Any woman who drives a car should know the basics of car maintenance.
Many women (and a lot of men too) don’t understand basic car maintenance. Basic car maintenance is more than just putting gas in your tank. It requires that you know your car inside and out. That way you understand when your car needs to go into the shop for a repair or regularly scheduled service. Basic car maintenance tasks like checking and adding oil, putting in windshield wiper fluid and replacing worn out tires are easily understood. In this article, we’ll go over some systems of your vehicle and what to look out for so you’ll know when to take your car to a mechanic or your dealership and tell them exactly what’s going on.
Your car’s brake system provides critical support for your safety. You should check it immediately if you suspect you have problems. Brakes begin their work when you push on the brake pedal. The force of that push generates hydraulic pressure in the master cylinder. This pressure flows through the hydraulic lines and hoses to the wheel cylinders and calipers. That forces the shoes to go press on the drums (drum brakes) and the pads against the rotors (disc brakes). The friction that results will slow the vehicle down and cause it to stop.
Chances are you’ll need to replace your brakes at least once during the time you have your car. You should avoid letting your brakes get to the metal to metal point – when you can hear them squeak each time you press down on them. That means expensive rotor replacement and can be an unsafe environment for you to be driving in.
Symptoms to look out for when the brakes need repairing are:
- Vehicle pulls to one side when braking
- Pulsating brake pedal or the steering wheel shakes when you go to brake
- Brake pedal feels “mushy” or “soft” when you touch down on it – meaning you have to press hard to get it to work properly
- Unusual noise when you step on the brake pedal
- Need to add brake fluid on a regular basis
For basic car maintenance, you should check your brakes once a year or every 12,000 miles. Of course, if you have any signs of brake problems, get the car to a mechanic or dealership immediately.
Engine Cooling System
The engine cooling system affects your car’s overall dependability and engine longevity. The key parts of the cooling system remove heat from the engine and automatic transmission and dissipate the heat to the air outside. The water pump circulates coolant throughout the engine. The coolant absorbs the heat then returns to the radiator which then disipates it to the outside air. The thermostat regulates coolant temperature and keeps it consistent, so your engine operates efficiently.
The following factors will affect the replacement of coolant system parts:
- Driving habits
- Operating conditions such as weather
- Type of vehicle you have purchased (See your owner’s manual for more information)
- Type of coolant you use
- Frequency of regular maintenance such as coolant changes
Symptoms that you have a problem with your engine cooling system include:
- A sweet smell
- The repeated need to add coolant to your engine for proper operation
Basic car maintenance requires you to check the coolant at least once a year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Filters and Fluids
Your car’s filters are important to its longevity and interior comfort. You should replace your filters regularly. The oil filter traps contaminants, allowing oil to flow through the engine unrestricted. The fuel filter separates harmful contaminants that may cause problems with carburetors or intricate fuel injectors. The air filter traps dirt particles. They can cause damage to engine cylinder walls, pistons and piston rings. The air filter also keeps contaminants off the air flow sensor in fuel-injected cars. The cabin filter traps pollen, bacteria and dust that may find their way into the car’s ventilation system.
Filters require regular checks and replacement. How much you drive the car, your driving habits, driving and road conditions, type of filter and vehicle type can affect how often to replace the the filters. Signs that you need a filter replacement are poor gas mileage, hesitation in the car while accelerating and a musty odor smell inside the car. Basic car maintenance rules require that you check your air filter every three months or 3,000 miles and your cabin air filter once a year or every 12,000 miles.
Of course, there are many other systems of the car. These are some of the main ones. Other maintenance tasks can include checking your lights and windshield wipers. If a light is out, you’ll want to make sure you get it repaired immediately. It’s unsafe for your lights not to work and also illegal in many states. Your windshield wipers keep dirt, snow and rain off your windshield so you can see while you drive. They may need replacement when they start squeaking. You can usually replace them yourself. If not, a mechanic can easily do it for you.
You’ll also want to make sure your electrical system works. If the battery is not fully charged, the car may not even start. It could be an alternator problem as well. If you’ve tried jumping the battery and the car still will not start, have it towed to a shop and repaired.
Remember, basic car maintenance doesn’t have to be hard. It requires vigilance on your part and a basic understanding of your vehicle. When something goes awry, your vehicle will give you signs and symptoms. Be careful to watch out for them. You can also check out this great resource at http://www.carcare.org/.