It’s true – car maintenance can sometimes get in the way of life. However, making sure that your vehicle is properly maintained when it needs to be will help to ensure that you don’t spend precious time stuck on the side of the road when you could be spending it on things you cherish. Being aware of these 12 common car maintenance mistakes will help you in the long run.
Ignoring the Check Engine Light
It can be easy to ignore the Check Engine light. The light comes on and your car seems to be operating as it normally would and you might figure, “Well, everything seems fine, I’ll take care of it soon.” But other things come up, it gets put off, and one day your car could breakdown. As difficult as it might be to find the time to have your vehicle seen by a mechanic when that dashboard light first comes on, it really is best to have it seen as soon as possible because the longer you wait, the higher the costs could be for repairs. In other words, a little time spent having it fixed right away could save you a lot of money in the long run.
Not Checking your Tire Pressure
It is a common mistake to forget to check the air pressure in ones tires because, from the looks of it, the tires are properly inflated. Looks can be deceiving. Even when tires appear to be properly inflated, they could be low on air. While the tires may not blow out, low tire pressure could lead to poor fuel economy so your wallet could still be affected. It is also easy for tires to lose air pressure – as easy as running over a pothole. The weather outside has a big effect on your tire pressure. Tires lose 1 to 2 lbs. of air pressure for every 10° the temperature drops outside. Therefore, it is best to check your tire pressure regularly because you never know when it might be low. After all, the last thing you want is a flat tire and/or poor gas mileage.
Ignoring your TPMS Light
If your Tire Pressure Monitoring System light activates, check your tire pressure. Your TPMS light serves as a warning system informing you when one or more of your tires is deflated beyond what is considered safe by your vehicle’s manufacturer. If this light comes on while you are driving, pull over somewhere safe, preferably your closest open gas station, and verify whether your tire is losing air. If applicable, add air. Occasionally your TPMS sensor may require replacement. If your TPMS is indicating a loss of air pressure, but when you check your tire, all is well, consider TMPS sensor replacement. In addition to the aforementioned benefits of checking your tire pressure, balanced tires promote even tire wear, resulting in a longer tire life and better fuel economy.
Skipping Oil Changes
Motor oil and car engine technology has advanced so much over the years that, depending on the recommendations of your vehicle’s manufacturers, it may no longer be necessary to get an oil change every 3,000 miles – the average oil change interval is around 7,800 miles for today’s cars. This is great news because it means less time and money spent taking your vehicle for an oil change. However, this does not mean that oil changes can be skipped. Your vehicle’s engine needs motor oil to operate properly and without it, the engine seizes up and dies. In order for motor oil to keep your engine running, it can’t be too old. Case in point: if motor oil is left in an engine for too long, the oil begins to break down, which can lead to nasty deposits of sludge in your engine. Instead of lubricating and cooling the engine parts, the oil sludge can damage the parts, which is something you want to avoid at all costs. Getting regular oil changes will help to ensure a long engine life.
Neglecting Fluid Checks
It’s a common misconception that motor oil is the only fluid in the car that needs to be checked and changed. It’s true that motor oil is one of the more critical fluids in your vehicle but there are many other fluids in the car that should be checked, exchanged, and/or topped off. Brake fluid, transmission fluid, engine coolant, and power steering fluid should all be checked and serviced as recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Doing this helps to avoid leaks and keep your vehicle operating properly.
Still Driving when the Engine is Overheating
Even automotive experts have admitted to being guilty of this. They also say that this is not the wisest thing to do. An engine, by nature, gets extremely hot when it runs, requiring a cooling system to avoid overheating. When that system fails (and it can happen to anyone), the vehicle needs to be stopped immediately. In this situation, the best idea is to turn the car off and call for a tow.
Not Using Filters as Recommended
Filters need to be as clean as possible in order to work optimally. Clean filters keep dirt particles and other contaminants from entering your vehicle’s fuel, engine or air conditioning systems. Dirty air filters can lead to a host of issues ranging from causing poor gas mileage to making your engine seize or wearing out system components. Have your filters changed as recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer, and you’ll be glad you did.
Not Inspecting the Brakes
It’s easy to ignore that squealing noise that comes from worn-down brakes. It is easy to convince yourself that the noise is coming from another car or that there is time to spare before you check. The truth is that the brakes are one of the most important components of your car. If they are worn down or not working properly, your vehicle becomes unsafe for you and your passengers. So if you hear a squealing or grinding noise when you brake, have your brake system evaluated as soon as possible.
Not Rotating Tires/Neglecting to get A Wheel Alignment
This can be a simple thing to overlook because you can drive for quite a while without getting an alignment or rotating your tires. Although it might seem like everything is fine, having misaligned wheels can result in real issues. There is only one way to be positive that your tires are properly aligned and that is to have your vehicle’s alignment checked. If a wheel alignment is recommended, it is in your best interest to have it performed. As for tire rotation, most manufacturers recommend that tires be rotated every 5,000 to 10,000 miles but check your owner’s manual to make sure.
Servicing your Own Vehicle without the Proper Know-How
The cool thing about cars these days is that they’re very computerized. There is a computer that monitors various sensors inside the car and uses those sensors to regulate things like idle speed, spark plugs, and fuel injectors, to name a few. If something goes wrong, the computer can sense it and will activate your vehicle’s Check Engine light to alert you to the fact that there is an issue. Since your vehicle is computerized (i.e. complicated), it can be tremendously difficult to fix something yourself if you don’t have the proper tools, knowledge, and diagnostic equipment. As much as it might cost to have a professional technician take a look at your car, you can rest assured that your vehicle will get serviced and/or repaired correctly.
Not changing your Windshield Wipers
Windshield wipers degrade over time. They chatter, they tear and, as a result, leave a streaky wipe behind. The trick is changing your wipers as soon as they don’t clear the windshield well. As they age, wiper blades will leave behind streaks, indicating that it is time to change them. Rain, dew and other precipitation can severely cut down on your ability to see the road and other vehicles clearly so changing your wipers when they wear out is very important. Take the wiper blade challenge to determine whether it’s time to replace your windshield wipers.
Using Home Glass Cleaner to Clean your Rear Windshield
This is a big no-no. Most home glass cleaners use ammonia as a chief cleaning agent. Over time, ammonia will break down the heating elements in your rear windshield. The thin red lines you see are actually small wires designed to bring heat to your windshield to assist with defrosting. It is much safer to use window cleaner designed for automotive glass.