The Importance of Vehicle Maintenance
Tips for Better Mileage:
- Replace your air filter.
- Keep your tires properly inflated.
- Use the recommended grade of oil.
For most people, a vehicle is a major investment, second only to buying a house. A National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) study found that at least half of consumers neglect routine maintenance, with young people being the least likely to keep up with service schedules. Almost two-thirds of automotive technicians believe that consumers can take care of their vehicles’ maintenance and repair needs for less than $500 annually. Considering the average cost and complexity of a new vehicle, you may be penny-wise and dollar-foolish if you neglect routine maintenance.
What do we mean by “vehicle maintenance”?
Vehicle maintenance means keeping all the systems and features functioning as closely as possible to the manufacturer’s original design intentions. Routine maintenance should be an ongoing process that begins when the vehicle is new, because any machine that receives use will also accumulate wear. Proactively tending to your vehicle’s maintenance needs is likely to help your vehicle start, run, and stop as the manufacturer intended, so you get the maximum amount of performance, reliability, and service life. Periodic inspections of the vehicle’s systems are the easiest way to monitor its health.
Vehicle Maintanence Tips
Here are ten of the most common systems and components that should be regularly maintained on your vehicle:
It's Time for the 21st Century Tune-upTimes are changing...cars are changing. One of the biggest changes in today's automotive industry is the perception of a "tune-up." Ask 10 vehicle owners their definition of a tune-up and chances are there'll be 10 different answers. The classic "tune-up" was once the heart of the automotive business and contrary to some beliefs; today's modern vehicles still need tune-ups to keep them performing at the most efficient levels. The tune-up was historically associated with the routine replacement of key ignition system parts like spark plugs and ignition points, along with some basic adjustments to help "tune" the engine. Mounting pressure for increased fuel economy and lower emissions drove the car manufacturers to adopt electronics and to do away with ignition points in the '70s, along with the carburetor in the middle '80s. This eliminated the need for the replacement and adjustment of a growing number of ignition and fuel system parts. As the pace of technology quickened, the procedures required to perform a traditional tune-up changed dramatically. Highly sophisticated ignition and fuel systems are now the norm, using one or more onboard computers to control critical engine and transmission management functions. Things that were once handled mechanically are now controlled electronically through the widespread use of onboard computer technology. Because vehicles have changed so much over the years, the Car Care Council has introduced the 21st Century Tune-up. This program is designed to help re-define and educate motorists as to what a tune-up should consist of on today's modern vehicles. "There is a misconception that today's modern vehicles don't need tune-ups because they never break down, but that simply is not true," said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. "If you're at work and your computer goes down, you can't get any more work done. It's the same with your vehicle. If the vehicle isn't being properly maintained, you're not going to get where you want to go."
As part of the 21st Century Tune-up on today's modern vehicles, the following systems should be inspected:
- Battery, charging and starting
- Engine mechanical
- Powertrain control (including onboard diagnostic checks)
Getting Your Vehicle Ready For SummerSummer's heat, dust, and stop-and-go traffic, will take their toll on your vehicle. Add the effects of last winter, and you could be poised for a breakdown. You can lessen the odds of mechanical failure through periodic maintenance. . . Your vehicle should last longer and command a higher resale price, too!
Some of the following tips are easy to do; others require a skilled auto technician.
- Air Conditioning - A marginally operating system will fail in hot weather. Have the system examined by a qualified technician. Newer models have cabin air filters that clean the air entering the heating and air conditioning system. Check your owner's manual for location and replacement interval.
- Cooling System - The greatest cause of summer breakdowns is overheating. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.) DIYers, never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a pro.
- Oil - Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual-more often (every 5,000 km’s or 6-10,000km’s for synthetics) if you make frequent short jaunts, extended trips with lots of luggage, or tow a trailer.
- Engine Performance - Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended-more often in dusty conditions. Get engine drivability problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a good shop.
- Windshield Wipers - A dirty windshield causes eye fatigue and can pose a safety hazard. Replace worn blades and get plenty of windshield washer solvent.
