Today’s cars, light trucks, and sport-utility vehicles are high-tech marvels with digital dashboards, oxygen sensors, electronic computers, unibody construction, and more. They run better, longer, and more efficiently than models of years past.
But when it comes to repairs, some things stay the same. According to recent studies, 5 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities are clearly caused by automobile maintenance neglect. The following tips should help you along the way:
Do your homework before taking your vehicle in for repairs or service.
- Read the owner’s manual to learn about the vehicle’s systems and components.
- Follow the recommended service schedules.
- Keep a log of all repairs and service.
When you think about it, you know your car better than anyone else. You drive it every day and know how it feels and sounds when everything is right. So don’t ignore its warning signals.
Use all of your senses to inspect your car frequently. Check for:
- Unusual sounds, odors, drips, leaks, smoke, warning lights, gauge readings.
- Changes in acceleration, engine performance, gas mileage, fluid levels.
- Worn tires, belts, hoses.
- Problems in handling, braking, steering, vibrations.
- Note when the problem occurs.
- Is it constant or periodic?
- When the vehicle is cold or after the engine has warmed up?
- At all speeds? Only under acceleration? During braking? When shifting?
- When did the problem first start?
Once you are at our location, communicate your findings.
- Be prepared to describe the symptoms.
- Carry a written list of the symptoms that you can give us.
- Resist the temptation to suggest a specific course of repair. Just as you would with your physician, tell us where it hurts and how long it’s been that way, but let the technician diagnose and recommend a remedy.
Stay involved. . . Ask questions.
- Ask as many questions as needed to fully understand your repair. Ask for laymen terms if needed.
- Don’t rush the technician to make an on-the-spot diagnosis. You may ask to be called and apprised of the problem, course of action, and costs before work begins.
- Before you leave, be sure you understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment.
- Leave a telephone number where you can be called.
Additional tips to keep in mind:
- The cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled about every 24 months. The level, condition, and concentration of coolant should be checked. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.)
- Never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled. The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps and hoses should be checked by a pro.
- Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual, or more often (every 3,000 miles) if you make frequent short jaunts, extended trips with lots of luggage or tow a trailer.
- Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended, or more often in dusty conditions. Get engine drivability problems (hard stops, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a good shop.
- A dirty windshield causes eye fatigue and can pose a safety hazard. Replace worn blades and get plenty of windshield washer solvent.
- Have your tires rotated about every 5,000 miles. Check tire pressures once a month; let the tires cool down first. Don’t forget your spare and be sure your jack is in good condition.
- Check your owner’s manual to find out what fuel octane rating your car’s engine needs then buy it.
- Keep your tires inflated to the proper levels. Under-inflated tires make it harder for your car to move down the road, which means your engine uses more fuel to maintain speed.
- Lighten the load. Heavier vehicles use more fuel, so clean out unnecessary weight in the passenger compartment or trunk before you hit the road.
- Use the A/C sparingly. The air conditioner puts extra load on the engine forcing more fuel to be used.
- Keep your windows closed. Wide-open windows, especially at highway speeds, increase aerodynamic drag and the result is up to a 10% decrease in fuel economy.
- Avoid long idling. If you anticipate being stopped for more than one minute, shut off the car. Contrary to popular belief, restarting the car uses less fuel than letting it idle.
- Stay within posted speed limits. The faster you drive, the more fuel you use. For example, driving at 65 miles per hour (mph) rather than 55 mph, increases fuel consumption by 20 percent.
- Use cruise control. Using cruise control on highway trips can help you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, reduce your fuel consumption.
- Keep your engine tuned. A fouled spark plug or plugged/restricted fuel injector can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30 percent.
- Inspect the engine’s belts regularly. Look for cracks or missing sections or segments. Worn belts will affect the engine performance.
- Have the fuel filter changed every 10,000 miles to prevent rust, dirt and other impurities from entering the fuel system.
- Change the transmission fluid and filter every 15,000 to 18,000 miles. This will protect the precision-crafted components of the transmission/transaxle.
- Inspect the suspension system regularly. This will extend the life of the vehicle’s tires.