The Best Guide to Car Care You’ll Ever Read


With owning a vehicle comes great responsibility.


Even Batman had to take care of the Batmobile. Thank goodness for Alfred.


There's a lot involved in car ownership and neglecting your duty will result in a vehicle with a much shorter lifespan, not to mention the greater costs you'll have to bear for repairs.


Assuming you don't have an Alfred of your own, you need to know how to maintain your car.


This guide will give you info about normal wear and tear, your battery, tires, the best maintenance tips for the different seasons, and more.


Let's get started!


The value of preventive maintenance

A vehicle is a huge investment and, if you're like most people, you want to get the most for your money.


In order to do that, you have to stay on top of maintenance schedules. Not only will your car last longer, it'll perform better and help you avoid potentially costly repairs down the road.


Here's what you need to know.


The manual is the car owner's bible

Your car doesn't come with that giant book for you to display on your coffee table. There's important stuff in there that you need to know.


Should you read it cover to cover? Probably not, but you do need to pay attention to certain things like the recommended maintenance schedule.


For example, you've probably heard again and again that your oil needs to be changed every 3 months or 3,000 miles, right?


That's become old news in most modern vehicles that can now go longer between oil changes.


Pay close attention to those sections of the manual that talk about anything regular attention your car needs, from belts to oils and other fluids.


Know how to check fluid levels

Of course, a professional should be evaluating your car regularly and you don't have to change the fluids on your own, but it's not too complicated for you to do your own checks between maintenance.


Low or dirty fluids can cause serious, costly damage when not taken - but it's easy to avoid.

Don't neglect your belts

Remember that all-important owner's manual?


It's going to fill you in on how often timing and serpentine belts need to be replaced. It's a good idea to talk it over with your mechanic when you have your car in for regular maintenance.

Keep up with the filters

When you take your car in for an oil change, your mechanic will be changing the oil filter, too.


But that's not the only filter that has an important effect on how your car runs.


These filters are also critical.


  • The air filter keeps the air going into your engine clean.

  • The cabin air filter does the same for the air you and your passengers are breathing.

  • The fuel filter protects your fuel and water from being contaminated with dirt and debris.

Check the tire pressure

Often, you don't think about your tires until your mechanic mentions they're wearing thin or you wind up with a flat.


Hint: That's not frequently enough.


It's actually recommended that you check your tire pressure each time you fill up your gas tank.


Why is it so important? Tire pressure that's too low can cause irregular and premature wear on the tires and cost you more for gasoline.


Properly inflated tires are also safer.

Two big car maintenance don'ts

There are two things that you may be doing that are not only putting you at risk, but they may also be causing your vehicle to wear out more quickly than it should.


1. Not heeding warning lights

If the "check engine" indicator light comes on, get your engine checked out. It seems simple, but many people ignore important warning signs like this.


It may not be a huge issue that's triggering the light to come on and a quick fix may help your car to run better and give you better fuel efficiency.


On the other hand, if there is a serious problem, you'll need to get it taken care of as soon as possible.


2. Not driving carefully

Do you take off like a bat out of hell and then slam on the brakes when you need to stop?


If that describes you, you're not doing your car any favors and you could be doing serious harm.


Your car will thank you by providing you with years of faithful service if you follow the speed limits, avoid driving on rough roads and in extreme conditions as much as possible, and when you give it the TLC it needs.


Now that you know the basics of maintaining your vehicle, let's dig a little deeper into some specifics.


Keep your battery going strong

You're not going anywhere without a battery.


Needless to say, it's a vital element.


You may not even be aware that there are steps you can take to keep your battery functioning at its optimal level, but there are.


Check it out.


The charging rate matters

Have your mechanic can take care of this for you.


Your battery can be damaged by undercharging or overcharging.

Some batteries need special care

Certain types of batteries need to be topped off with some distilled water periodically.

