What does my car need? Car care explained
Why do some cars break all the time while others last with no problems? Is it only because of the design and manufacturing quality? Can a good maintenance prevent problems? For example, what can make your engine last longer?
How to take care of a car engine?
It's actually easy. What does your engine need? First, it needs to be well lubricated. When you use good oil, do your oil changes in time and keep the oil level from dropping, your engine purrs as good as new.
Second, any mechanical device, including your engine, doesn't like overheating.
Coolant leaks out and evaporates over time, it needs to be topped up.
The number one reason for overheating is the low level of the cooling fluid (antifreeze). Over time, rubber hoses and other parts of the cooling system degrade and start leaking. When you check your parking spot and have your car serviced regularly, a small coolant leak will be caught before the coolant level drops dangerously low.
Third, there are also a few things in your engine that wear out. An air filter, drive belt, timing belt and spark plugs need to be replaced before they can cause problems. Does a turbocharger need any maintenance? No, but a turbocharger is like a demanding boss, it makes your engine work harder. This means everything wears faster. A turbocharged engine needs high-quality oil and more frequent oil changes. Read more:
How often should you change oil in your car
How to check oil in a car
When a drive belt should be replaced in your car?
When does the timing belt need to be replaced
When does the timing chain need to be replaced?
How often should an engine air filter be changed?
When do spark plugs need to be replaced?
When does the valve cover gasket need to be replaced?
When does a throttle body need to be serviced?
How often does a car need a tune-up?
Does a transmission need any maintenance?
It was easy to keep the transmission in good shape when there was a transmission dipstick. Check the fluid and change it when it gets dirty. If you are towing a trailer, install an additional transmission fluid cooler. Talk to people who rebuild transmissions and they will tell you that so many transmission problems are caused by overheating.
Now some car manufacturers don't equip their transmissions with a dipstick and don't include transmission fluid change into the maintenance schedule saying "Don't worry, it's filled for life". Yeah, right! Why does the search term "transmission problems" keeps trending on Google?
Read more: When should you change your automatic transmission fluid?
Do brakes need any maintenance?
Brakes are like many other underneath components of your car: there are rarely any symptoms until they are completely worn out. For this reason, the only way to keep them safe is to have them inspected regularly. Do brakes need servicing or adjustment? Yes, if pads or calipers are sticking or a parking brake is getting loose, the brakes might need to be serviced. Read more:
Why a steering wheel shakes when braking at high speed?
How often do brakes need to be serviced?
We all know that tires wear out over time, but is there any thing you can do to make them last longer? Yes!
Keep the tire pressure up to specs. Have the tire rotation done as often as recommended. In some cars, if not rotated regularly, tires may need replacement in as early as 15,000 miles.
If you notice that the steering wheel is off center when driving straight or the vehicle pulls to one side when driving on a level road, have the wheel alignment checked and adjusted. When it's time to replace your tires, shop around. Some tires are known to wear fast, others last much longer. It's also a good idea to do the wheel alignment when installing new tires.
When do tires need to be balanced?
When should tires be replaced?
How often should the wheel alignment be done?
Steering and suspension
Struts, shock absorbers, control arms and other parts of the steering and suspension work hard to keep your vehicle riding smoothly, but mileage, corrosion and potholes take their toll. If any of the important under-vehicle components shows signs of wear, it must be replaced before it fails to keep the vehicle safe.
The problem is that often there are no warning signs when some part underneath is worn out. That's why we recommend taking your vehicle at least once or twice a year for service to a reputable repair shop or dealer where it can be raised on the lift and checked from underneath.
When struts and shock absorbers should be replaced?
When do coil springs need replacing in a car?
When to replace sway bar links?
When does a tie rod end need to be replaced?
When do the control arms need to be replaced?
How often should the wheel alignment be done?
About maintenance schedules
Your vehicle's maintenance schedule lists basic regular services that your car needs and recommended mileage intervals when those services need to be done. Checking your maintenance schedule might be useful when your dealer or a repair shop suggests some additional services that "are recommended at this mileage." You can find the maintenance schedule in your car's owner's manual or in a separate brochure that came with your car. Some car manufacturers post maintenance schedules online; here are a few links:
- Find a maintenance schedule in the Warranty and Maintenance Guide that you can download in the pdf format (Follow the tab "Resources" and select "Manuals and Warranty")
Nissan Maintenance Schedules
Chevrolet Maintenance Schedule
Ford, Lincoln & Mercury Maintenance Schedule
Hyundai Recommended Maintenance Schedules
Mazda Manuals and References
Typically, there are two maintenance schedules; one for normal and one for severe driving conditions. 'Severe' conditions include extreme hot and below-freezing temperatures, towing a trailer, driving only short trips, off-roading, racing, etc. The main difference is that the schedule for severe conditions recommends shorter service intervals.
Many newer car (e.g. BMW, Honda, GM) have an in-vehicle maintenance reminder that will display when your next maintenance service is due. One thing to be aware of is that these systems have limited capabilities. For example, in many cars the maintenance reminder system may calculate when your next oil change is due, but it might not know if your engine oil level dropped.
It's also worth noting that industry experts don't always agree with car manufacturers in terms of maintenance requirements. In recent years, car manufacturers increasingly compete for lower ownership costs. As a result, it's not uncommon to see less stringent maintenance requirements, for example, 10,000- or 15,000-mile recommended oil change intervals. However most car experts will probably tell you that your car needs more frequent services.