One of the easiest ways to make sure a vehicle runs well for as long as possible is to keep up with a routine maintenance schedule. When vehicles are neglected, problems begin to arise. Unfortunately, even small problems can turn into larger, costlier problems if they aren’t taken care of in a timely manner.
Most people know that neglecting to regularly change the oil or make sure the tires are fully inflated can make the car sluggish and decrease the gas mileage. However it takes much more planning to properly maintain a vehicle. According to Autozone.com, the proper maintenance schedule runs on a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual rotation. (Photo Jason Anfinsen, Flickr)
Once a month vehicles should be checked for any burnt out lights or low window washer fluid. Drivers are also advised to check the wear and air pressure of all of their tires. Besides checking due to the fact that seasonal temperature fluxuations can cause the air pressure to change, it is a good way for a car owner to have plenty of time to plan ahead when new tires might be needed.
Quarterly maintenance is easy to remember if the car owner sticks to the recommended oil change every three months or 3,000 miles. Many of the checks that need to be made can be done by whoever changes the oil. All fluids that are under the hood can be checked and topped off if needed. In addition, a quick look under the hood can tell the car owner if any of the belts or hoses seem to be loosening or becoming frayed, or if the battery and its cables are sitting snuggly where they are supposed to be. Lastly, a check of the exhaust system is always a good idea as well. A broken support, hanger or a hole in the exhaust itself can not only cause loud noises, but can also be dangerous if the exhaust is leaking into the vehicle. (Photo Grovesa16, Flickr)
At six month intervals the checks mentioned before should still be made. However, Autozone.com also suggests the vehicle should be waxed to protect the finish. Twice a year the windshield wipers should be changed as well. Some older vehicles will need chassis lubrication every six months, but newer cars are made with lifetime lubrication. The owner’s manual is the best place for a driver to find out which type of vehicle he or she is driving.
After twelve months a vehicle has gone through all of the seasons and likely seen many driving conditions. Because of this, the coolant/antifreeze needs to be checked. The steering and suspension should also be checked annually. Ball joints, rod ends and shock absorbers are all part of the suspension system and have the potential to become loose or damaged over a year of driving. Signs of suspension issues include undue bouncing when driving over a bump or uneven tire wear. The brakes should be checked once per year as well. Changing the pads as soon as they show wear can save the driver money as brake pads alone are far less costly than new rotors and/or calipers. The photo at the left shows an old brake pad next to a new one. (Photo Dave Linger, Flickr)
Making it Happen
When most people look at their calendars, the thought of adding all of that car maintenance can be daunting. However, most of the required maintenance can be done in a few minutes by the owner or for an extra charge during a regular oil change. To help the driver to remember what needs to be done and when, these items can be written into a planner, programmed into the calendar on a cell phone or even planned out using a smart phone app that is made specifically for that purpose.
Carminder Plus is an example of one of those apps. It is available for both iPhones and Androids. While there is a free version, the $2.99 is definitely worth what it could save you in gas mileage or car repairs by detecting problems early or reminding you to perform a maintenance task. Able to track information for up to three vehicles at one time, Carminder Plus tracks fuel economy, repairs and maintenance. According to their website, customers can “…keep track of oil changes, tire rotations, and other maintenance tasks for all your cars. Never have to wonder again when your car needs its next oil change or the last time you replaced those squeaky windshield wipers.”
Vehicle drivers should always check their owner’s manual to see if there are more specific or special instructions concerning maintenance for their vehicle.