Recommended Vehicle Maintenance That Needs To Be Performed Now
With the new year started, 2021 should be a time to better get to know your car and what it needs. With all the repairs that happened on vehicles last year, not a lot of recommended vehicle maintenance was performed leaving more cars that need more work done.
The maintenance performed on your vehicle is important to keeping the vehicle running longer.
This maintenance can be anything from checking the fluids in your vehicle to even washing your vehicle. In today’s article we are going to discuss what maintenance you should be performing (or have performed) on your car or truck.
Why it is Important to Have your Vehicle Inspected
It is especially important to have your vehicle inspected for a few reasons.
Firstly, inspections can save you hundreds in repairs in the long run. Secondly, it is considered preventative maintenance to have your vehicle inspected on a regular basis and perform what is recommended to keep your vehicle running longer.
Finally, if a recommended service is suggested but you have time to wait on it, you can save up your money and perform the maintenance when you have enough money.
You can have a professional look over your vehicle or you can do it yourself. Having a professional look over your car means is there is any services that you need performed right now, they can do it and there will be a warranty on the work performed.
Doing an inspection of your own car means you know exactly wheats going on under the hood. It is simple to perform just pop the hood, check the fluid levels, check the terminals on your battery (clean if needed), check your serpentine belt(s) for cracks, look at your tires and check the tread depth, look at your brake pads, and replace wiper blades when they start skipping on the windshield.
What Needs be Inspected
There are several things that need to be inspected and get inspected when you take your vehicle in for any kind of service. However, there are somethings that will not be checked unless it is for a diagnosis.
Things like fluids can and should be checked weekly. That being said, it is extremely easy to open the hood of your vehicle and check things like oil and coolant both of which are vital to the engine running.
A battery should be checked with every service. It will tell you where your battery stands and will give you a general idea about how long you have to replace it.
If your battery test bad at your service, you generally have about six months to a year to replace it. When a battery goes bad it can typically leave you stranded when you have to be somewhere important.
Belts and hoses should be inspected at every service. Belts are inspected for cracks and tension while, hoses are inspected for swelling and leaks.
Wiper blades are inspected by spraying the washer fluid on windshield allowing the wipers to run. If any streaking or noises are heard, then it is safe to say that you need wiper blades.
Other tell-tale signs that I wiper blade is bad are when the wiper blades are torn and not performing as designed.
Spark plugs and spark plug wires (for older vehicles) or ignition coils (for newer vehicles) are inspected or changed out about every 100,000 miles depending on your vehicle. Usually if there is a misfire then either the plugs or ignition source is/are bad.
Tires can be checked at home without any hassle or tread depth checkers. All you need is a penny placed on the tire wear bar with Lincoln’s head facing you, if you can see more of Lincoln’s head then you need tires soon.
The alignment cannot be checked at home but can be checked by a shop with an alignment machine.
Some filters are easily checked like the engine air filter. However, the cabin air filter and the fuel filter (if available) are not so easy.
Given that all newer vehicles will not have a serviceable fuel filter, the older vehicles do. The fuel filter on older vehicles could be in the engine bay or along the underside of the vehicle along the frame rail.
All newer vehicles have a cabin air filter located in the cabin of the car behind the dash unit. Some are easily removed, and some are extremely difficult to remove and check.
- Power Steering Fluid
- Brake Fluid
- Transmission Fluid
- Transfer Case Fluid
- Differential Fluid
Checking the fluid in your vehicle can be easy if the fluid is available like oil, coolant, and brake fluid. However, some vehicles will not have serviceable fluids like transmission and power steering fluid.
With vehicles having electronic steering assist and electronic steering, power steering reservoirs were removed along with the power steering pumps. That being said, vehicles with electronic steering are easier to turn and require less maintenance than vehicles with regular power steering.
Checking the power steering fluid in your vehicle (if applicable) should be done weekly to ensure that there are no leaks and there is no air in the system causing a whine like sound.
Checking the oil in your vehicle should be done weekly. Solely for the reason of if you have an oil leak all of the oil can leak out and cause your engine to lock up.
If the oil is leaking there will be traces of oil escaping from around gaskets over your engine. You should have an auto shop diagnose where the oil is coming from and have the worn-out part replaced.