Go for the best

Batteries don't last forever. When it's time for a new one, consult your owner's manual to find out what the manufacturer recommends and get one that's rated at least as highly.

Watch for warning signs

Often, your battery will give you some subtle hints that something's amiss.


You may notice your interior or exterior lights not shining as brightly as they should, electrical systems may experience malfunctions, or (not so subtle) your battery light may come on.

Keep it clean

A dirty battery isn't a healthy battery.


Dust and debris can suck the life right out it. Similarly, corrosion can block the flow of the current.


You can use a special battery terminal cleaner or even some tools you have around home, like a wire brush.

A tip-top shape transmission

Your vehicle's transmission has the important job of getting the right amount of power to your wheels in order to drive at the speed you need to.


If you don't take care of it, you'll lose out on fuel economy or your car may not go at all.


Unfortunately, there's a lot of bad information out there concerning transmissions.


Here are the top three myths to avoid so you can keep your transmission in great working order.


1. Neutral for the downhills

You've probably heard that putting your car in neutral when you're going downhill is good for your transmission because the momentum will propel your car, giving the transmission a little break.


The truth of the matter is that, not only is it illegal to do this is many states, it's also unsafe because it takes away some of your ability to control your vehicle should you need to swerve.


The bottom line?


You're putting yourself and your passengers at risk if you do this, while not doing anything to benefit your transmission.


2. You don't have to stop between drive and reverse

When you do this, you're asking your transmission to do the work that the brakes are designed to do.


Your transmission's job is to switch gears - and only switch gears.


If you're not coming to a complete stop between switching from drive to reverse (and vice versa), you're causing damage to your transmission and its clutches and bands.


3. Rev it up in neutral to get going faster

You may feel pretty cool when you're revving the engine, car in neutral, ready to throw it in drive and take off like a rocket.


You won't feel very cool when you're out a whole lot of cash to replace your transmission bands that you ruined.


Taking care of tires

You have a lot (literally!) riding on your tires.


After all, they're between you and the highway, so you want to make sure they're functioning at optimum levels.


These are the important factors to consider about tire care.


Alignment

You should have your car aligned whenever you get new tires or as often as your owner's manual suggests.


The alignment matters because misaligned tires will wear unevenly, making them weak and potentially unsafe.

Pressure

When your tires don't have enough air (or have too much), it creates numerous safety issues.


Your vehicle won't handle as well, especially on wet, snowy, or icy roads and, like improperly aligned tires, under or overinflated tires won't wear evenly, causing you to have to replace them sooner than you would if you had taken proper care of them.

Tread

It's simple to check the tread on your tires.


Really. All you need is a penny.


Here's what to do: Place a penny (with Abe's head down) into one of the grooves.I all of good ol' Honest Abe's head can be seen - it's time for new tires.


If you want to be technical about it, what it really means is that your tire's tread depth is less than 2/32 of an inch.

Benefits of proper tire care

Safety is the biggest reason that you should stay on top of tire maintenance, but there are other advantages, too.


  • You'll have better control and maneuverability.

  • Your vehicle will be more fuel efficient.

  • Your tires will experience less wear and tear.

Car care as seasons change

You obviously have to keep up with your regular maintenance tasks - like oil changes, keeping up with fluids, and all the other things already discussed - no matter the season.


Spring, summer, fall, and winter each bring their own challenges when it comes to taking care of a vehicle.


Let's take a look at the special ways you can maintain your car in the different seasons.

Spring

Because it follows the cold, snowy winter, springtime is a good time to catch up on some tasks that you may have put off.


Here's what you need to do for your vehicle once the winter's over.


A thorough wash

You're probably familiar with the gray coating that can accumulate on your car over the winter months.


When spring is in the air, it's time to get rid of that dirt, debris, grime, and damaging salt.


Not only will your car look bright and shiny, you're protecting it, too. All the crud - especially when it's gathered on your undercarriage - can cause rust and other damage.


