8 Systems In Your Car You Should Take Care Of Regularly
Most of us see our automobiles as part of our family as they mean a lot to us and are a big part of our lives. With your vehicle being one of your biggest investments, it is necessary to try and maintain it as best you can, but you don’t have to pay your mechanic to do so. There are many things you can do yourself at home every few months to ensure your vehicle runs smoothly and efficiently. This also means you can find any issues before they turn into bigger problems that require expensive repairs and effectively nip the problem in the bud. Here are a few simple checks you can perform at home that you need to carry out regularly to ensure your vehicle lasts longer and provides the best performance and the most reliable service.
In this article:
1 Replace Your Power Steering Fluid
One of the most neglected or forgotten servicing items is to change the power steering fluid. The power steering fluid needs to be replaced every few years to prevent complete steering rack failure. To flush and replace the fluid all you need is a turkey baster or suction device to remove the fluid and replace it with new fluid designed for your vehicle. Do this a few times and you will have completely flushed the system. You can compare the old and new fluid to assess the difference it made. The new power steering fluid is red whereas the worn-out old fluid turns dark because of all the contaminants.
The power steering fluid is highly pressurized and runs through the entire power steering system from the pump to the hydraulic valve and the steering rack. Over the years, this fluid gets contaminated with dust and debris which increases the wear and tear on the delicate rubber seals and gaskets within the steering rack. Torn seals will cause leaks from the rack which will reduce the functionality of the system and increase steering effort. The only way to fix this problem is to completely rebuild the steering rack assembly which is a painstaking job and costs a lot in labor fees. This is sole because of the steering rack’s location. Removing the steering rack requires you to jack up the engine, and transmission, and even remove the subframe in some cases. So we advise you to replace your steering fluid if you have racked up more than 100,000 km on your vehicle and especially if the fluid has turned dark.
2 Change Your Coolant
The best way to ruin even the most perfect working engine is through overheating. Coolant or antifreeze in your engine has the enormous task of keeping the engine at the right operating temperature which helps with its efficiency and performance. But this fluid has its limits and if you fail to flush the cooling system and replace the coolant every so often then you can expect your engine to overheat on a regular basis, eventually costing you a fortune in repairs. The replacement interval for coolant varies from vehicle to vehicle. But as a rule of thumb, it is ideal to replace the coolant once you reach 100,000 km – however, for some vehicles, it may be sooner so make sure to check your owner’s manual.
3 Change The Engine And Transmission Oils
We all know the importance of engine oil and why it needs to be kept in the best shape – to extend the life of your engine and minimize friction. Friction can cause an abundance of trouble for your engine and the lubrication oil helps keep it in check. Your engine oil fades after prolonged use, wearing thin, and gets filled with tiny metal particles that act as abrasives and chip away at your engine. If the old spoiled oil is not replaced in time, the engine can be damaged beyond repair and a replacement engine costs a lot! Just ask this Ontario man who had to pay $19,000 for an engine replacement because he missed engine oil intervals even with the vehicle in warranty. So make sure you give enough attention to your engine oil and replace it every 10,000 to 15,000 km.
Much like the engine, your transmission oil also needs to be replaced at certain intervals. It is recommended to replace the fluid every 50,000 to 100,000 km but this can vary based on your vehicle. Check your owner’s manual for the right interval in your car. However, extreme use cases like towing and cargo hauling, and continuous exposure to the elements can cause premature oil failure so you need to check the fluid’s condition regularly. New ATF is usually bright red or brown. If your fluid is very dark then it’s time to replace it. If you have an automatic transmission then you can easily access the reservoir, check the oil condition and replace it if necessary. In the case of manual transmission vehicles, have your mechanic do the job for you. If you are keen, you might want to take a look at this article on all the fluids you should regularly service in your vehicle.
