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General Tips for Car Care and Maintenance

By Charles Hopkins Published 07/6/2006 | Auto and Trucks

For many of us, an automobile is a major purchase. Naturally, we want to make sure we get the most for our money. One way is to make sure we properly maintain and care for the car. Here's a few tips on how to keep your vehicle looking and running like new.

First thing, keep those fluids fresh and change those filters on time. It doesn't matter if the car still sounds fine. When you choose to let that oil change go for too long after the specifications recommended by the engine manufacturer, you are in effect saying you do not mind sludge buildup or the gradually decreased efficiency that will eventually result. Filters that are too clogged with gunk to protect your engine further do nothing but add to the problem. Keep on a schedule with all your fluid changes.

If you choose to do the oil change yourself, make sure you use the correct grade of oil, and don't run down to the local discount store and pick up a brand you never heard of, just because it is cheap. You will get what you pay for. Purchase a grade that meets standards for your engine and don't sweat the extra pennies. 

Every car needs a regular regimen of tune-ups. Just as with the fluid changes, set up a schedule and stick to it. Because there is some variance in exactly what constitutes a tune-up, get your mechanic to tell you everything that will be done for your car. Compare it with some other reputable places around town. You may find that you can get a more thorough service done elsewhere and for close to the same amount of money.

Don't neglect checking the battery on a regular basis. Pay attention to the condition of the cables.  Make sure they fit snugly and properly and that they stay free of any type of corrosion. As for the battery itself, check the water level and examine the battery from time to time to make sure there are no cracks or bulges in the battery case itself.

Moving on from the engine area, make sure to check the tires. Examine them for any uneven wearing of the treads. That is a sure sign you need the tires balanced, if not aligned. Make sure to keep them inflated to a proper amount of pressure. Poorly inflated tires not only impact your mileage, but also increase the rate of wear on the tires themselves.

Your windshield wipers are one tool you probably give no thought about until you need them. Even if it only rains two days out of the year where you live, check the wipers regularly. Make sure the rubber is not worn or dried out. Wiper blades that have seen better days are a great way to add streaks to your windshield. In addition, they can fall apart at the most inopportune time. 

At least once a month, check the radiator fluid level. Running the car without a proper level may not automatically translate into a smoking mess by the side of the road, but you will be doing permanent damage to both the radiator and the engine. Make sure the mixture of water to coolant is within manufacturer specifications. One tip about checking the radiator: make sure the engine is completely cool before you remove the pressure cap. Hot fluid and your skin is not a good match.

Lastly, do not neglect your brakes. Have the pads checked regularly, as well as the drums. If you find that your car has begun to make any type of unusual sound when you apply the breaks, do not shrug it off. Take it to a mechanic immediately.

Cars are almost a necessity in today's world. Make sure your main mode of transpiration stays in top condition. You'll be glad you did.