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    DIY Car Maintenance Tips

    • Car Maintenance ChecklistDIY Maintenance Articles

      Maintaining a car is not exactly difficult, but with so many things to think about and to check, it is easy to become overwhelmed. This is where a car maintenance checklist comes in handy, as it can help guide you through the process of keeping your car running and looking its best. When making a checklist, you can even personalise it to fit your exact needs. Be sure to include both regularly scheduled maintenance items and things that need checked more frequently.

      Tyres

      Regular checks will help extend the life of your tyres. Tyres wear down gradually making it important to become aware of the condition they are in before you hit the road. Proper tyre maintenance requires three things: checking for wear, maintaining proper pressure and performing a periodic rotation and balance.

      Check Tread Wear

      To check the tread wear, carefully look at the tyre to determine if there are uneven patches of bald spots. If the outer or inner part of the tread is worn significantly, this indicates the tyres need to be rotated or the car itself needs aligned. If the centre of the tyre shows more wear, check the pressure as this can mean the tyre is over-inflated.

      Check Pressure

      Too much pressure can cause the tyre to lose contact with the road. Too little pressure can result in a flat tyre, or even a blowout. To check tyre pressure, first look at the sticker on the inside of the driver's doorjamb. The sticker will indicate the proper PSI for your exact vehicle. Using a manual, digital or dial gauge to determine the amount of pressure in the tyre and compare it to the recommended level. Inflate, or deflate as needed. Tyre gauges are inexpensive and available at most auto part stores

      Rotate and Balance

      Having the tyres regularly rotated and balanced is optimal for keeping tyres in good condition. Many manufacturers recommended having this done every 10 000 to 12 000 km or every six months.

      Check Fluids

      A car uses several different types of fluids to keep the components operating efficiently. Luckily, checking these fluids is simple and takes just a few minutes. When refilling or changing fluids, refer to the vehicle's owner manual to determine the correct type. Oil and other fluids should be checked every couple of weeks, or even sooner if the car is driven quite frequently. Oil changes are recommended roughly every 10 000 to 13 000 km while brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and coolant should be changed every 45 000 to 50 000 km. If any of the fluids appear contaminated, or watered-down, a change should take place sooner.

      Check the Belts and Hoses

      Belts and hoses keep the engine and other components such as the alternator and A/C compressor running properly. Over time and when exposed to extreme conditions, these belts and hoses become worn down. To check the hoses, squeeze them with your thumb and forefinger as close to the clamps as possible. The hoses should be firm, yet pliant. If you feel soft or mushy spots, it is time for a replacement. Also, check for nicks, bulges and cracks. When checking belts, look for cracks, splits or frayed spots. If the belt has a glazed over look, it is at risk of overheating and snapping.

      Check the Coolant System

      The coolant system keeps the engine from overheating by circulating coolant while the car is running. If there is a lack of coolant, or an inadequate ratio of water and coolant, you run the risk of the engine overheating which can lead to significant problems. Most vehicles require a 50/50 ratio of water and coolant. This can be checked easily with a test strip or tester bulb found at auto part stores. Check the coolant weekly, but take care to make sure the car is cooled down before removing the radiator cap. Failure to do so can result in serious burns.

      Check the Battery

      Most car batteries are designed to last for several years. Even new batteries, however, are prone to corrosion build-up on the terminals. Check the battery every couple of weeks. Look for corrosion around the terminals. If this exists, use a wire brush to scrub away as much as possible. Check the cell level of the battery as well. Add distilled water as instructed according to the battery's owner's manual. Take a second to check that the terminals are secure and tight. If the vehicle will be parked for more than a few days, hook the battery to a trickle charger to prevent it from losing its charge.

      Go Over the Exterior

      When washing the car, or filling it up with petrol, inspect the exterior. Check for scratches or dings. If there is tar build-up, wash it away to prevent it from damaging the paint. Check all of the lights to ensure they are operating properly. Inspect the windscreen wipers to determine if they need replaced.

