Basics for Maintaining Your Automobile.

Basics for Maintaining Your Automobile.


At the beginning of the 20th century automobiles were not only a rarity, they were a luxury they could only be afforded by wealthy individuals. Today that metric has changed dramatically. Just about everybody owns an automobile and some people more than one. Automobiles are not only necessary for basic transportation, shopping, going to and from work etc., in many ways they are also an extension of the person who owns them. At least within the USA, they provide the freedom to go any place you want at any time you choose. A brand-new modern automobile represents a substantial investment and for this reason you should pay close attention to basic maintenance. Even your basic grocery getter or a soccer mom’s bus needs to be 100% reliable. If you are the type of person who has a vehicle with exceptional performance, you also want to make sure that the car is properly maintained so that the performance is optimized. Just like health insurance, regular checkups and attention to repairs as they become obvious need to be taken care of. Otherwise what is a minor repair problem today can develop into a major problem down the road involving considerable expense.


Adding a $4.00 quart of oil when the level is low is a much better alternative than replacing a $12,000 engine 3 or 4 months later. If you’re buying a pricey automobile such as a Mercedes Benz, BMW, Porsche, or Audi keeping to the regular scheduled maintenance is critically important. More so, it’s important to have it properly done and properly documented because the lack of maintenance can seriously downgrade the resale value of the vehicle. Let’s face it, a car that’s been dealer maintained and has all the appropriate receipts, documentation, and notations on the maintenance schedule compared to one that’s basically been ignored represents a very big difference in the eyes of a prospective purchaser. Automobiles today are environmentally sensitive. This means that their emissions have been reduced substantially compared to vehicles from 15, 20, or 30 years ago. This is all done through major engineering and component improvements. The devices that contribute to lower emissions need regular maintenance and, in many cases, need to be replaced on a regular cycle. Ignoring this can lead to vehicles not only failing to pass emissions inspections but, more significantly can contribute to making the general environment less healthy.


Keeping a vehicle properly maintained can also minimize the incidence of roadside emergencies. You may have roadside assistance insurance such as AAA or a similar one offered by an insurance company or a vehicle’s manufacturer but why go to the trouble of having to use this when most of these problems can be prevented by simple basic regular maintenance? For example, if you see that one tire is low and does not have the recommended pressure, why wait until the tire fails and causes a flat which means you have to either change it yourself or call a service provider to make the change. This can be a huge inconvenience and is entirely preventable.


Basically, you need to read your owner’s manual thoroughly, understand the capacities section that tells you how much oil it needs, how much coolant it needs, what kind of light bulbs it needs, etc. etc. and then read the maintenance schedule so you thoroughly understand it and most important understand what the various warning light indicators on the dashboard mean. Putting a piece of black tape or a black marker over a pesky warning light is not the solution. One of the most common warning lights and indicators is the one that shows an emissions problem, which not only is an environmental issue but, in many cases, can also indicate higher fuel consumption. Other lights can identify other issues such as a faulty gas cap or a low tire pressure. Knowing and understanding these indicators is critical to the longevity and resale value of your automobile. A couple of the warning lights that need to be addressed immediately if there’s a problem are as follows: First, the ABS warning light telling you that the anti lock brake system is not functioning, and this can become a serious safety issue in certain situations and must be addressed immediately by a knowledgeable professional. Second is the coolant warning light. This tells you that the car’s running warm. Generally speaking, it’s from low coolant or a faulty water pump which could be caused by a leak or some other situation that needs to be immediately addressed because if the engine overheats it can result in serious damage that may necessitate the replacement of the entire engine which could cost anywhere from $6,000 to $15,000. Along the same line is the oil pressure warning light. This usually comes on for one or two reasons. First, the oil pump has failed, but this is fairly rare circumstance. Almost always when this light comes on it means that the oil level is too low, and the engine cannot pump sufficient oil pressure to lubricate all the bearings and moving parts. If this is not addressed immediately, once again you can have serious problems such as total engine failure and the need to replace the engine. A very big expense.


An obvious item you need to take look at your tires. You can appreciate that the tires are extremely important and if they fail, particularly at high speed, you could end up in a dangerous situation. Therefore, you need to check the thread depth and alignment of each tire and the air pressure. Once you confirm your tires are correct you need to check the brakes. Brakes are a wear item. Depending on how a car is used they can wear out in as little as 20,000 miles or as many as 100,000 miles. The only way you know is to check the brake wear and compare it to your driving habits and mileage.


In the past a car would need a tune up every 5,000 or 10,000 miles. This is no longer the case. Due to modern developments in spark plugs and other tuning related components, this can usually be stretched out to close to 100,000 miles but that does not negate the need to replace the air filter and certain other key components on a regular basis. It all should be noted that you should use the correct octane rated fuel for your vehicle. Most vehicles in the USA will run on. 87 ROR (research octane rating) fuel however if the vehicle requires a higher octane rating due to a higher compression ratio you must use the higher-octane fuel to avoid pinging or detonation which can be extremely damaging to an engine.


Now a lot of the things mentioned require a trained professional, either a mechanic who you know and trust or the automobile’s dealership. However, one of the things that you can do by yourself which is relatively simple and absolutely necessary and can be done inexpensively compared to having it done professionally is an oil change. Before starting an oil change first look at the owner’s manual find out what type of filter is necessary and when you buy your filter buy the highest quality filter you can find. Find out the type and viscosity of lubricant that is necessary and most important the quantity. Once you’ve done this you need a pan to place under the crankcase so that when you remove the drain plug and the old oil is drained it can be collected and then replace the drain plug. When you’ve finished draining the old oil, remove the filter keeping in mind that there will be oil and it could get messy. Put grease on the seal on the new oil filter, hand tighten it into place, and then make sure it’s snug. For removing the old filter, the best tool to use is an oil filter wrench or a plier. There are numerous types of oil filter pliers but the one we like best is made by a company called Tech Team sold under the Tech brand Their item #702 is angled at 20 degrees so you can reach in the tight spots to remove the oil filter so you can do the job painlessly and easily. It is an excellent tool. Basically, we’ve covered most of the key points in automobile maintenance.