4 Replace The Air Filter, Cabin Air Filter And Oil Filter
You may be surprised how much horsepower a new and clean air filter can give your engine. Dirty air filters clog up and restrict airflow to the engine. Suffocating the engine is going to result in reduced engine power and even fuel economy. Air filters are easy to access and often don’t even require tools for access. If your air filter is too dirty and has too much crud build-up then replace it immediately. If it is in fairly good condition, then just shake off any debris and pop it back in, making sure you check it regularly.
Similar to the engine air filter is the cabin air filter that filters all the air entering the vehicle cabin. A dirty cabin air filter can reduce the flow of air onto the cabin and overwork the HVAC system in your car. It can also produce foul smells and cause allergies. This filter is located behind the glove compartment in most cars. Pop it out and inspect it. If it has turned black or brown then it’s time for a replacement.
The oil filter keeps your engine oil free from dirt, debris, and tiny metal particles but has a finite life span of about 7000 to 15,000 km. It is advised to replace the oil filter every time you change out your engine oil to maximize the performance of both. So make sure to replace your oil filter during your next oil change.
5 Clean The Wiper Blades
Being constantly exposed to the environment can deteriorate the rubber on your wiper blades. Inspect your wiper blades for cracks and make sure the surface of the rubber is smooth. One easy way to extend their life is to clean them regularly. Mix equal parts cleaning alcohol and water and using a clean towel, wipe off the blade. Repeat this on all the wiper blades in your car. The wiper blades need to be replaced every year.
6 Check Your Tires
There are three things you need to keep an eye on when it comes to your tire – tire pressure, tread depth and wear pattern. The tire pressure needs to be at the right level to maximize your fuel economy and handling. Make it a point to check the tire pressure every morning before you set off. Keep a tire pressure gauge handy in your glove box so you can measure the pressure regularly. The true pressure reading is taken when your tires are cold. Fill up your tire to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure which is usually written on the door jamb. Some vehicles come with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that automatically alerts you when the pressure in any tire is below the right threshold.
Next check how deep the tread on the tire is. A tire with less than 3 mm tread reduces the safety of the car along with worse handling and braking performance. If they are severely worn out, then you need to replace your tires right away. Refer to our tire buying guide to get the right tires for your need.
Lastly, inspect the wear pattern of the tires. If your tire is worn in the middle and not the side then you have overinflated tires. If the sides are more worn than the middle then you have underinflated tires. And if either side is worn more than the other then you likely need to have your wheel aligned. Uneven tire wear can also indicate an issue with the vehicle’s suspension and steering systems.
7 Check Your Brakes
Your brakes are a crucial safety feature in your vehicle so it is important that you are aware of their condition. Check your brake pads and rotors regularly to ensure you get the best braking performance. The pads need to be replaced once they reach 3 mm thickness. Stick a scale through the openings in the wheel and measure the thickness left on the pads. Some pads show warning signs as they wear out thin like a screeching sound as you brake or a warning light on the dashboard. Brake pads can last for as long as 70,000 km to 20,000 since their life depends on many different factors. Check your brake pads regularly to ensure you are not running the risk of brake failure in an emergency situation.
While you are at it, make sure to check the brake rotor condition as well. Warped brake rotors can create vibrations as you brake and also generate squealing and screeching noises. The surface may also appear worn with cracks and fissures but don’t confuse surface rust as a sign of worn-out rotors. Replace your brake rotors if you notice these signs. Make sure to practice these tips to increase the life of your brake components.
8 Check Battery Health
Your battery has a limited lifespan and needs to be replaced every 5 years or so. But without proper care, you might need to replace it much sooner. Weather changes can also adversely affect the battery. Most modern vehicles have maintenance-free batteries. What that means is you do not have to add water to keep it running well. However, you still need to inspect the battery condition regularly. This can be done by using a battery tester. Refer to this article to prolong your car’s battery life and maintain it in optimal condition.
Doing these few checks and fixes will help increase your vehicle’s lifespan considerably and maintain its resale value. However, it is important to note that these are not the only components that need your attention – these are just the most important ones that need to be in the best shape. For an in-depth look at the frequently serviced vehicle parts, you can refer to this article.