It's not a bad idea to give your vehicle a protective coat of wax, as well.


Give the inside the once-over

It's hard to clean your car as thoroughly as you'd like when it's cold outside.


Spring is the time to give your interior a good sprucing up. Throw away trash and vacuum carpets and upholstery.


Check the wiper blades

Cold temperatures and ice can be rough on your wiper blades.


Look for cracking or other signs of wear.


You'll need your wipers in good working condition for the rainy spring weather.


Look at the belts

Hoses and belts can become brittle during the colder months. It's a good idea to have your mechanic check and make sure those important elements made it through the winter in good shape.


Summer

Here's what you need to be concerned with in the hottest months of the year.


Coolant

Keeping your vehicle - and yourself - cool during the summer is of the utmost importance.


Throughout the summer, make sure you stay on top of your coolant levels. Keep your eyes open for leaks, as well, and get things checked out right away if you notice anything amiss.


Air conditioning

You really should have a qualified mechanic check your air conditioner at the beginning of each summer, but especially if you notice your A/C not working as well as it should.


Be sure to take care of this at the beginning of the summer so it's taken care of before the most sweltering days hit.


Sunshade

Having a sunshade for your dashboard will keep the interior of your vehicle from becoming too hot. Leather seats and seat belt buckles can really get uncomfortably warm when they're in the sun for extended periods of time.


It'll also keep your upholstery from fading.


Windshield

The glaring sun can really wreak havoc on your visibility in the summer if your windshield is grimy.


Giving it a wash each time you fill up your tank can help you avoid this issue.


Fall

These are the tasks you should take care of in the fall.

Tune up

If you haven't had this done in a while, now's the perfect time.

Brakes

It's also the time to have the brakes inspected. They're an integral part of keeping yourself and your passengers safe and it's a good idea to have them checked out before winter comes.

Coolant

Coolant isn't only important in the summer months. Properly levels are also necessary to make sure your car keeps you warm enough when the temps drop.

Winter

Due to the snow, ice, extreme temperatures, and dangerous driving conditions, winter comes with special vehicle maintenance jobs.

Snow tires

Snow tires can be a huge help when you're driving on snowy, icy roads. They have special tread patterns that help the tires get a superior grip, even in poor conditions.

Emergency kit

While this is helpful all year round, it's especially critical in the winter.


You want to have a blanket, jumper cables, a flashlight, boots, gloves, a first-aid kit, and a collapsible shovel.


Tips for caring for your car's interior

While we've mainly focused on keeping your vehicle running, you need to think about protecting your car's interior, as well.


  • One of the most important ways to take care of your vehicle's interior is to keep it clean. Keep garbage bags on hand and use them.

  • Use extended stops like picking up a child from school or getting stuck in traffic to pull out a dust cloth and wipe down your car's dashboard, controls, and gear shifter.

  • It's embarrassing to have a stinky car! You can avoid this by regularly replacing air fresheners or even placing dryer sheets under your seats. Of course, this is in addition to keeping up with trash and other clutter that doesn't belong in your vehicle.

  • All-weather floor mats are a great idea for protecting your carpets from muddy shoes, sand, and other gunk that you collect on your shoes. You can even get them made to perfectly fit the dimensions of your particular make and model.

  • Though it's already been mentioned, it's worth bringing up again - investing in a dashboard sunshade will protect your upholstery's color from fading and will keep any other interior elements from being damaged by extreme heat.


Maintain your car and it will pay you back

When you give your vehicle the regular maintenance it needs, the reward is a car that lasts a long time, saving you money on preventable repairs.


Keeping up with oil and other fluid changes, checking your tires regularly, and paying attention to the specific things your vehicle needs each season will make a big difference in how your car runs and what kind of experience you have with your vehicle.


At the Park Auto Group, we're always available to help you in any way we can! Come and see us at one of our Honda, Acura, Mazda, or Subaru locations today!