Today, we have a guest post from LD. I have been trying to get him involved in the blog and am even working on convincing him to have his own corner of the blog to replace the not very popular Motivation Mondays. This blog isn’t about my life, it’s about our lives. So, show LD some love!
Ever since I was a kid my dad drove preventative maintenance into my head. Going for a long drive? Check the tire pressure. Going to a friend’s house? Check the oil before you leave. Is it going to snow tomorrow? Check you have windshield wiper fluid.
Having said that, I hated it because you always found an issue at what was always the worst time, when you were already 10 minutes late and needed to be somewhere already. It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I realized it was nowhere near the worst timing. When you’re waiting on the side of the highway for a tow truck and waiting for the car to be deemed totaled because the engine seized, that’s a bit more inconvenient.
I was asked to write a guest post about car maintenance (oil changes, replacing serpentine belts, and all that fun stuff) and I will at some point, but this post is for EVERYONE.
There are a lot of things to check on a car and that’s why most people pay a knowledgeable mechanic to keep an eye on their vehicle. It is their job to tell you when you have a problem and it is their job to fix it. As cars are becoming more advanced and specialized tools are becoming more necessary, it is understandable why more people are leaving fixes up to them. There are, however, a lot of things you can do to prevent unexpected surprises and keep costs down.
1. Check fluid levels. Check the oil, transmission, power steering, and windshield washing fluid levels regularly (when the engine is cool and the car is off). Now, how do you know where these are? Check YouTube for a quick tutorial on your vehicle or poke your head under the hood. Everything with an easily removable cap, take it off, look around and make sure it looks OK. Fluids should be in-between the marked lines. If a fluid looks low, check your owner’s manual to see its recommendations and or visit your local NAPA/Advanced Auto. They are always willing to help. (Make sure any cap you take off is put back securely and snapped in.) These fluids are designed to be checked regularly and will be near the top of the engine and usually easily identifiable.
2. Check your tire pressure and tread (after the car hasn’t been driven for at least an hour). If it’s low, you are probably getting lower miles per gallon than you would expect. If the tread is getting low, your tires may be nearing replacement and/or you may need to be more cautious while driving in rain or snow.
3. Look under your car. Is something dragging? This may seem obvious, but when is the last time you looked? Catching an exhaust pipe before it breaks off can change a $350 fix into a $90 bracket install.
4. Check your lights. This is an extremely easy thing to check. Make sure all of your lights work, including blinkers, bights, break lights and anything else. If you get pulled over for this, it’s usually the police being polite and giving you a heads up. However, this is their opportunity to run your plates, check up on you, delay you 10-20 minutes, and if they’re feeling like it they may give you a $180 ticket and 4 points (Yes, I am still spiteful about this Milwaukee!). Save time and money, check your lights.
5. Check for leaks and cracks under the hood. Now, there’s no harm in slight cracks in belts or stains on the engine, but if you keep an eye on them, you know what to expect. Did the stain get bigger and you lost oil since the last time you checked it? Let your mechanic know, this will help them diagnose your car faster and save you money. Belts are a much more finicky thing. Keep an eye on them. They are durable and can handle a lot but if something looks off, ask. It might just save you an unexpected pit stop.
One last thing to keep in mind, cars are a pain. Mechanics know issues because they have seen them before and know tell tale signs. Looking at your car and checking these things once is useful, but you don’t know what you’re looking for until you know your vehicle. Preventative maintenance is looking for things that have changed since last time and catching issues to save you the headache of dealing with them getting worse. Simply checking the oil may save you from a totaled car.