Regular auto maintenance is a necessary part of owning a vehicle. Checking and changing the fluids and other components ensures your car will be kept reliable and have a good resale value. Staying up to date on the regular maintenance is not complicated and, usually, is not very expensive. In fact, the cost of maintenance is typically much less than the major repairs that might result from neglecting your vehicle. Here are some auto maintenance tips and possible scams to avoid.
- Check your engine oil level. Some cars burn oil between changes and it is vital to make sure the oil level never falls below the minimum level on the dipstick. Proper oil level and pressure is absolutely critical to prevent damage to major engine components.
- Change your engine oil at the specified intervals. The 3,000 mile oil change is largely a myth nowadays, with better performing oils and much tighter engine tolerances. Most automakers call for an oil change every 5,000 to 10,000 miles. Some vehicles have an oil monitoring system that alerts the driver when an oil change is necessary. Regardless, change the oil within the specified interval. Use a quality motor oil and consider a synthetic for vehicles driven in severe conditions, such as towing or very hot climates.
- Do not neglect the automatic transmission fluid (ATF). Some vehicle manufacturers do not have specified interval for ATF changes. For vehicles that never tow or haul heavy loads, the ATF probably never gets very hot. However, for vehicles in climates like Las Vegas, the ATF gets a good workout. Most mechanics recommend an ATF service every 30k miles. Manual transmissions should also have their fluid checked, although the service interval is much longer, often around 60k miles.
- Check the battery frequently. Hot weather and driving short distances absolutely kills automotive batteries. In the Southwest, 2-3 years is about the typical life of a car battery. Look at the production date sticker on your car battery – if it is over 2 years old expect to replace it soon. You should also check the electrolyte level every oil change, especially during the summer months. Use only distilled water to fill up the battery.
- Change the engine air filter. In a dusty climate like Las Vegas, your engine air filter probably needs to be changed every 15k to 20k. Some vehicles have a monitoring system that tells you when the filter is ready for replacement. You can also hold the filter up to the light and see how much dirt is trapped in the fibers. If no light passes thru, a new filter is in order.
- Shocks and struts wear out. If you car has lost than new car “tight” feeling the odds are high that shocks and struts need replacing. Many car manufacturers call for shock and strut replacement around 75,000 miles. Worn shocks and struts are also a potential safety hazard. Shock and struts determine how a vehicle handles and can affect braking distance.
- Pay attention to your brakes. Brake pads have a wear indicator that will create a very distintive squeal or dragging sound. Ignoring that could lead to very expensive repairs to the brake rotor or drum. Modern cars may easily go 75k miles or more on the orignal pads, but if you drive in stop and go traffic frequently, have the pads checked with each oil change. If you feel vibration in steering wheel when braking you may have warped brake rotors. Warped brake rotors can cause additional wear on brake pads and other front end components, such as tie rods. Sometimes warped brake rotors can be machined true. See your mechanic if you feel a shimmy or pulsing when applying the brakes.
- Check your tire pressure. Tires are the only thing that connect you to the road. Properly inflated tires will handle better and provide optimal traction for braking. In addition, proper inflation maximizes tire life and fuel economy. Not sure what your tire pressure should be? Check the driver side door or sill. You should see a sticker that lists the inflation pressure for the front and rear tires. Checking the pressure monthly is a good idea.
- Tires should be rotated every 10-15k miles. Frequent tire rotation will maximize the life of your tires. Many shops offer free rotation for tires purchased from them, or will perform the service for a very small fee.
- Maintain receipts of vehicle maintenance. When you sell or trade in your vehicle, having every receipt for service performed shows the buyer you are responsible owner. Having receipts may also be necessary for warranty repairs especially to major components like the engine or transmission.
There are also some auto maintenance scams to avoid, and any shop offering you these services is probably one you should avoid:
- Fuel saver devices. These range from cheap fuel line magnets to absurd “molecule enhancers”. Absolutely none of them work, and that has been verified by government labs and TV shows like Mythbusters.
- Oil additives. Like miracle snake oil sold from times past, oil additives are junk. Any quality motor oil already contains all the additives required to property protect your engine.
- Engine and fuel system flushes. Unless you buy gasoline on the black market and never change your oil, these “flush” procedures are a waste of money and unecessary.
- Maintenance contracts. Most of the time these “contracts” are just a clever tactic to get you back into the same shop to upsell unnecessary services. We recently had a door-to-door salesman stop by our office with a promotional product that included 5 oil changes, tire balance and rotation, and a 21 point inspection for $25. Frankly, it would impossible to perform all those services for that price. The garage is counting on being able to sell you other services that your vehicle may or may not need.
Above all, follow the service recommendations in your vehicle owners manual. Maintaining your vehicle is a typically simple process that will ensure reliability and longevity. It will also keep you safe during the summer travel months. Also remember to do a Nevada auto insurance “check-up” now and then and let Safeguard Insurance shop your policy with our many insurance carriers. Call us or visit our auto insurance quote page to compare rates instantly.