      Maintaining a vehicle does not have to be difficult. When you know what to check for, the process is simple. Keeping a schedule comes in handy, but you can also perform the maintenance at one time. For instance, when you get your oil changed, check all other fluids, along with the belts and hoses.

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    • Best At-Home Car Maintenance TricksDIY Maintenance Articles

      Maintaining your car does not have to be expensive or time consuming. With a few tricks, and even fewer tools, you can keep your car running and looking good without having to visit your local repair shop so often. Some of the items you can use for car maintenance are often found around the house.

      Use Charcoal to Remove Odours

      Keeping the car clean is part of an enjoyable riding and driving experience. Getting your car smelling like new again does not require an expensive detailing job or costly air fresheners. Just throw an open bag of charcoal in the car for a few days and it will naturally absorb odours. Take care to keep the charcoal in the bag to prevent it from turning your interior black.

      Use Vinegar to Remove Stains

      Stains on a car's interior are not uncommon, but thankfully, a bit of vinegar goes a long way in reducing the appearance of those stains. Place vinegar in a spray bottle and spray it thoroughly on the stained areas. Let it sit a few minutes before scrubbing the area with a soft bristled brush. If vinegar is not working, try some club soda. Soak up as much of the liquid as possible when you are finished to prevent it from smelling like mildew.

      Take Photos Before Repairs

      If you are attempting car repairs yourself, but worry that once you take the components apart you will not get them back together properly, take pictures before you begin. Taking several pictures of the setup can help walk you through putting the pieces back into the proper places to finish the repair. If you do not have a camera on hand, it might help to label the components or draw a diagram.

      Use Nail Polish for Scratches

      It is likely that eventually you will find a scratch or two on your car. This does not have to become more than a small scratch however, especially if you have some clear nail polish on hand. Just place a thin coat over the scratch. This will prevent the exposed metal from rusting, which can really save your vehicle's body over time. You can also use touch-up paint designed for cars.

      Use Tyre Pressure Valve Stem Caps

      Under-inflated tyres can decrease petrol performance and increase your chances of a tyre blowing out. Over-inflated tyres can cause the vehicle to lose contact with the road and increase the chance of hydroplaning. To solve this problem, you should check your tyre pressure regularly. To make this even easier, invest in some tyre pressure valve stem caps. These install like regular caps, but turn colours when the pressure is off. For example, when the tyre has too little pressure, the top of the cap turns red.

      Check the Coolant

      Checking the coolant level periodically throughout the year is vital. Low coolant levels can cause catastrophic engine damage, especially if the car overheats for long periods. Just a few minutes of your time can save you thousands in repairs. It is vital to let the car cool down before attempting to remove the radiator cap, as pressure builds inside and this can cause severe injuries.

      Check Oil and Other Fluids

      Oil and other fluids are an essential part of your car functioning properly. When checking the oil, check the other fluids at the same time. This includes the transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid and coolant. If you find yourself constantly topping off one these components, it is a good idea to contact your mechanic, as a leak could be the issue.

      Know the Sounds of Bad Brakes

      Often times when the brakes begin to wear down, they will make plenty of noise to alert you of the issue. Squealing brakes typically indicate that the pads are wearing down, but a metal on metal noise usually indicates the pads have worn so thin that the metal is coming into contact with the rotor. This is not only dangerous, but it can result in expensive repairs. At the first sign of brake problems, you should have them checked and repaired as needed.

      Use a Razor on the Windshield

      If the garden hose or car wash does not rid your windshield of those bugs and other stuck-on pieces, use a razor blade to gently scrape the debris away. Take care of course, as razor blades can pose a danger. After scraping all of the debris, use a squirt of window cleaner and a dry cloth to finish cleaning the window.

      Maintaining a car not only keeps it up and running, but it can keep you safe while you are behind the wheel as well. With a few tricks you can do right at home, car maintenance does not have to break the bank or take too much of your time. Car care is important throughout the year, and especially right before you head out on one of those long road trips.

