Vehicle maintenance is the most important part of owning a vehicle. Taking care of your car and keeping it in the best possible condition is key to increasing resale value as well as life of the vehicle and avoiding expensive repairs. Here’s some tips from Kelley Blue Book on how to keep up with maintenance on your vehicle. These are just guidelines - make sure you check your vehicle owner’s manual for recommended service and maintenance specific to your car. If you adhere to your owner’s manual, your vehicle will thank you!
One of the more simple things is making sure you get your oil changed on time. Generally, that’s every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, but it depends on the vehicle. Your manual will tell you all you need to know. What does oil do, exactly? Oil lubricates the parts of your engine and works on dispersing heat. When this process happens, some of the oil is burned off by the engine so it needs to be changed when the level of oil drops. If not, your engine will run hotter with less oil in it, which puts a strain on your engine. To avoid costly repairs, engine damage, or even replacement, make sure you keep up with your oil changes in a timely manner.
Another issue that can happen with your engine is the buildup of sludge. What is this, exactly, and where does it come from? It’s a byproduct of petroleum and is a major contributor to engine problems. If you change your oil regularly, it will reduce the chances of sludge buildup, which can be caused by short trips, stop and go traffic, or even long trips which strain the engine if you’re pulling a trailer. Sludge will drop to the bottom of the oil pan, but when the engine heats up, the oil will mix with the sludge and then it’ll be pumped through the entire engine. You can avoid this by checking your owner’s manual for regular oil changes or switching to a non-petroleum based, synthetic oil, if applicable.
Moving on to a lesser known part - your timing belt, which has to do with the opening and closing of your engine’s valves. Depending on the type of belt you have, consult your owner’s manual for information on when this should be replaced, which is usually between 50,000 and 110,000 miles. These parts aren’t cheap, but it’s a lot more cost effective than avoiding the issue and having to replace your engine in the long run.
If your vehicle has a hydraulic power steering pump, that means you need to be checking your power steering fluid. If this fluid runs out, it’ll be quite the costly fix. You might have an issue if there’s squealing noises when you turn your steering wheel or if it feels heavy or stiff to operate. Newer vehicles usually have electric power steering with no fluid, so make sure you check your manual if you have an older vehicle to see if this is something you need to be keeping an eye on.
Moving right along to transmission fluid - low fluid will put a strain on your transmission, raising the temperature. If the transmission fluid turns a dark color or smells burnt, this could be a sign of mechanical issues. Make sure to check these levels when the engine is running, and only use fluid recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
As for your radiator, you need to check the coolant, which breaks down over time because of the rust inhibitors. This can cause lots of damage. This replacement of coolant can be anywhere between 30,000 miles to 100,000 miles, so check your owner’s manual to find out when you should be changing your radiator coolant.
Another thing you should keep an eye on is your brake fluid. Make sure your vehicle is on a level surface! Your owner’s manual will recommend a fluid. If not changed often, brake fluid can absorb water which decreases effectiveness in stopping. If there’s too much water, the vehicle’s stopping distance will be increased, making it dangerous if you need to make a quick stop to avoid an accident.
On all-wheel and four-wheel-drive vehicles, you’ll have to check the transfer case fluid. This can be an expensive fix. Make sure you follow the owner’s manual if this applies to you, and stay on top of it.
Another commonly known maintenance item is tire rotation. To increase the longevity of your tires, you should get them rotated and check their alignment based on your owner’s manual. You should also be checking the pressure in your tires, which you can find a sticker for on the driver’s door frame letting you know the needed pressure for front and rear tires on your vehicle.
The last item recommended by Kelley Blue Book is making sure your engine’s air filter is clean to avoid issues like less miles per gallon, worse engine performance, and higher engine emissions.
Combine all of these things and stay in the know about your vehicle’s maintenance schedule. Learn the warning signs of an issue with your vehicle and always take it in rather than ignoring an issue. It’ll always be more expensive in the long run as many ‘small’ things can cause engine or transmission failure and more. Your vehicle will thank you by giving you more miles - a longer, healthier life for your car. You can check out more details on the Kelley Blue Book site, and make sure you read your owner’s manual cover-to-cover to make sure you know everything about your vehicle.
An important part of maintenance for your vehicle is keeping it clean - including the engine bay - so be sure to check out our Detailing Packages at TXG Automotive in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.