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How to Maintain your Car

If you want to keep your car in top cosmetic and running condition, it’s important to keep up on some basic maintenance tasks. Cars today don’t require the constant upkeep that they used to, so people tend to forget that any maintenance at all is needed. But if you don’t pay attention to the scheduled maintenance of your car, it will slowly degrade and break down, perhaps even causing an accident. In the end, it will cost you much less in both effort and cash to regularly maintain your car than to fix it after it breaks.

The most wear-and-tear on your car happens under the hood, so it’s crucial to take care of your engine at scheduled intervals. Check your oil monthly and change it if necessary. Be sure your car is parked on a level surface so the dipstick will read accurately. If you’re losing oil, get the leak checked out by a professional and fixed fast. Running your engine on low oil can result in disaster, sometimes causing damage that costs too much to justify repairing. Aside from checking the oil, have it changed according to the mileage or date scheduled from its last change, and don’t forget to change the oil filter too. Also under the hood, check the air filter, fuel filter and spark plugs.

Every couple years, you’ll want to get the cooling system drained and flushed, and the transmission fluid replaced. At the same time, replace the drive belts and hoses. An important component to check and replace is your timing belt, if it has one instead of a chain. If your timing belt snaps while you’re driving, the damage could be catastrophic. For all of these components, check your owner’s manual for the mileage indicating when a change is due.

Check your tire pressure once a month and before long trips. Not only does air slowly leak from all tires, but the pressure changes according to temperature. So in the summer, when it’s hot, your tires can reach pressures ten PSI higher or more than in the winter months. Don’t inflate to the maximum pressure indicated on the tires themselves, but instead check your manufacturer’s recommended pressure. You’ll find this information in your owner’s manual, but it’s also usually written on a sticker in the driver’s door jamb or inside the glove compartment. When checking your tire pressure, also check for uneven wear or anomalies like cuts or bulges.

Wash your car regularly to keep it free of dirt, road grime and salt. Be sure to wash inside the fender wells and under the bumpers. After you wash the car, apply a wax coat for extra protection.

If you get into an accident, your car will probably need some repairs. After you work out compensation from the insurance company, they might recommend a mechanic or body shop. Even so, you may ask the question, should I use the auto body shop my car insurance company recommends? The short answer is, you don’t necessarily need to go to their recommended service provider.

For other maintenance tips, consult your owner’s manual, and consider setting up reminders on your smartphone.