Checkup time!

checklistGetting regular checkups for your vehicle is part of being a responsible car owner. It’s also important to listen to your car. A shaking steering wheel, sweet smell of coolant, or rough idle will clue you in to problems before your car leaves you stranded.

Not only do routine check-ups help prevent unexpected damage, they decrease the odds of getting stuck with costly repairs. A little money invested now could save you thousands of dollars in the future. By maintaining your car per manufacturer recommendations, the life expectancy of your vehicle will increase.

Getting a quick, multipoint inspection, particularly before you head out on a long road trip should be at the top of your to-do list. Your local dealership most likely offers this service at little to no cost to you.

If you’re not sure when you’re supposed to take your car in to have a regularly scheduled check-up, consult your owners manual. However, a good rule of thumb is to take it in every 30,000 miles. When you go in for your scheduled maintenance check, ask to see what the technician inspects. Most places will be happy to explain it to you.

You might be wary that your dealer, or even an aftermarket shop, will try to up-sell you to make a quick buck. However, most places nowadays are more interested in educating you on your car’s needs than taking you for every penny. Whether they educate you or not, it’s good to do some research and verify what they are telling you and that the pricing is fair.

Air filters
You may be familiar with what happens when a home’s furnace filter is dirty and how the restricted air flow affects the furnace’s ability to properly heat the entire house. Your car’s engine faces a similar struggle when it has a dirty air filter. You might not think to check the filter when your car seems to be running fine, but a clogged air filter can affect your gas mileage and acceleration.

Fluids
You may know how to check your oil, but what about your vehicle’s other fluids? In addition to verifying they’re at the proper levels, make sure the color and clarity are appropriate for each specific fluid. For example, engine coolant is typically green, but it fades as it loses potency, which could lead to an overheated engine. It’s best to have your fluids checked regularly by an experienced technician.

Battery
A typical car battery lasts three to five years, but there are drains on the battery even when the engine is off, especially from alarm and aftermarket stereo systems. Corrosion on a battery’s terminals signals a problem, but even if the battery looks OK and seems to be running well, it could be nearing the end of its life. Have it tested whenever you take your vehicle in for service.

Brake pads
Knowing when to replace brake pads is easy, right? When you hear them squeal, take your vehicle to the shop. Well, it’s not that simple. Although brake pads are designed to squeal when they need to be replaced, brake-pad problems (such as uneven wear) can occur even when the brakes are silent and seem to work well. A certified auto technician has both the experience and the tools needed to check them properly.

Belts and hoses
It’s a good idea to periodically open your vehicle’s hood when the engine is cold and inspect its belts and hoses. This simple inspection can bring to light potentially serious problems, but an experienced auto technician can identify problems you might miss, such as a slipping serpentine belt that can damage the engine accessories it powers.

Here is a list of what you need to check.

Regular Checks
• Check your tires at least every other week with a tire pressure gauge to make sure they’re inflated properly
• Visually check for body and bumper damage
• Visually check for leaking fluids underneath the vehicle, such as oil, power steering, brake, or transmission fluid
(Water condensation dripping from your AC is normal)
• Look for smoke in exhaust, aside from normal diesel emissions or startup fumes
• Watch for engine or fluid warning lights; these should be promptly addressed
• Headlights, turn signals and brake lamps checklist
• Windshield wipers

 Under the Hood
• Check your engine oil level and cleanliness
• Look at your antifreeze/coolant level
(never attempt to remove the radiator cap while the engine is hot)
• Check your brake and power steering fluid levels
• Monitor your transmission fluids
• Inspect your belts
• Air filter
• Spark plugs and cables
• Engine timing belt

 

A regular check-up is one of the most important things you should do as a vehicle owner. Not only will it keep your car in peak working condition, it will potentially save you money down the road. Visually inspect what you can, and when suggested by your car’s manufacturer, take it in for service. After all, if you treat your car well, it will reciprocate by running well for years to come.