Coolant levels should be checked weekly as well because parts of the cooling system can leak over time. If the coolant level is low, then be sure to add coolant to the max level on the reservoir.
If the engine in your vehicle gets too hot, eventually other problems might arise resulting in greater problems down the road. Some of these problems could be as extreme as a new engine being needed for your vehicle.
Brake fluid helps translate the pedal being pressed by your foot to stopping power to stop the vehicle. If your brake fluid is low or discolored, then problems can arise.
When air gets trapped in the braking system, it can cause an incredibly soft (or spongy) pedal preventing the brakes from doing their job as designed. With a soft pedal more force is required to stop the car meaning the pressure used before will not suffice to stop the car intime ultimately resulting in a crash.
If brake fluid becomes discolored, then it is contaminated and should be flushed soon.
Belts or Chains
- Timing Belts or Chains
- Serpentine or V-Belts
Checking serpentine or V-belts is easier than checking timing belts and timing chains because they are located on the outside of the engine and help to turn the alternator to charge the battery, power-steering pump (if equipped) to help make turning the vehicle easier when stopped, and the A/C compressor to help col the interior of the car off during a hot day. Serpentine belts are checked simply by shining a flashlight over the belt itself and checking for any cracks in the grooves of the belts.
If any cracks are found in the belts it is time to replace them, otherwise it can be catastrophic in the future as the belts can break and you can lose everything running in your car. Things that can happen if the belt breaks are, loss of power-steering, loss of air conditioning, and the car can die because the alternator is not charging the battery.
Timing belts and chains on the other hand are not easily checked. That is to say, they are incredibly important to keeping your engine running in your vehicle.
If a timing belt or chain fails, the engine could lock up. Timing chains will not fail in the way that a timing belt will, but over time the chain wears out and other components fail that help guide the chain.
A Timing belt can fail in a couple different ways. The belt itself can break causing the engine to not run, or the components guiding the belt can fail.
Either way if not checked and changed regularly then other issues may arise in the future. Belts and chains have about the same time intervals for replacing parts. However, the interval is different for each vehicle manufacturer.
- Ignition Coil Packs
- Spark Plugs
Sparkplugs and wires are important to keep replaced because they are some of the few things that help keep your engine running at peak performance at all times. Plugs and wires (or coil packs for newer cars) should always be replaced at the same time.
This is to prevent further problems and having to buy multiples of an item over and over again. All plugs and wires are always replaced when there is a misfire with the engine or at a certain time or mileage based on the manufacturer.
Ignition coil packs are how the newer vehicles get the fire into the combustion chamber (or cylinder) since plug wires and distributors have been replaced.
- Brake Pads or Shoes(drums)
- Brake Rotors or Drums
- Brake Lines
- Calipers or Wheel Cylinders(drums)
We have talked about the brake fluid and how it causes a soft pedal when it becomes low and how you should flush the system when it becomes discolored, now we are going to talk about the brake components and what to look for.
Brake components wear out over time especially pads and shoes. However, other brake components such as the rotors, the brake lines, and the calipers or wheel cylinders can also wear out.
As you hit the brakes on your vehicle the components heat up from the friction and heat of the pads. This heat can cause rotors to form hotspots and or become warped over time.
If the pads or shoes wear down too much the wheel cylinders or calipers can overextend rendering them unusable. When that happens, you will have to replace the calipers or wheel cylinders before you drive the vehicle again.
There are 2 types of brake lines on all vehicles, there is a rubber line connecting the wheels to a hard steel line that runs underneath the body. When the rubber line leaks, air can get in the system and cause a soft pedal, or all the fluid can leak out.
With a hard steel line, the only way for the fluid to leak out of the line is if there is a rust hole somewhere in the system. If either line has a hole or is leaking, consider replacing all brake lines.
- Check Charge
- Clean Terminals
Batteries can be easily neglected in the sense of recommended maintenance. The main reason behind this is “if it starts up just fine my battery is fine”.
This is sometimes the case; however, batteries can test bad and only have a limited life span. When a battery test bad you typically have about six months to a year to replace it otherwise you will be left one day with a dead battery either at home or at work.
