Car Care Tips

Tips to keep your car on the road.

Safety March 7, 2013

Car Maintenance Mistakes to Avoid

Everything we own needs to be taken care of – especially our vehicles. While vehicle maintenance intervals are longer for newer models, scheduled service is required for all vehicles to be reliable and safe. Every vehicle has a maintenance schedule, typically located in the owner’s manual or in a separate maintenance log book. This schedule provides details of the vehicle’s needs, and adhering to these requirements will help to avoid automotive maintenance mistakes.

Here are maintenance mistakes to avoid that will help to ensure a safe ride every time you are in your vehicle:

1. Waiting Too Long Between Oil Changes: It used to be recommended to change the oil every three months or 3,000 miles for every vehicle, but because of advances in engine design and lubricants, oil changes only need to occur when the schedule calls for it. If you use conventional oil, you’ll need to stick with the three months or 3,000 mile intervals for oil changes. If you use synthetic oil, you can push out the intervals between oil changes significantly. It is best to follow the schedule and use the oil called for by the manufacturer.

2. Not Tightening the Gas Cap: If the gas cap is not tightened, the check engine light will probably appear on the dashboard. So before becoming concerned, check to be sure the gas cap was tightened all the way. When it’s not on tight, a loose gas cap can cause air interference with fuel intake, so be sure to double check the cap every time you fill up.

3. Ignoring Changes in Sound, Feel or Response of Your Brakes: A driver should never ignore changes in a vehicle’s brakes under any circumstances. If the vehicle comes to a stop with a high pitched squealing/scraping sound, this may mean worn down brakes that are scraping against the drum and rotors. When brakes constantly touch the drums and rotors, these components can be damaged as well. Get the brakes checked regularly to avoid any safety mishaps.

4. Never Rotating Tires: Since the front and rear tires wear differently, they need to be rotated so the tire wear is balanced. The vehicle’s owner’s manual provides tire pressure and rotation schedules. But to be safe, it is recommended to have tire pressure looked by your automotive maintenance technician each time it is brought in for service.

5. Waiting Until a Tire is Worn Out to Replace It: Vehicles need to have tires with enough traction to translate braking power into stopping power. In many states, including Virginia, tires will fail State Inspections when they reach 2/32 inches of remaining tread depth, meaning they will be legally worn-out. For the utmost safety, however, it is recommended to replace tires once 4/32 inches of tread depth remains. Automakers and tire manufacturers recommend tire replacement, regardless of wear, between five to 10 years. This will help ensure safe transportation before the rubber deteriorates to the point of failure. Because tires have the greatest effect on the way a vehicle handles and brakes, it is unwise to wait to replace tires.

6. Forgetting to Change Your Air Filter: The intake air filter is extremely important to a vehicle’s performance; it filters harmful dirt and debris while allowing ample airflow into the engine for combustion. A dirty/clogged air filter can restrict the engine’s airflow, decreasing the amount of air available for combustion and may throw off the air-fuel ratio. Be sure to change the filter when the maintenance log book recommends it.

7. Using Old Wipers: Make sure wiper blades are in good condition —they usually last six months before they need to be replaced. Consider changing them at the start of the fall season — after the summer heat, sun and rain and before wintry weather begins – and then at the beginning of spring after the salt and ice wear away at the rubber.

8. Ignoring Major Mileage Checkups: Your vehicle needs to be checked at the 30,000-, 60,000-, 90,000- and 120,000-mile services for preventative maintenance. With today’s modern diagnostics and scanners, many weaknesses can be addressed so only what needs to be replaced will be replaced.

9. Driving With Only One Headlight or Taillight: It’s not a difficult task or an expensive purchase, but many people neglect vehicle lamps. Periodically check the lights. Turn on the headlights, park lamps, high and low beams and fog lamps. Examine each turn signal bulb and follow up with an inspection of the emergency flashers. Have someone help you check brake and tail lights.

10. Delaying a Maintenance Check: Having a vehicle serviced is an essential part of maintaining an efficient and safe vehicle. Avoiding a maintenance check may jeopardize the vehicle’s safety but also may cause faults to get worse over time.

Proper maintenance will help owners avoid costly repairs later; we strongly recommend following your vehicle’s maintenance schedule.

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