How to check engine oil
Check engine oil
regularly, especially if you notice that the oil level drops between the oil
changes. Engine oil cools down as well as lubricates the engine. Driving with
very low oil level can cause engine problems. Park your vehicle on a level
ground. Set the parking brake and make sure the transmission is in
"Park." Stop the engine. Wait for a minute or two to let engine oil
drain into the oil pan. Pull the engine oil dipstick. If you don't know where
it is located, check your owner's manual, usually it has a bright handle (yellow)
saying "Engine Oil". Wipe the
dipstick off. Insert it back fully. Pull it out again and check the oil level. The
oil level should be between the "Low" and "Full" marks on
the oil dipstick. Check the oils color: If
it's way too black, it's definitely time to change it. If it's brown, but still
clean and transparent, it's OK. If engine oil is of the "coffee with
milk" color it means that engine coolant mixes with oil. This is a sign of
some internal engine problem, such as a leaking head-gasket - have your car
checked out. If oil looks clean, but the level is low, you can just top it up. Use
the recommended type of oil found in your owner's manual or on the oil filler
cap. Example: SAE 5W-20, SAE 5W-20, etc. If your engine requires synthetic oil,
use only synthetic oil. You can find the recommended oil type for your car in
your owner's manual. To simply top off engine
oil, add a little amount of oil into the oil filler neck. Wait for a minute to
let oil to flow into the oil pan. Check the oil level again using the dipstick.
If it's still low, add some more, but don't overfill it. Don't forget to
install the dipstick back and close the oil filler cap when you finished.
How to check engine coolant
Visually check the engine coolant level in the overflow tank. Your owner's manual has the directions. The level should be between "Low" and "Full" marks. (CAUTION!!!! Do not open the radiator cap or the pressurized overflow tank cap when the engine is hot! The cooling system is under pressure when hot and will spray scalding liquid and steam!) If the coolant level is low, you can top it up using recommended type of coolant mixed with water. Again, your owner's manual has the proper way to do it. Add coolant only when the engine is cool. Use only recommended engine coolant. Sometimes engine coolant is sold already premixed with water and sometimes you will have to mix it. Check you owner's manual or read the directions on the coolant bottle. Carefully add the coolant into the overflow tank to make it between "LOW" and "FULL" marks. If the coolant level drops within a short time after topping up, there may be a leak. Have the coolant system checked - lack of coolant may cause the engine to overheat which may result in serious damage.
Engine air filter
The engine air filter keeps the air entering the engine clean, but over time the filter gets dirty and restricts the air flow. The engine air filter is usually recommended to be replaced every 12,000-15,000 miles or 20,000-24,000 km. Typically the air filter gets checked when you bring your car for an oil change. If you want to check it or replace yourself, on most cars and trucks it's a fairly easy task. Your owner's manual has the directions. If you find that the air filter is dirty, replace it; it's not a very expensive part. It's best to use an original air filter that you can purchase from the parts department at your local dealership for around $30. When you are installing the air filter, make sure it's installed correctly; again, check your owner's manual. If the filter is not installed properly, unfiltered air entering the engine could damage the airflow sensor and increase engine wear.
How to check automatic transmission fluid
An automatic transmission depends on the
transmission fluid for transferring engine power to the wheels, shifting gears,
lubricating moving parts and cooling down the transmission. Check the
transmission fluid when your car is serviced and change it as recommended.
Different cars have different ways of checking the transmission fluid level;
some require the engine to be shut off (e.g. Honda), some cars don't have a
transmission dipstick at all and the fluid can only be checked in a repair
shop. Check your owner's manual for proper procedure. This is how the
transmission fluid checked on most cars:
After the vehicle was driven for a while to let the transmission fluid warm up, place your vehicle on a level ground. Set the parking brake. Make sure the transmission is in "P" (Park) position. Leave the engine running. Find the automatic transmission dipstick (your owner's manual will tell you where it is located). Pull the dipstick out.
