What do you know about your vehicle? You probably know the make and model and that it needs gas to run… but what else do you know? Cars are, for most people, one of the top five most expensive things they will buy in their lifetime, but most of us don’t know a ton about upkeep. But it might be a good idea to check into maintaining that investment. Skipping something as simple as your oil changes can be death to ol’ chitty-chitty bang-bang!
I’m a service writer in a repair shop. That means that I am the person who gets to tell you that your beloved automobile is no longer safe to drive — possibly because you forgot to take your car in for service. Many little knocks and bangs could be safety issues that need to be addressed sooner than later. Your car has a lot of moving parts which could go wrong, and while there are tons of specifics that you don’t necessarily need to know, there are a few Very Important Basics.
Your car’s engine is a metal object with many other metal objects inside moving VERY FAST! Have you ever rubbed two pennies together? They get warm. Imagine doing that for hours on end. Engine oil is the only thing keeping those parts from fusing together from the heat created by friction, so CHANGE THAT OIL! As tough as the oil is, it can break down, too. AND! Is your car one of those that leaves little drip marks every time it parks? You can also just LOSE oil.
Oil changes are recommended every 3,000 miles or 3 months (whatever comes first). Some newer cars and synthetic oils can go longer than that. Ask a professional what is best for your specific vehicle.
Even when your oil is good, your engine still produces HEAT! The air around your engine heats up. Cool water runs around your engine to cool that hot air space under the hood… BUT in cold climates, that water can freeze — and coolant does not freeze when mixed properly. It will cool that air space like water would but it doesn’t freeze and snap all those hoses.
Your brakes stop your car. A brake is a disc that has a clamp on it which, when squeezed, stops the car using friction. Hydraulics operate that clamp. Those hydraulic lines can rust and cause pressure in the line and eventually a leak and OH NO! You have no brakes. GET THESE LINES CHECKED IF YOU EVER HAVE A SOFT BRAKE PEDAL!
Vibrations are another common source of brake complaints. Vibrations are usually caused when the disc (rotor) and or the clamp (caliper and pads) have a rough surface. That can happen because of rust or wear, especially in urban areas where people use brakes a lot more often. The rotor and pad are wearable items that need to be replaced periodically.
There are a lot more things that make up your car but those are the MOST IMPORTANT to get you down the road and keep you safe. If you haven’t gotten these looked at recently, make a plan now!
Comments on If you’re going to neglect your car, try not to neglect these three things
Omg, and make sure you have windshield wiper fluid at all times – you never know when something is going to smack into your windshield and BAM you can’t see anything. (although never use the wiper fluid when trying to get egg off your windshield…)
Um, for those of us who really are clueless… what exactly are we suppoesd to DO with coolant? and when/how often? Or can I just expect my oil-change dudes to take care of it?
Finally, what kind of car places are the best to take my car to? I see random brake and oil-change sketchy- but knowledgeable-looking places, actual dealers, quick-lube oil-changing places… I want to find a mechanic who will know me and my car and take care of it and tell ME how to take care of it! And not rip me off. Are there any guidlines for finding such a place?
ask local friends for suggestions of good shops. i generally tell people to avoid quick-lube places (particularly Jiffy Lube) because they’re prone to upselling needless items *and* neglecting to do the work you’ve paid them to do. dealers are usually expensive, but generally they’re the best option if you can’t find a good local shop.
seriously, ask around for local guys first.
Don’t ever assume that “someone is going to take care of it”… I’ve seen so many people do that and bad things happen. There is a coolant jar that you should be able to see up front. Check that jar and see if there is anything in it. It usually is clear. NEVER OPEN THE RADIATOR CAP. You can open it when it’s cool but I just tell people to not do it in case it’s not cool enough. If you are worried about coolant, keep an eye on your temp gauge on your dash at all times.
As for finding a repair shop, it’s very personal. Some people like shops where they tell you every little detail about what is going on. Some people just want to know that their car is safe to get down the road.
Re WHERE to take your car, check with friends and relatives to get their recommendations – as well as their don’t-ever-go-to-this-place warnings.
Also, there are certainly some sketchy dealers out there, but I have had the best experience by taking my car to a local dealer for that make. They have exceptional customer service, very good prices, and know how to take care of my specific car. I know this isn’t the case with all dealers, so I’m super thankful to have found one!
