Car Maintenance Tips for a Healthy Car

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Keeping your vehicle well-maintained prolongs its life, conserves fuel by helping it perform more efficiently, reduces harmful emissions and saves you money.  While you should always consult your owner’s manual or mechanic for specific guidelines, these basic tips provide a good starting point for keeping your vehicle in great shape.

Change your oil.  Regular oil changes are vital to smooth engine performance.  Your oil should be changed according to your owner’s manual – generally every 5,000 kilometres.  On newer vehicles this could be as high as 8,000 – 10,000 kilometres.  Be sure to use the grade of motor oil recommended by the vehicle manufacturer to optimize your fuel efficiency.

Check the fluids.  Checking the level of oil, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, battery fluid (unless you have a “maintenance-free battery”) and windshield washer fluid is essential to proper performance. Your mechanic will generally check and top off your fluids as needed when changing your oil.

Replace your air filter.  A clogged air filter can reduce your fuel efficiency by 10%. How often should you change it? Some experts say “when it looks dirty.”  For most of us, that probably equates to annually, or about every 25,000 - 30,000 kilometres.  Again, if you have your oil changed by a mechanic, he or she will check the air filter and recommend a change if needed.

Maintain your tires.  Tire maintenance is of utmost importance to not only ensuring a smooth ride but also optimizing fuel efficiency.  Here are several areas that require attention:

  • Check your tire pressure monthly, making sure it is consistent with the pressure recommended in your owner’s manual.  Improper inflation can adversely affect fuel economy, handling and comfort.

  • Check your treads periodically.  Bald or worn tires are unsafe because they don’t grip the road.

  • Rotate your tires to ensure even wear.  Most experts recommend rotation every 8,000 kilometres or every other oil change.

  • Consider winter tires.  Traction is critical on snow and ice. Winter tires offer that feature, providing you with additional safety and peace of mind. Some insurance companies offer a premium discount on vehicles equipped with four winter tires.

Check windshield wiper blades and lights.  Periodic inspection – and, if needed, replacement – of your headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signal bulbs and wiper blades will help ensure your driving safety.

Inspect the brakes.  The need for brake replacement varies widely among makes and models, and based on driving conditions and habits.  The rule of thumb for safety is to have your brakes thoroughly inspected annually.  If they squeak or grind, have them checked right away.

Flush the radiator.  About every two years, or 50,000 kilometres, your coolant system needs to be flushed to refresh the coolant, which naturally breaks down over time as it cools your vehicle’s engine.

Check your belts and hoses.  Be sure to ask your mechanic to periodically check your belts and hoses, because it’s much less costly to replace them preventatively than after they’ve failed.  In general, belts and hoses last about four years.

Check spark plugs.  Like brakes, spark plug replacement varies widely from model to model. Some vehicles require changes at 50,000 kilometres while others can go 160,000 kilometres without a change.  Refer to your owner’s manual and mechanic for more information.