- Lights - Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean dirt and insects from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
- Tires - Have your tires rotated about every 8,000 km’s . Check tire pressures once a month; check them while they're cold before driving for any distance. Don't forget to check your spare as well and be sure the jack is in good condition. Examine tires for tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. An alignment is warranted if there's uneven tread wear or if your vehicle pulls to one side.
- Brakes - Brakes should be inspected as recommended in your manual, or sooner if you notice pulsations, grabbing, noises, or longer stopping distance. Minor brake problems should be corrected promptly.
- Battery - Batteries can fail any time of year. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. Routine care: Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check the fluid level monthly. Avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves.
- Emergencies - Carry some basic tools-ask a technician for suggestions. Also include a first aid kit, flares, and a flashlight. Consider buying a cellular phone.
Getting Your Vehicle Ready for WinterMechanical failure—an inconvenience anytime it occurs--can be deadly in the winter. Preventive maintenance is a must. Besides, a well-maintained vehicle is more enjoyable to drive, lasts longer, and could command a higher resale price. Some of the following tips can be performed by any do-it-yourselfer; others require the skilled hands of a professional auto technician.
- Engine Performance - Get engine drivability problems (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a good repair shop. Cold weather makes existing problems worse. Replace dirty filters-air, fuel, etc.
- Fuel - Put a bottle of fuel de-icer in your tank once a month to help keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Note that a full gas tank helps keep moisture from forming.
- Oil - Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual—more often (every 5,000 kms for standard grade or 6- 10,000 km for synthetics ) if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips.
- Cooling Systems - The cooling system should be completely flushed , when recommended . The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.) DIYers, never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a pro.
- Windshield Wipers - Replace old blades. If your climate is harsh, purchase graphite (winter) blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on windshield washer solvent-you'll be surprised how much you use. Carry an ice-scraper.
- Heater/Defroster - The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility. Newer models have a cabin air filter that should be replaced periodically. Check your owner's manual for the location and replacement interval.
- Battery - The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. Routine care: Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. Avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves.
- Lights - Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
- Exhaust System - Your vehicle should be placed on a lift and the exhaust system examined for leaks. The trunk and floor boards should be inspected for small holes. Exhaust fumes can be deadly.
- Tires - Worn tires will be of little use in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressures once a month. Check the tires when they are cold, before driving for any distance. Rotate as recommended. Don't forget your spare, and be sure the jack is in good condition.
- Carry emergency gear: gloves, boots, blankets, flares, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, tire chains, and a flash light. Put a few "high-energy" snacks in your glove box.
- Examine your brake pads and entire brake system for wear
- Check and replace the engine air filter as needed
- Inspect cabin air filter(s) and replace as needed
- Check for leaks
- Check Engine Lamp and diagnose and repair the cause of any warning lights on the dash
- Ensure wipers are functioning properly and provide tips on what to look for from a wear perspective
- Ensure tires are properly inflated. Show you where to find the recommended PSI (reminder - pressure varies with ambient temperature).
- Check to see if all lights and turn signals are working
- Check all fluid levels- including oil, coolant, transmission, differential (if applicable) power steering, brake, and windshield washer fluids
- If you have a vehicle that is rarely driven, make sure to drive the vehicle periodically until it is fully warmed up. Vehicles that sit for long periods of time are susceptible to rusty brake rotors, low or dead battery, condensation in oil and other issues.
- Check all the major fluids, including engine oil, power-steering fluid, brake fluid and transmission fluid— and don’t forget the antifreeze/coolant.
- Make sure the windshield washer solvent container is topped off.
- Check the engine’s belts and hoses, which can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or show signs of excessive wear—especially if you didn’t look under the hood during the cold months of the winter. They are critical to the proper function not only of the engine, but the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and cooling systems.
- Check the tires’ air pressure and tread condition. Proper air pressure helps optimize fuel economy and reduce tire wear, while poor tread condition and other problems, such as bald spots or uneven wear, can potentially cause tire problems on a long trip.