Coolant goes into your radiator reservoir. It’s the reservoir that has a top on it that says “DO NOT OPEN WHEN ENGINE IS HOT” or something to that affect. You should not fill it above the max line.
To brakes, I would add to check your brake fluid. Would be awful to run out.
Adding to oil. You only really need to change your oil every 3,000 miles if you have an old vehicle. Most vehicles are ok to 5,000. Otherwise, you’re just creating more waste.
Another thing to not neglect with you car and if you do, could cost you your life, are your tires. Bald tires hydroplane in the rain. Bald tires don’t have grip to go around corners or stop. Deflated tires can come off the rim and cause you to lose control. Always have a spare (with air in it) in your car or at least one of those “fix-a-flat” cans. Know that with changing seasons, you tires will lose air pressure. You always want to run at the optimal pressure for your car. This pressure is written on a sticker on the driver’s doorjamb. If you run the correct pressure, you’ll also save on fuel. Also, don’t neglect the sensation of your car pulling to one side or another, it could mean you need an alignment and if you put that off, you’ll ruin your tires and cost you more in the end. Same for a vibration in the seat or steering wheel. That usually means your tires are out of balance and will also cause unusual wear on your tires.
There’s a lot you shouldn’t neglect when owning a vehicle. It would behoove us all to learn a big more about them.
tire pressure is ridiculously important. tires will say on the side what PSI they should be. make sure they’re inflated properly at all times. overinflated tires can be bad, but underinflated tires are worse.
also, check the tread wear from time to time…bald tires + a turn taken too fast = crash time.
Tires.. ANOTHER VERY IMPORTANT THING!!! I prolly should have included that!!!
USE A PENNY!!! Put a penny in your tread upside down. Can you see all of Lincoln’s head? If so…you need new tires.
ROTATE YOUR TIRES!!! Tire rotations are needed about every other oil change. That keeps them wearing evenly. Your front tires, because they turn, are getting more wear on the sides of the tread then the rear tires. Rotating will give your tires more life.
Tire pressure is very important too! Use the pressure suggested by your CAR not by your tires… Those tires can fit many different cars and they all weight different amounts. By using the pressure suggested by your car manufacture (usually found on a sticker inside your driver door jam), you are getting the correct amount of surface area of your tire hitting the road for the best wear and most fuel economy.
re: tire pressure, that really depends on the tire. seriously.
true but the size tires that fit your car will have a range of suggested pressures and your car will be more specific because it takes the cars weight as a factor while the tire uses a more general weight for the average car that will use those tires.
So… if I have tires that recommend pressure up to 35 psi (or whatever the measurement is – I really am clueless), but the little note in the door says to put in 45 psi, what should I do?
Go with the tires. And…maybe check to be sure you have the right kind of tires for your car? I don’t know as much about this, though.
Make sure you are reading the right pressure for the size tires you have. Many models of cars offer different size tires and will have different reccemended pressures. If you still have questions, call a tire shop to see what they say for your specific situation.
Here’s the thing about neglecting your car: it’s a machine that you’re probably operating at 60mph, surrounded by other machines also travelling at 60mph+ speeds. If it breaks down suddenly, it won’t start when you’re late for work, best case scenario. Worst case scenario? It clunks out in the middle of a busy, dangerous highway or in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.
There are LOTS of things you can’t ignore. Fuel filters? Let that go too long, your car won’t be able to get any gas and it will quit on you and you’ll waste far more in fuel economy than the cost of getting the darn thing replaced (my fuel filter costed $11, and my dad replaced it, easy peasy.) Belts? If they shred, parts of your engine will stop operating and the belt breaking could slap and crack your radiator. Transmission/Solenoid? Can’t change gears, car will stall in certain situations. The list goes on and on.
Make friends with a mechanic. Make friends with a reliable mechanic who works in a garage with a respectable reputation. Ask for quotes on all services, much and often–a good place will do this for free. Regular tuneups are “expensive”, but WILL save you money in the long run. Choose to have your oil replaced at a shop that runs regular diagnostics and tops off your fluids (unless you change your oil yourself.) They often do load tests on your battery to make sure it’s functional, check all the fluids possible and track the suggested mileage for common repairs and will remind you of those. While they’ll suggest a lot of services that aren’t vital, they’ll usually have recommendations of totally necessary maintenance.
If you want to own and operate a car, create a secret savings stash for car maintenance. A dollar here, a dollar there will help you pay for routine inspections.
