Car Maintenance Guide

Simple, cost-effective guidelines for properly maintaining your automobile

Next to a home, automobiles are likely to be the most expensive purchase most of us are likely to make. With an average price of $25,000, automobiles are major investments and as such, it makes good economic sense for owners to take proper care of their vehicles. Proper "preventative maintenance" will add years to the life of a vehicle and help keep the vehicle operating in a safe and cost efficient manner. Here are some tips to keep your car in "tip-top" condition.

TIRES

No vehicle can truly be considered safe unless the tires are inspected and kept in good condition. Tires typically come in two varieties; 1. steel belted radials and 2. Ply. Steel belted tires have a woven, steel core and are generally smoother-riding tires. Ply tires have no steel cores and rely on several layers of rubber or "plys" for durability. Until recently, ply tires were considerably cheaper than steel belts. However, that is no longer the case. With advanced technology, steel belts are now about the same price as the less durable ply tires.

Tires are rated according to several factors. One such rating involves "weather conditions." Tires can be rated as "snow," "rain," or "all weather." The major difference in these ratings is in the configuration of the tread, or design in the outer rubber. A driver in the Pacific Northwest may want to invest in an all-weather tire, while a driver in Cutbank, Montana may opt for a "snow and rain" tire. These tires are designed to give optimum performance in a particular climate so take care that you select a tire suited for your particular area.

All tires are given a "speed rating" by manufacturers. These ratings take into consideration the type of vehicle and establish a speed limit for that particular car. The primary factor in a "speed rating" is the hardness of the rubber treads. Always check with your local tire dealer to learn the "speed rating" for the tires on your car. Tires are also rated by width, tread type (or traction) road conditions. The information for each tire is located on the outer wall of the tire, usually in a series of numbers and letter. Example, P228R15. You can give this information to your local tire dealer and he can tell you precisely what type of tire you're using, and if it's the appropriate tire for your type of driving and climate.

With new technology, comes improvements in tire-durability. It's not uncommon for a driver to get 20, 30 or even 35 thousand miles out of a set of tires these days. Of course, extending the life of your tires depends on individual driving habits and simple preventative measures like checking air pressure. Tires are designed to operate best when properly inflated. The recommended air pressure for your tires is located on the outer wall of the tire. For example: "32 lbs. PSI cold." This means that the tire should have 32 pounds of air , per square inch, before the tire heats up from driving. Air pressure will read differently once the tire expands from road friction, so it's a good idea to check the pressure before driving. A hand held air pressure gauge is an inexpensive tool that can save you lots of money ion the long run. Not only will a properly inflated tire save you a great deal of money at the gas pumps, it'll help your car operate more smoothly out on the highway.

A final thing to remember about tires is that each tire will wear differently. The front left tire will experience a different rate of wear and tear then the left rear tire. To avoid this uneven wear, it's a good idea to periodically rotate all 4 tires. Once every 3 months is usually sufficient.



FLUIDS

This may be the most neglected aspect of preventative maintenance. A typical automobile will have the following

fluid compartments:

Water/coolant- failure to monitor the water level in your radiator could result in severe engine damage.

Power steering fluid- low levels could result in "burning out the bearings in the power steering pump and causing the steering wheel to freeze up.

Oil- the most common cause of premature engine wear. The automobile junkyards are full of vehicles, whose demise can be attributed to lack of proper oil levels.

Transmission fluid- low fluid levels can result in the transmission to "slip" or not to shift into the appropriate gear. This can burn out the transmission and also result in engine damage or failure.

Brake fluid- A common cause of accidents. Improper levels can prevent the brakes from engaging properly, resulting in severe, even fatal accidents.

Each of these fluids perform a vital function and can cause a dangerous vehicle malfunction if neglected. Looking under the hood of a new car may be a bit intimidating, but the fluid compartments are well marked and usually, directions for checking the fluids are printed on the compartment. If there are no directions, refer to your owners manual or have a licensed auto mechanic show you where the compartments are and the appropriate way of checking the fluid levels. It's really quite simple and keeping close tabs on the fluids will make your vehicle safer and add years to its' life.

BATTERY

Cars run on two components; fuel and electricity. Many of us never think of an automobile as being an "electronic" machine. We tend to think of it as a "combustion engine." Just add gas and away we go. But the automobile is a complex bit of machinery and contains many necessary electronic components. The primary power supply for these components is the battery. Batteries can fail for numerous reasons, including; the wrong battery for a particular type of car, corrosion of the battery terminals, worn battery cables, and "dry cell." Defective batteries can cause severe burns and in some cases, fires and/or explosions. I highly recommend that you take your vehicle to a "Battery Shop" or have your battery inspected by an automotive mechanic.

These simple steps will add years to the life of your automobile and save you a lot of unnecessary expense.

Happy driving to you!

© High Speed Ventures 2011