Two years of auto mechanic schooling at NICC taught me a lot of in-depth things about an automobile that can be very beneficial to know, but it’s not always these things that I find myself continuing to go back to. More often it’s the little simple things that can make the difference in our lives, and our automobiles are no different. In school we learned there are seven important maintenance areas that just about every car owner can do themselves to help ensure their vehicle remains dependable, especially as the vacation season approaches.
Some easy do-it-yourself maintenance can prevent vehicle troubles on your vacation this summer.
1. Check the oil
Check the level and condition of the car’s motor oil. It’s important for the longevity of your engine life to change the oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles or follow what’s in the owner’s manual. If it’s time for an oil change, be sure to get it done before your trip.
2. Inspect the battery
Make sure your car’s battery and cables are securely attached and free of corrosion. A car battery typically lasts three to five years. If you’re in that window, you may want to consider replacing the battery before it leaves you stranded.
3. Try the lights
It’s important that you’re able to see and be seen on the road. So check headlights, brake lights and turn signals and replace any burned-out lights. This procedure helps with the safety of you and your family, but also can prevent any unwanted faulty equipment tickets.
4. Kick the tires
Take a close look at your tires. Good, well-maintained tires are critical to braking and steering. Make sure the tread has plenty of depth. A good gage for this is if you take a penny and stick it in the groove, Lincoln’s head shouldn’t be fully exposed. Also be sure there are no gouges in the sidewall of the tires. You’ll also want to watch out for bulges and bald spots on your tires. If you find anything that looks suspicious, it may be time for some new tires. If it looks funny, it may be best to ask a professional.
Compare the pressure in your tires with the recommended pressure listed in your owner’s manual and on the placard in your car door. Be sure to check tire pressure when your tires are cold early in the morning after your car has been idle overnight. Also, be sure to check the pressure in your spare tire. A lot of people neglect that, and in the event of needing that spare tire, it’s equally important that the spare is properly inflated to get you to your destination.
5. Check wiper blades and fluids
Do your wipers give you a smear-free view when it rains? If not, replace them before your trip. Don’t forget to top off your wiper fluid.
Check the level of coolant or antifreeze. Top off with a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water as needed. If the coolant level is too low, your car could overheat which can lead to more costly repairs.
Other important fluids to check include brake fluid, power steering fluid and transmission fluid. If you don’t feel confident checking these on your own, take your car to a mechanic.
6. Tighten the gas cap
The gas cap on your vehicle needs to be on tight, and you need to have the right one. If this cap is not secure, gas will evaporate from your tank as you drive costing additional money and on some models can even trigger a service engine light to appear on your dash.
7. Check your brakes
It’s critical that your brakes are in tip-top shape before you take off on a long road trip. When in doubt, have your brakes inspected by a mechanic.
If they’re making noises, or if you’re feeling vibrations when you hit the brakes, its time to take your vehicle in. Brakes are an item that are not only a necessity, but if ignored will end up costing you a lot more to repair then if proper attention was given immediately.
I just wanted to share these tips with you all to ensure that your well-deserved vacation isn’t ruined by automotive trouble. From all of us at Northeast Security Bank, travel safe this vacation season!
-Bill Meyer, Vice President, Northeast Security Bank