You have just been ‘blessed’ with a ‘tear rubber’ car. Saying “I have not done anything on the car since I got it”, two, three years after purchase, isn’t a smart thing to say!
You want to drive it, show it off, to co-workers, brothers and sisters in your place of worship, open the windows or put the top down and let the wind blow. Just sit there with a grin while you set the radio buttons to your favourite stations, or jam to your favourite song using the USB, bluetooth or auxiliary input cable…
Over the years, you’ve probably all-but-memorised the advice about oil changes, fluid checks, tire rotations and the other down-the-line maintenance to keep the machine performing right as it hits the tens of thousands of kilometers mark.
But — other than luxuriating in that new-car feeling — there are important things to do right now, before you get to that first scheduled maintenance.
Here’s our list of five things you should do right now to keep that new vehicle in top shape.
First, learn everything about it
“Read the owner’s manual,” emphasizes (quite vigorously)
How can knowing your car make it last?
You’ll know from the manual if the car needs specific treatment during a break-in period. Ignore it and you might wind up with an engine oil-burner or a hard-to-brake demon.
Or, let’s say you aren’t quite sure what each dashboard warning light means. Bingo – flat tire. The car’s been trying to tell you that a tire is low for several kilometres via the instrument panel alert. You didn’t understand.
Take a more extreme example: For directions, let’s say you actually use the car’s navigation system instead of your Smartphone with its tiny screen. But you aren’t sure how to program the system. You’re rolling down the road, about to be lost, and you’re staring at the dashboard screen to figure out how to activate the navigation. Distracted driver — crash!
Check the engine oil
Do it regularly—monthly for a vehicle in good condition; more often if you notice an oil leak or find you need to add oil routinely. The car should be parked on level ground so you can get an accurate dipstick reading. Don’t overfill. And if you do have a leak, find and fix it soon. For normal driving, many automakers recommend changing the engine oil and filter with using synthetic oil and high quality oil filter every 5000 miles (8,000km) or six months, whichever comes first.
This is sufficient for the majority of motorists. For ‘severe’ driving—dusty conditions, or trailer towing—the change interval should be shortened to every 3,000 miles (5,000km) or three months. (Check your owner’s manual for the specific intervals recommended for your vehicle.) Special engines such as diesels and turbocharged engines may need more-frequent oil changes.
Tires are on you, so buy a good gauge for checking pressure
How do you know the right pressure? The owner’s manual, where you also learned that tire pressure is printed on a label usually attached to the driver’s door pillar. Don’t go by the number stamped on the side of the tire, that’s a maximum, not a recommendation, as the tire might have multiple application across brands and builds.
Once a month and before any extended road trips, use an accurate tire-pressure gauge to check the inflation pressure in each tire, including the spare. Do this when the tires are cold (before the vehicle has been driven or after no more than a couple of kilometres of driving).
Use the inflation pressure recommended by the vehicle’s manufacturer, not the maximum pressure embossed on the tire’s sidewall. The recommended pressure is usually found on a placard on a front door post, fuel tank lid, in the glove compartment, or in the owner’s manual. Also be sure to inspect tires for abnormal or uneven wear, cuts, and any sidewall bulges you can see.
No, not the engine, the interior. If your car came with a set of floor mats, use them to keep the carpeting clean and free of stains. If the vehicle didn’t come with carpeted mats, buy a set now. And consider buying a set of all-weather mats to protect the vehicle when the weather gets really wet. Mats are an important safety issue, too.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United states warns: “Improperly installed floor mats in your vehicle may interfere with the operation of the accelerator or brake pedal, increasing the risk of a crash. ”Remove old floor mats before the installation of new mats; never stack mats.”Use mats that are the correct size and fit for your vehicle.”
It won’t be long before the dealership’s spic-and-span sparkle will dull from dust, rain spots and general road grime. Try to wash the car frequently, if you can. Wash the body and, if necessary, pressure wash out the fender wells and undercarriage to remove dirt. It’s time to wax the finish when water beads become visible.
Other checks at each oil change
Check the air filter
Remove the air-filter element and hold it up to a strong light. If you don’t see light, replace it. Regardless, follow the recommended service intervals.
Check the constant-velocity-joint boots
On front-wheel-drive and some four-wheel-drive vehicles, examine these bellows like rubber boots, also known as CV boots or ‘Shaft rubber’ in local parlance, on the drive axles. Immediately replace any that are cut, cracked, or leaking. If dirt contaminates the CV joint, it can quickly lead to an expensive fix.
Inspect the exhaust system
If you’re willing to make under-car inspections, check for rusted-through exhaust parts that need replacing. Also tighten loose clamps. Do this while the car is up on ramps. If a shop changes your oil, have them make these checks. Listen for changes in the exhaust sound while driving. It’s usually advisable to replace the entire exhaust system all at once rather than to repair sections at different times.
Look at the brakes
For most people it makes sense to have a shop check and service the brakes. Replace excessively worn pads or linings and have badly scored rotors or drums machined or replaced. The brakes should be checked at least twice per year; more often if you drive a lot.
Check the fluids
On many newer cars, the automatic transmission is sealed. On cars where it is not sealed, check the transmission dipstick with the engine warmed up and running (see the owner’s manual for details). Also check the power-steering-pump dipstick (it’s usually attached to the fluid-reservoir cap) and the level in the brake-fluid reservoir. If the brake-fluid level is low, is repeatedly running low, have the pads inspected for premature wear. and have the system checked for leaks.
Clean the radiator
Prevent overheating by removing debris with a pressure washof the outside of the radiator with a detergent solution.
Check the battery
Inspect the battery’s terminals and cables to make sure they are securely attached, with no corrosion. If the battery has removable caps, check its fluid level every few months—especially in warmer climates.
How much attention you pay to car determines how long and how effective it will serve you.