Wipe the dipstick off with a clean lint-free rag. Insert it back fully. Pull it out again and check the fluid level. A transmission fluid expands when warmed up, so if the car has been driven for a while (20-30 minutes), the transmission level should be between "HOT" marks. If the vehicle is cold, the level should be between "COOL" marks. Check the fluid condition: a very dirty fluid with strong burnt smell is a warning sign of transmission problems. Normally the automatic transmission fluid should be clean and transparent, On most cars the new transmission fluid comes red and over time it becomes brownish. If your fluid looks very dark or dirty, check your owner's manual, maybe it's time to change it. Some manufacturers require you to change the transmission fluid at 30,000 or 50,000 miles, check what your car owner's manual says. If the transmission fluid level is low, you can top it up, but be careful not to overfill it. Overfilling the transmission can cause problems. It's very important to use only specified transmission fluid type - check your owner's manual or simply visit your local dealer, they always have proper transmission fluid in stock. Incorrect fluid type can damage your transmission. How to top up the transmission fluid: Using a thin funnel, add a small amount of the fluid through the dipstick pipe. Wait for a few minutes - let the fluid drain down. Recheck the level again, Don't overfill!
Modern batteries are the fully enclosed type and almost maintenance free. You do need to check the battery condition visually and inspect for any leaks, cracks or other damage that would indicate the battery needs to be replaced. Make sure the battery terminals are tight and not corroded. Corrosion at the battery terminals will cause poor connection, which can result in all kinds of problems, including a no-start. You may find the tips how to clean the battery terminals in your vehicle's owner's manual or online. Just search the internet for How to clean car battery terminals; there are some video instructions available. Use caution, that white flaky corrosion stuff is very acidic.
Replace the wipers at least once a year or earlier if they don't clean the windshield properly. If you still have the original wipers installed, you can just replace the rubber refills; they cost just a few bucks and can be purchased from your local dealership's parts department. Check if the windshield washer jets are working properly.
the tire pressure regularly - at least
once a month. If you don't have a tire pressure gauge, it's worth the
investment to buy a good one. You can find the recommended tire pressure in the
owner's manual, the tire pressure placard (usually located on the driver's door
jamb), inside the gas tank lid or inside the glove box. Measure tire pressure
when the tires are still cold. Inflate or deflate to the recommended pressure.
The maximum pressure listed on tires is NOT the proper pressure! Visually
inspect each tire for proper and even wear. There is a safe limit to tread wear
and if the tire is worn below this limit, it's unsafe to drive (and in some
states it's illegal to drive). Your owner's manual will describe how to measure
tire wear or your automotive technician can check them for you. A vibration in
your steering wheel is an indication your tires may be out of balance or you
may need an alignment. Improper alignment causes increased wear on tires and
suspension components, as well as poor handling. Have the alignment checked if your
vehicle pulls aside, wanders or feels unstable on the road. A properly
performed alignment will make your vehicle more enjoyable to drive.
Front and rear tires wear at different rate and have different wear pattern. On a typical front-wheel drive vehicle, for instance, the front tires would wear out a lot faster than the rear ones if not rotated regularly. By rotating your tires regularly, you are making sure that your tires wear more evenly and last longer. Some manufacturers recommend rotating tires at every oil change, others may recommend to do it at different intervals. Tire rotation pattern is also different for different tires. It's best to check your owner's manual or call your local dealer for exact recommendations for your tires.
Take care of small concerns
As soon as you feel there is something wrong with your car (irregular noise, vibration, shimmer, leaks, warning lights, etc.), have it inspected at a dealership or garage as soon as possible. Not only may it be unsafe to drive, it's definitely better to have any small problems checked and repaired before it leads to something much more serious.
REGULAR MECHANICAL INSPECTIONFor your safety, it is recommended to have your vehicle inspected by a certified technician at least once per year. Not just a visual inspection by one of the fast lube places, but a certified technician that can lift your vehicle and check the major components (brakes, ball joints, tie-rod ends, struts/shocks, etc.) for wear, leaks, damage and so on. Preventative maintenance can save you money by avoiding breakdowns and costly repairs. BUT more importantly…. it can help keep you and your family safe.