When you buy a full-size car, truck, or SUV, you're making a major investment, and maximizing your cost of ownership means keeping it in good condition for as long as possible. Still, a lot of car owners don't maintain their vehicles regularly. As a result, they end up experiencing serious mechanical issues that could have been avoided with some preventative maintenance. Here are some basic tips for maintaining your transportation investment.
Do A Visual Check of Your Vehicle
Give your car a visual once-over on a regular basis to assess its condition. Test the lights, check the air pressure in your tires, and confirm that the tires have sufficient tread. Listen for any unusual sounds, inside and out, when you start the vehicle and while you are driving it. If you detect anything out of the ordinary, take the car to the shop for a more in-depth inspection.
You can also look into the interior of your car. This visual check should cover the seats, headrests, and steering wheel of your car. Make sure to take thorough measures to clean each section. A great way to stay clean is to buy a car seat organizer to keep all your things in one section.
Check All Fluid Levels
Learn how to check fluid levels for antifreeze, power steering, transmission, and even the wiper washer. If you can't see the tank level directly, in most cases you can use a dipstick or gauge to check current levels and compare them to optimal ones. If you're running low, add more (if you know how) only to the fill mark, or get it done professionally. If you spot a leak, take the car to the shop right away.
Check Your Oil
Use a dipstick or electronic gauge to check the color of the car's oil. Knowing the difference between ‘clean' and ‘dirty' oil will save you money on unnecessary changes and even alert you if there's a problem (For example, if you just had it changed, but it looks muddy, something is definitely wrong.). Your owner's manual will advise you on how often your oil should be changed and what oil to use.
Test Your Battery
Although most batteries need little maintenance, you should check it periodically for leaks and any acid buildup on the contacts. This is especially true for seasonal vehicles that may sit for a number of months unused, such as plow trucks or cars at a part-time residence like a Florida condo. Remove any buildup with a battery cleaning brush, which you can buy at any auto parts store. Weak batteries should also be load tested.
Examine Your Tires and Alignment
It's important to ensure that your tires wear evenly, so getting them properly rotated and balanced can make them last much longer. Pay close attention to your alignment, too. If your car isn't driving straight, it can become a potentially dangerous situation.
Change Your Spark Plugs
Your engine will not work efficiently if your spark plugs are worn out or covered in dirt. Eventually, a breakdown will occur. Checking, gapping, and replacing them is not too difficult (Check your owner's manual for instructions.), but if you don't feel confident doing so, have your mechanic change them.
Inspect Your Timing and Serpentine Belts
Your owner's manual will advise you on how often your timing and serpentine belts will require replacing. Ask your mechanic to look at them once you've accumulated the recommended number of miles and get them replaced if they look worn or cracked. Otherwise, your car can break down and the damaged belt(s) can affect other components, creating a costly repair bill.
Check the Anti-Freeze
Maintaining the anti-freeze protection level is crucial. Antifreeze combines with water to change the property of water to prevent it from freezing in cold temperatures, and it changes water's boiling point (212°F) to prevent your engine from overheating in high temps or difficult driving conditions. The main ingredient, ethylene glycol, has a super high boiling point and a very low freezing point.
Antifreeze flows through your engine and radiator, soaking up the heat generated by the engine and then releasing it outside the car through the radiator. Remember, vehicles manufactured after 1998 require an antifreeze that incorporates silicate-free, organic acid technology (OAT), which provides improved protection against corrosion. Vehicles manufactured before 1998 normally require an antifreeze that is not OAT-based containing silicate.
So, check the potency of your vehicle's antifreeze regularly, and always refer to your owner's manual for the manufacturer's recommended antifreeze, which prevents any potential issues with your vehicle warranty, because of improper antifreeze use.
Stay Aware of Seasons, Sounds, Gauges, and Handling
These are some of the maintenance steps that your car will need, and you can do a lot of them yourself. Setting specific times of the year may be helpful such as Spring forward and Fall back. That way you always know the last time you inspected your vehicle and you won't forget. It's an even better idea to maintain a small notebook record in the glove box. Checking the gauges and being aware of how the vehicle sounds and handles while driving also can help you find maintenance problems early.
We've all heard the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that applies to vehicles. Basic preventative maintenance will keep your car or truck road-ready through all sorts of weather, and potentially save you thousands in the long run.
Learn more about our full range of Mopar Vehicle Protection plans for guarding against costly breakdowns at ChryslerFactoryPlans.com today.