- Replace the windshield wiper blades if they’ve been chattering, smearing or streaking.
- Check the function of the exterior lights, including the headlamps, turn signals, taillamps and brake lamps. Recruit someone to help by having him or her stand near the front and rear of the car as you activate the various lights.
Follow these steps to check your tire inflation pressure:1. When you check the inflation pressure, make sure the tires are cool — meaning they are not hot from driving even a mile. (If you have to drive a distance to get inflation, check and record the tire pressure first and add the appropriate inflation pressure when you get to the pump. It is normal for tires to heat up and the inflation pressure inside to increase as you drive. Never “bleed” or reduce inflation pressure when tires are hot.) 2. Remove the cap from the valve on one tire. 3. Firmly press a tire gauge onto the valve. 4. Add inflation to achieve recommended inflation pressure. 5. If you overfill the tire, release inflation by pushing on the metal stem in the center of the valve with a fingernail or the tip of a pen. Then recheck the inflation pressure with your tire gauge. 6. Replace the valve cap. 7. Repeat with each tire, including the spare. (NOTE: Some spare tires require higher inflation pressure). 8. Visually inspect the tires to make sure there are no nails or other objects embedded that could poke a hole in the tire and cause an inflation pressure leak. 9. Check the sidewalls to make sure there are no gouges, cuts, bulges or other irregularities.
Cooper Tire advises drivers to follow these basic winter driving and tire maintenance tips:
Drive cautiously:Experts say the best advice for driving in harsh winter weather is to not drive at all, but according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, driving – even in ice or snow – is an everyday part of life for the owners of more than 250 million vehicles on the road in the U.S. • Double the anticipated stopping distance when braking anytime conditions are not dry. It will take longer to come to a stop in snowy or icy conditions. • Do not assume a four-wheel drive vehicle will stop faster than a two-wheel drive vehicle – four-wheel drive offers no braking advantage. • Always reduce speed during winter conditions. • When purchasing winter tires, replace all four tires. Due to the different grip capabilities of summer, all season and winter tires, the driver will not get all of the handling and traction benefits if all tires are not replaced. • Drivers should keep in mind that it is best to check their owner’s manual to see how their vehicle should be serviced in cold weather.
Examine tread:The only part of a vehicle to touch the road is the tires, and tire tread is a vital part of handling, cornering, accelerating and braking. • For winter weather driving, a general rule is the more tread depth, the better. A tire's minimum tread depth should be more than 2/32 of an inch deep all around the tire. Drivers can check tread depth by using a U.S. penny. Insert the edge of the coin into the tread with Lincoln going in headfirst. If the top of Lincoln's head is covered by tread that means there is at least a minimum acceptable amount of tread; if the top of his head is visible at any location on the tire, the tire is worn out and it's time to replace it. For winter driving in adverse conditions, your tires should exceed the minimum tread depth standard. • While examining the tread, also look for signs of uneven wear or damage such as cuts, cracks, splits, punctures and bulges. These conditions shorten the life of tires and, if not corrected, further tire damage, tire failure or air loss may occur.