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    • Does Car Maintenance Change with Mileage?DIY Maintenance Articles

      All cars require a large amount of maintenance and upkeep throughout their lives to stay in peak condition. The amount and type of maintenance changes over time with a car's increasing mileage. Keep your vehicle running like brand new with these maintenance tips for cars of any age.

      Oil and Oil Filter Changes

      Oil changes should be performed around every 5 000 kilometres regardless of total mileage. Changing the oil is a relatively easy home project. To start, lift the car on jacks or ramps. Be sure to attach the jacks or ramps on the strongest parts of the car. You can find jack placement information in the owner's manual. Once the car is raised, place a collection pan beneath the oil pan, which is located close to the engine. Remove the oil plug with a socket or crescent wrench and let the old oil drain out. Then remove the old oil filter, a cylinder about 12 centimetres long. Lubricate the gasket ring of the new filter for better performance, and place it where the old one was. To finish the process, fill the tank with new oil using a funnel and dispose the old oil at a designated site. Make sure to use the correct oil. Although 10W-30 is a good choice in general, some cars may perform even better with other mixes of oil.

      Other Maintenance at 5 000 Kilometres

      When changing oil at every 5 000 kilometre interval, check other basic fluids such as transmission, coolant, power steering and windshield washer, referring to the car's manual for location and ideal amounts of the various fluids. In addition, check tyre air pressure with a pressure gauge and inspect all lights, especially brake and turn signal. If the tyres are low on air, use an air compressor to fill them to safe levels. Replace any lights that do not function properly. This requires replacing the fuse or wiring. If both are intact and the lights still do not work, try repairing the light lenses with a lens repair kit.

      Maintenance Around 50 000 Kilometres

      Start routinely checking the battery, spark plugs, fuel filter, air filter and suspension every 50 000 kilometres. Replace any of these if you notice wear and tear. Batteries are relatively easy to replace at home. To remove the battery, simply disconnect the negative terminal, then the positive terminal and take the battery out from under the bonnet. Make sure to remove the negative terminal first, or there is the danger of short-circuiting the car. Before inserting a new battery, clean the clamps with a brush and baking soda dissolved in water. Then place the new battery in the car and attach the positive and negative terminals. Additionally at 50 000 kilometres, check and replace engine coolant, power steering fluid and transmission fluid. These fluids deteriorate to the point of ineffectiveness in this stage of the car's life.

      Brake Maintenance at 70 000 Kilometres

      In addition to the more frequent car care, check and change brake pads and brake fluid around 70 000 kilometres. Brake pads require more frequent changes if the driver spends more time in start-and-stop situations. Changing the pads is a simple hour-long home procedure with basic mechanic tools including a jack, a lug wrench and a socket wrench. Refer to the owner's manual and other guides to learn the entire process. Changing the brake fluid is an even easier process. To do so, first locate and open the master cylinder reservoir using the car's manual for reference. Remove the old fluid with a turkey baster and clean out the cylinder with a lint-free cloth. Fill the cylinder with new fluid and bleed the brakes until clean liquid flows through the entire system and out the bleeder screw.

      Maintenance at 100 000 Kilometres

      Car care at 100 000 kilometres calls for some additional replacements. Inspect and change the radiator hose and timing belt while performing the more frequent maintenance requirements. Be especially mindful of the timing belt, as it is crucial to the performance of cams, valves and other internal engine components. Changing the timing belt is a more involved mechanical procedure. The process requires a new rubber belt, gaskets, gasket adhesive and seals. For specific size requirements for each car model, check with the employees at the parts shop. The necessary tools for this project are wrenches for all size nuts and a screwdriver or pry bar for leverage. Gather the essential tools and materials and reference the car's manual or repair shop for complete instructions. If the battery has not been changed for the first 100 000 kilometres, it will most likely require replacement at this mileage as well.

      Car maintenance changes over time as a car gathers more mileage. Caring for your car at any age is easy if you pay attention to the requirements for each stage in the vehicle's lifetime. Follow these simple tips and keep your car running for years to come.

