The number one priority is to know your vehicle. The manual or handbook manufacturers provide is not just something that you toss in your glove box and forget about. It contains all the basics. Types of fuel required, size of your gas tank, type of engine, tire size, tire inflation, fuse replacement specifications and diagrams, instrument panel diagram, and usually a general maintenance schedule.
This schedule outlines when to change your oil and filters, rotate tires and change of seasonal considerations, such as adding antifreeze and summer coolants. If your have a manufactures warranty, then you may be obligated to follow this schedule. Any problems that may occur in the future, found to be casused by matinenance neglect, may not be covered or may void your warranty.
It is wise to set up a log book to keep track of all maintenance, fuel consumption and driving practices. This will give you, at a glance, a good history of your vehicle should you need it.
The first consideration is fuel. Most newer cars require leaded gas. This comes in various grades from regular to super or premium.
The difference is the amount of octane added. Most gas stations offer three grades of octane. Regular is usually 87, then a mid-grade would be 89, and premium 92 or 93 octane. These ratings measure a gasoline's ability to resist engine knock, which can result from premature ignition. There is a general consensus that putting premium gasoline does little more for any engines performance then does the regular or mid-grade gas.
Most manufactures suggest that oil and filters be changed every 3,000 miles. This insures that the oil circulating through your engine maintains optimum viscosity. As the engine heats, so does your oil and over time, it will thicken and pick up debris from the friction of working parts. Ignoring this could cause major damage to internal parts and end up costing you a new engine.
It is always a good idea to get recommendations from friends who have had a positive experience at a reputable repair facility.
Most shops will also top off your fluids such as, brake and transmission and check the ration of coolant/anti-freeze to water in your radiator. They may also check your air filter. These do not always need replacement each oil change, so make sure the technician shows you the air filter before agreeing to a new one. An air filter that is more then 3/4 full or darkened, may not perform well and should be changed. One with slight discoloration or darkening can usually wait until next oil change.
If the mechanic suggests other parts replacements, you should ask why he feels this is necessary and to show you the worn part first.
For those who would prefer to check their fluids, tires, etc. refer to your owners manual.
Always have work done at a reputable shop. An excellent tool in finding a qualified repair facility is the AAA Auto Club of America.
Now you have some basic information to help you avoid unnecessary repairs, parts replacement, and/or inflated costs.
Getting a 'feel' of your car is the best way to stay on top of potential problems. So, get out that manual handbook. Read it. Follow suggested maintenance schedules, keep it handy and always keep your log book up to date.
Here is a maintenance schedule that should work best for the longest life of your car:
- Change oil, oil filter, and lube - Every 3,000 miles
- Change fuel filter - Every 12,000 to 15,000 miles
- Change engine coolant - Every 2 years if coolant is green (4 years if red)
- Change PCV Valve - Every 40,000 miles
- Change spark plug and tune-up - Every 25,000 miles pre 1998 (50,000 for '99 & on)
- Change timing belts - Usually every 60 to 80,000 miles (check owners manual)
- Change transmission fluid & filter - Every 30,000 miles
- Change power sterring fluid - Every 30,000 miles
- Rotate tires & balance if necessary - Every 5,000 miles
- Replace cabin air filter - Every 15,000 miles