Test air pressure:Tire pressure plays a critical role in the overall performance of tires. Underinflation creates excessive stress on the tire, while over inflation can cause uneven wear in addition to handling and braking issues. • Tire pressure decreases by about one pound per square inch for every 10-degree drop in outside air temperature, so it is vital that drivers check the air pressure regularly as winter weather approaches. • Drivers should follow the guidelines found in the vehicle owner’s manual or tire placard (or sticker) attached to the vehicle door edge to determine the correct air pressure for their vehicle's tires. A common myth is that the tire pressure listed on the sidewall is the optimal pressure, while in reality it is the maximum pressure. • Air pressure should be checked when the tires are cool, meaning they are not hot from driving even a mile. • Should any of these checks reveal the need for required maintenance – or when in doubt about the condition of their tires – drivers should take vehicles to a tire dealer for a professional inspection. Paying attention to road conditions and weather can help ensure safe travels. Snow and wet weather require extra attention and quick response while driving. Driving too fast on wet roads, through standing water or in the rain, can cause your tires to hydroplane. This means that your tires travel on a film of water rather than contacting the road. After a dry spell, rain can further reduce traction from oil and other substances that have collected on the roadway. In addition, leaves can hide moisture on a road surface, even long after the rain has stopped. When roads are wet, slow down and drive carefully. Obviously, it's best not to hit potholes or objects in the road, so avoid them and other hazards in the road. But if you can't avoid them, remember that the faster you are going when you hit something, the greater the impact on your tires so slow down as much as you can without endangering yourself or others. If you can’t avoid a pothole, don’t apply the brakes when you hit it. Instead, apply them as you approach the hole, and release them just before striking it. This slows you down, but allows the tire to roll as it hits, softening the impact. If you hit an object or hole, have your tires checked by a professional. Such collisions can cause internal tire damage that you can’t see—but which can cause problems later on. Sometimes, a tire can be severely damaged and travel hundreds or even thousands of miles before failing. A vibration or rough ride may be a sign of such damage—and that it is time for a replacement. Remember that tires lose pressure when the air temperature gets colder (about 1 psi or 7 kPa for every 10°F drop in temperature). Tires may also lose a certain amount of pressure due to their permeability (about 2 psi or 14 kPa per month). Never reduce tire pressures in an attempt to increase traction on snow or ice. It does not work and your tires will be more susceptible to damage from underinflation. In snowy areas, some locations may have “snow emergency” regulations which are invoked during heavy snowfalls. Check with authorities for the rules in your area. Under some rules, motorists are subject to fines if they block traffic and do not have snow tires on their vehicles. Slow down and drive carefully in all winter conditions. Mountain-Snowflake Symbol - Tires designed for use in severe snow conditions generally have tread patterns, structure and materials to give superior performance. These tires are marked with the mountain/snowflake symbol along with the “M+S” designation. Chains - Make sure chains are the proper size and type for your tires, otherwise they may damage the tire sidewall and cause tire failure. If you have dual tires on your vehicle, particular care must be taken to assure adequate clearance between loaded tires to avoid damage from chains. Consult a tire service professional for proper application. For more information concerning winter tires visit the winters tires section. If you have any questions, please contact your local tire dealer or call Cooper Tire at 1-800-854-6288.
- Keep your engine tuned. A misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30%. Follow the service schedules listed in your owner's manual. Replace filters and fluids as recommended.
- Check your tires for proper inflation. Under inflation wastes fuel-your engine has to work harder to push the vehicle. Wheels that are out-of-line (as evidenced by uneven tread wear or vehicle pulling) make the engine work harder, too. Properly maintained tires will last longer, meaning fewer scrap tires have to be disposed.
- Keep your air conditioner in top condition and have it serviced only by a technician certified competent to handle/recycle refrigerants. Air conditioners contain CFCs-gases that have been implicated in the depletion of the ozone layer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, almost one third of the CFCs released into the atmosphere come from mobile air conditioners; some simply leaks out, but the majority escapes during service and repair-so it's important to choose a qualified technician.
- Do-it-yourselfers: dispose of used motor oil, anti-freeze/coolant, tires, and old batteries properly. Many repair facilities accept these items. Or call your local municipal or county government for recycling sites. Never dump used oil or anti-freeze on the ground or in open streams.
- Observe speed limits. Mileage decreases sharply above 100 KPH.
- Drive gently. Avoid sudden accelerations and jerky stop-and-go's. Use cruise-control on open highways to keep your speed as steady as possible.
- Avoid excessive idling. Shut off the engine while waiting for friends and family. Today's vehicles are designed to "warm up" fast, so forget about those five-minute warm ups on cold winter mornings.
- Remove excess items from the vehicle. Less weight means better mileage. Store luggage/ cargo in the trunk rather than on the roof to reduce air drag.
- Plan trips. Consolidate your daily errands to eliminate unnecessary driving. Try to travel when traffic is light to avoid stop-and-go conditions. Join a car pool.