Checking the charge on a battery is extremely easy if you have a multimeter, just put the red lead on the positive terminal and put the black lead on the negative terminal. If you have the leads reversed the reader will give you a negative voltage that will be the same as if the leads were on the right terminals.
When you check the voltage of the battery make sure that the car is NOT running otherwise you will get the voltage coming off the alternator charging the battery. It is best to check the voltage weekly and first thing in the morning especially if your battery recently tested bad.
If you live in an area where road salt or salty air (near an ocean) then terminal corrosion is highly likely and should be cleaned. When not taken care of the corrosion will cause a false reading and the battery will fail prematurely as it tries to output more voltage to make up for the added resistance.
When the terminals are cleaned you will notice that the terminals will be a copper color. To further protect the terminals, you will need some type of terminal protector that you can spray on or spread over the terminals.
- Air Pressures
- Tread Depth
- Age of Tires
Tires like everything else on your vehicle need attention, more to the point of the different signs that tires need to be replaced. There are many different ways to tell if a tire is in dire need of being replaced.
Some ways are when the steel chord is showing on any part of the tire, there is no tread left on the tire (a bald tire), or if your tire is missing chunks of the tread are just a few ways to tell if you need tires.
However, there are more ways to tell if you need tires. Most shops will go by age of the tire and tread left of the tire and these are particularly important for the driver to know as it gives you the driver an estimate on how long your tires have before they are in need of replacement.
There are more ways to tell if you need tires, for instance if the air pressures are low on your vehicle and you happen to get damage on your sidewall from riding with low are pressure. Sometimes there is damage you cannot see right away until the tire is removed from the rim.
Other problems can cause premature tire wear like poor alignment, worn out components, or out of balance tires. If your alignment is out the tires will wear out depending on where the alignment is out.
However, tires that are out of balance can cause premature wear to the suspension components thus in turn causing tire wear issues.
The wipers of your vehicle are especially important as they help you see in the rain, and they do not always need to be replaced. Wipers can be cleaned a few times before needing to replace them.
To clean the wipers just take a rag and some brake parts cleaner and soak the rag in the cleaner and wipe it on the wedge (rubber part) of the wiper blade and run your wipers a few times with the washer fluid and repeat until there are no streaks in the window.
However, this does not work if the wipers are torn or missing the rubber portion. If this is the case wipers are needed on the vehicle.
Some wipers are cheap and are easily replaced however, the beam wiper blades are more expensive to replace. Some cars still use a cheaper wiper blade while all vehicles can be equipped with the more expensive option.
Wiper blades like the beam work better up north as they do not allow snow and ice to build up around the spaces on the inside of the wiper because there is no space for build up to happen. When the build up of snow and ice happen on a wiper blade it can make the wiper less effective as it wipes away the snow.
That being said, cheaper wipers are better suited for the hotter climates as the rubber wedge tends to become brittle in the heat.
- Fuel Filters
- Engine Air Filters
- Cabin (Pollen) Filters
Filters do a wide range of things for our cars and trucks. Engine air filters filter out dust and dirt to keep the engine running smooth.
Cabin air filters or pollen filters filter out the air in the car or truck, so you do not breathe in any allergens. While fuel filters filter dirt and particles out of the fuel as to not clog the fuel injectors or carburetor jets on the older vehicles to keep the engine running in peak performance.
All of the newer vehicles from 2010 and newer will have a cabin air filter to change out but will not have a fuel filter. That is to say, some of the older vehicles will have a cabin air filter but not very many will have this filter.
The fuel filters on vehicles are usually along the frame of the vehicle, while many of the older classics had a fuel filter in the engine bay. The serviceable fuel filters were discontinued sometime during the 2000’s.
- Clay Bar Paint
- Clean Interior
- Condition Seats
Detailing a vehicle is a relaxing way to spend a nice bright sunny weekend. By detailing your vehicle you can count on the fact that there will not be any new scratches in the paint.
Washing your car by hand is on of the most satisfying and relaxing things that you can do. When done you et a sense of accomplishment that you performed something.
Waxing your car or truck is no different. It leaves you with a brilliant shine that looks like it just rolled off the showroom floor.