Now. If you’re only going to keep your car for a year or two because you know that thing is a goner, anyway? Try to diagnose as many problems it may have as you can via the internet. There are tons of forums out there dedicated to helping you figure out what’s up with your ride.
There is A LOT of info out there, but remember, just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s true. Check those sources too. Your vehicle is important.
Usually, I suggest this order of operations…
Check Engine Light comes on.
Take car to an auto parts store to have the codes “read”. (They will hook a little tool up to your car and it will tell them a little bit about what’s wrong with the car through a series of problem codes. Most places do this for free. Just ask.)
Write down the codes.
Google the codes.
Look into suggested steps to fix the issue. Search for additional symptoms that your car may be exhibiting that help narrow down the (usually expansive) list of possible fixes.
With a list of problems this could potentially be in mind, take it to an actual mechanic. They will have more in-depth diagnostic tools that will turn up more specific codes, which will help confirm/deny some of your engine repair theories.
Ask for quotes for these repairs or any additional digging getting to the problem may require.
I had a transmission problem that came with my car when I bought it that SHOULD have been repaired by replacing the solenoid, which the shop I bought it from did. By looking up codes, trolling forums and generally searching my heart out, I came up with a few possible repairs that I then took to my transmission shop. It still took a lot of plugging and trying to get to the root of the problem, but it ruled out a lot of potential problems, which saved me money in labor costs.
Very good advice!
Yes to changing your filters! I didn’t know about this with my first car. Then one day, it just died in the middle of the street because of a clogged filter. Luckily it was a very quiet residential street and not a busy highway.
Also (generally), the older your car is, the faster these fluids will be used (or possibly leak).
I have a 94 mitsubishi, and while there is no break fluid leak to be found, I have to replace that fluid fairly often (meaning, 1 or 2x a year, which is often to me). but breaks are important, so the MINUTE your brakes feel soft/mushy/squishy (I likened pressing down my break pedal when I had almost no fluid left to stepping on an old sponge), take that sucker in to be checked out.
And if you’re traveling down a hill & realize you’re not slowing down as quickly as you think you should? that could be the brake pads, the brake fluid… a few things. But check it out as soon as you can.
Another good tip if you have kids that are about to get their drivers license:
DON’T let them get their DL until they know how to change their oil and their tires. Makes them more aware that they need to take car of their ride and helps them later on if they need to change a tire when they are by themselves on the interstate.
Growing up with just my mom and sis, my mom wanted to make sure we could do stuff for ourselves and not have to worry about a sketchy guy pulling over to “help” us. I also learned how to replace my spark plugs and change my break pads and flush out lines to clean and replace most fluids (but to this day when I’m under my car I still get comments from passerby men asking “you lost under there?”. I’ve saved my husband’s car from certain death too as all he knows how to do is add gas and air… /sadpanda
My dad and boyfriend once made me take off and put back on all the tyres on my car, I’ll never forget how to do it now!
I’d also suggest making sure they get a car that is simple to maintain, not just a car that the sales man says is good for a first time owner. And relearn for every car you buy, manufacturers are crafty and mess with the simple things.
A colleague of mine got a car where you had to take the whole front wing off to replace a lightbulb. Since working lights are a legal requirement here he panicked when one of the bulbs blew, snapped the electronic key trying to pull the light cover off and then got his arm stuck trying to get into it via the engine. Had to be rescued by the AA and the fire brigade.
Same car also had the spare tire hung underneath the car, rather than in the boot at the back. So whilst he knew how to change a tire he couldn’t actually work out how to get to the spare. Neither could the three mechanics that the AA set to help him. Ended up having the whole thing taken to a garage on the back of a lorry.
If you end up with coolant all over your driveway/garage floor – hit it with as much water as you can as soon as possible. That stuff dries like cordial (really sticky) and it’s a pain to clean off when it dries. Keep cheap clay-based kitty litter for oil leaks, it makes clean up much easier. Cover the oil spill in a thick layer, leave it over night and then sweep it up and throw away, preferably in a sealed container.
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It is our duty to keep our car in a good condition, so we need to take several kinds of beneficial steps to maintain our car. As a car owner, we should not neglect things that reduce our car performance. Here in this above article, we have found three things that should not be neglect by the car owner.
These above three things are quite essential for every car and we need to take better steps to keep these things in a good condition. We need to change the oil during every regular interval, keep the coolant system of the car better in order to skip heat problems, and need to take special care of the brakes in order to avoid fatal crashes.
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