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    • How to Maintain Your Car BatteryDIY Maintenance Articles

      A car's battery is an essential component to keep any car running efficiently. Without it, the car will not even turn over. Modern automobiles contain 12-volt batteries made up of cells. Each cell contains electrolytes that work to generate electrical currents when they are needed, along with plates that contain both positive and negative charges. Car batteries are typically designed to last several years, but with proper care, you can ensure they last beyond that.

      Safety Basics

      Batteries contain sulphuric acid, a highly caustic substance. Due to the potential for injuries, you should always take safety precautions before working with a battery, or its components. Sulphuric acid is not only likely to burn the skin, but it can even burn through clothing. For this reason, you should wear gloves and goggles. If the acid does touch your skin, wash it off with heavy-duty soap or baking soda immediately. You should never lean over a battery when charging or testing it. Also, only charge in well-ventilated areas. Additional precautions include always disconnecting the negative cable first and never jump-starting a battery if it is frozen.

      Charging the Battery

      When a battery loses its charge, you can use different methods to recharge it. One method, trickle charging, works slowly, but it can keep the battery healthy for longer. Trickle charging consists of using a charger that adds a charge to the battery at a very slow pace without allowing for a normal depletion. Trickle chargers can be used on vehicles that are parked for long periods to preserve the battery. Trickle chargers are easy to use as they work on standard outlets. Plug the charger into an outlet and connect the negative alligator clip to a part of the metal frame and place the positive clip on the positive battery terminal. You must also select the proper settings for the type of battery being charged As the battery charges, the trickle charger will have an amp metre that moves. Quick charging is another option and this is ideal if you are in a hurry. This is done by using another vehicle to charge the battery by hooking charging cables to both vehicles at the same time. This typically takes only a few minutes.

      Restoring a Charge

      After charging a battery, ensure it maintains a solid charge. Do this by driving at constant speeds for about 30 minutes. Turn off all components such as the radio and air conditioner. Failing to give the battery a solid charge can result in it being dead the next time you try to start the car.

      Check the Water Level

      Each cell in a battery contains acid and water. Over time, these levels can drop below normal, which will affect the performance. Every few months, glance at the refill holes on the bottom or sides of the battery. If the levels are low, add distilled water. Never overfill the cells as this can lead to corrosion.

      Clean the Battery Terminals

      As a battery ages, it is prone to corrosion build-up on the terminals. This is easy to fix by cleaning them with a wire brush. Coke can also be poured over the top of the terminals to reduce the amount of corrosion. If the corrosion continues to build up, it can cause the battery to receive a poor connection.

      Maintain the Battery While the Car is Parked for Long Periods

      If you are leaving on vacation or parking the car for long periods of time, use a trickle charger. This ensures the battery maintains a correct charge and extends the life of the battery. If a battery is continuously allowed to lose its charge completely, it can cause damage.

      Reduce Vibration

      Though the main components of a battery are housed in a plastic case, you should still take care to keep it secure from vibrations. Strong or repeated vibrations can cause a battery to short circuit. This in turn can result in damage to the car itself. If possible, keep the battery secure in its place. Many cars have straps or other parts that allow you to bolt the battery in the correct spot.

      Insulate the Battery

      Extreme temperatures can wreak havoc on batteries. If you are facing extreme temperature changes, invest in a battery insulation kit. These are typically inexpensive and they are made for specific makes and models of cars and trucks. They come in the form of sleeves that insulate the battery while still allowing it to vent as needed.

      Never Overcharge

      In some cases, overcharging a battery is just as damaging as a weak charge. Overcharging a car battery can result in oxygen and hydrogen being released. When this occurs, an explosion can take place, which can not only harm the vehicle, but cause injury to you or others. Overcharging also alters the water and acid levels in the battery.

      If you find yourself recharging or replacing your car's battery more often than every few years, it is time to take some battery maintenance into consideration. With proper maintenance and a few tips, you can extend the life of your battery.

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