Clay barring your vehicle does take some effort, but the feel of the paint is worth it. When you clay bar your car you are removing all the fine particulates that get stuck in the clear coat of the paint.
As you drive small particles of dust get stuck in the clear coat as the heat bears down on your car. When you wash your car these dust particles can cause scratches known as swirl marks on the surface of your vehicles paint job.
To get rid of these swirl marks a vehicle can be cut and polished to remove the scratches on the surface of your vehicles paint.
Cleaning the inside of your vehicle is no easy feat depending on what you do. If you get in your vehicle and your clothes or shoes are dirty, that dirt will transfer to your vehicle’s interior.
The dirt and grim are not so noticeable with darker interior but if you have a light interior everything will be noticed, and it is harder to clean. However, if cleaned regularly the dirt will not have a chance to seep into the interior of the vehicle and will not be as much a hassle and permanently stained interiors are to clean.
If you have leather seats you can condition them to keep them fresh and to keep them from cracking from use and age. Leather conditioner is sold where all automotive cleaners are sold.
Gaskets and Seals
Gaskets and seals are made up of different types of material such as cork, metal, fiber, rubber, or a mixture of materials. However, depending on the year make and model of your vehicle the seals and gaskets can be different.
That being said, all gaskets go bad over time and need to be replaced if they spart leaking.
When Should Items be Inspected or Replaced
Items on your vehicle go bad over time, this list will help you decide when to do a service on your car and what you can wait on. However, the recommended services suggested by the people who work on your vehicle should not be ignored.
If ignored the repairs on your car could be major.
Here is a list of maitenance schedules according to The Drive of what should be replaced on your car and when it should be replaced.
- Battery- Replace every 3-5 years.
- Brake pads- Inspect every 5,000 miles, replace every 25,000-65,000 miles.
- Brake rotors- Replace roughly every 40,000-70,000 miles.
- Brake fluid- Replace roughly every 20,000-50,000 miles, depending on vehicle.
- Ball joints- Inspect and replace as necessary.
- Bushings- Inspect and replace as necessary.
- Cabin air filter- Replace roughly every 15,000-20,000 miles depending on where you live and how often you run the A/C or heat in your vehicle.
- Coolant- Coolant is rated to last about three to five years, or about 150,000 miles.
- Differential fluid- Follow manufacturer instructions and specifications.
- Engine air filter- Replace every 20,000-30,000 miles, depending on driving condition and location.
- Fuel filter- Replace roughly every 20,000-60,000 miles but consult manufacturer specifications.
- Hoses- Inspect and replace as necessary.
- Ignition coil packs (for newer vehicles)- Replace roughly every 100,000 miles.
- Oil and filter change- depending on the type and age of the vehicle and type of oil, change every 3,000-15,000 miles.
- Power steering fluid- Follow manufacturer instructions and specifications.
- Serpentine belt- Inspect and potentially replace at roughly 40,000-60,000 miles, replace no matter condition at 90,000-100,000 miles.
- Shocks- Inspect during brake pad replacement and replace when necessary.
- Spark plugs and Wires (for older vehicles)- Replace roughly every 20,000-40,000 miles.
- Struts- Inspect during brake pad replacement and replace when necessary.
- Timing belt- Inspect at roughly 60,000-100,000 miles.
- Tire tread- Tire tread can easily be checked monthly using the coin test, and tires should be rotated roughly every 5,000 miles.
- Tire pressure Walk around the car and do the eye test once a week (or every day) and use a tire pressure gauge to check pressure roughly once a month.
- Tire rotation- Rotate roughly every 5,000 to 6,000 miles.
- Transmission fluid- Replace at approximately 100,000 miles.
- Windshield washer fluid- Replace when it runs out.
- Windshield wipers- Replace roughly every 6-12 months depending on season and where you live.
- Gaskets- Replace when leaking.
As parts go bad, they should be replaced. However, some parts are better left replaced by the professionals.
Every part that is replaced helps to extend the life of your vehicle by preventing costly repairs in the future.
Always remember to consult your owner’s manuals for recommended services to perform. If you have had any experiences dealing with costly repairs or have repaired your vehicle yourself leave a comment down below and I will reply in a timely manor.