, if your brakes are making a strange noise or if you feel a vibration on the pedal, you should take your vehicle to a mechanic. Brakes are your main safety feature, so you need them to be sharp and effective at all times.
Every month you should look for your brake pads and check for erosion or wear and tear. If the pads have thinned down too much, they will not be as effective. If that happens, take them to a mechanic for replacements.
If you have any issues with your brakes at all, you should take your vehicle to a mechanic.
Check Belts And Hoses
The belts and hoses in your car are used to cool down, charge up and ventilate your engine. Each hose is made out of rubber to absorb vibrations and keep a smooth pull.
Mechanics normally inspect the hoses when they change the coolant; however, if you’re changing these fluids yourself, then you might not watch out for the tell-tale signs.
The mechanic would be looking for leakages, softened materials, and any signs of deterioration. A hose or belt should normally last for 11 years, but if you notice a leak, it might be time for a replacement.
Benefits Of Regular Maintenance
A car is more than a vehicle; it’s a financial investment. There is more to maintenance than looking after your safety (even though that is a massively important benefit). If you keep on top of your car’s health, it can save you money, keep you moving fast, and can maintain its financial value.
We are going to explain the 6 top benefits of properly looking after your car.
Throughout this article, we have talked about the importance of safety and maintenance. Although we want to talk about other benefits too, we cannot ignore how serious your own health is.
If your tires are worn out, you can crash. If your lights are at the wrong angle, you can blind someone and crash. If you’re low on oil, you can cause friction in your engine and crash.
Crashes can be as annoying as a financial disaster or as deadly as well …. death.
Keeping on top of your maintenance is a sure-fire way to keep yourself and your passengers safe. If you add these checks to your calendar, you can feel secure in the knowledge that your vehicle is safe.
Keeps Up Car Performance
Now the doom and gloom part of this conversion is over; we can talk about the less horrific benefits of upkeep. If you keep your car in top condition, it will be able to maintain its performance. The traction from the tires will be just as good as the day you got it, the steering will be just as crisp, and you’ll feel just as excited to start the engine.
It will feel as though every day is the first day of driving your car. Naturally, the performance will still dip over time, but a 5-year-old vehicle will feel like a 1-year-old, elongating the life of your car.
This leads us nicely to our next point.
Keeps The Value Of Your Car High
The saying goes that a car will lose its value as soon as it leaves the shop. If you plan on selling your car for an upgraded version, then you need to keep it as close to the shop versions as possible. Looking after it, saving its performance high, and replacing any breaking or subpar pieces is the best way to keep its value high.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you’ll maintain it so well that the original price never drops, but aiming for perfection will get you closer to your goal.
Increases Fuel Efficiency
Money is the main topic on most of our minds. If you make sure the oil is clean and topped up and the hoses are working as they should, then you will be ensuring a money-saving car.
These maintenance features are what keep your engine running smoothing, and a smooth engine means less fuel is needed to keep it going.
If you have an older car that you are just starting to maintain now, you’ll notice a massive change in the gas mileage just from changing the oil.
This type of upkeep will mean you’ll need to fill up the tank less often, and in turn, you’ll save money.
Saves You Money
Of course, there is more than one way to save money. Yes, the fuel will go down in price, and the value of the car will be more stable, but you will also be able to avoid large costly repairs.
Because you will be checking on your vehicle and noticing when something small has hindered it, you will be able to keep your car from reaching a money pit moment. A money pit moment is when you feel like you’re throwing money into a pit and getting nothing back.
Unlike other drivers, you will be able to save your car from being a thousand-dollar money drain, as you’ll spot and replace any failing elements before they become dangerous and costly.
Although it might seem like doing all of these maintenance checks will take up more of your time, compare that timescale to when you have no car because yours has stopped working.
You might not be in a crash, but instead, as your car fails, you find yourself waiting to buy a new one. Doing these little checks will allow you to keep on top of your car’s needs, knowing exactly how it is doing. You won’t find yourself having to rearrange plans because your vehicle is smoking, as you know exactly how good its health is.
None of this information is secret. Every car salesperson, mechanic, and fanatic will tell you the same thing. Maintaining and caring for your vehicle will save you money, allow it to last longer, and will keep you safe.
Sometimes, people don’t bother with maintenance because they don’t know where to start. If you’re one of these people, then this excuse is gone now! Using our advice above, you can create a list of the main areas of your car to care for, how to do the maintenance, and when you should be doing it.
Once you get started, just put a recurring reminder on your phone’s calendar so you’re always told when your next check should be.
You can even bookmark this page if you’d rather keep your calendar in the physical sphere. Whatever works for you!
Maintaining the health of your vehicle doesn’t have to cost you a fortune either; lots of these tips are easy to complete at home. Changing your oil is a skill that many people have forgotten, but with our step-by-step instructions above, you won’t have to pay a mechanic $20 for something that will take you 2 minutes.
We hope you have learned that looking after your car doesn’t require a degree; you just need to get started.
Remember that a healthy car is a safe experience. You’ll save money, save fuel, keep your vehicle in top condition and keep it looking great.
That being said, if you are ever nervous about a change to your vehicle, take it to a mechanic.