Top 10 maintenance and care tips for car owners

Looking after your car is an investment on many fronts. Not only do you get a more enjoyable ride from it, but you’ve got peace of mind that you’ll get from point A to B without a hitch. You’re also reducing the overall cost of your vehicle’s lifespan. When the time comes for an upgrade, you’re more likely to get a better deal for it.

How often should I change my windshield wipers?

Replace your windshield wipers once every six months to a year. Do this just before the winter months when you’ll use them fairly regularly. Signs of wear are perished rubber on the blades, bad contact on the windscreen and a squeaking sound coming from the blades. The rubber on your wipers can also degrade in extreme heat so check and replace when you see signs of deterioration.

PRO TIP: To eliminate that squeaky noise, clean your wiper blades with soap and water. Spray it with some silicone lubricant for a smooth wipe and extended lifespan.

When should I replace my spark plugs?

Standard copper plugs will last you between 15 000 km to 30 000 km. Clues that your plugs might need replacement are difficulty starting when cold, erratic idling, increased fuel consumption and retarded acceleration.

Note that oil leaks can cause spark plugs to misfire. Always check for oil spills or leaks around the plug area and note if the car is using extra oil between services.

How do I know my air filter is up for a swap?

Air filters trap and prevent dust from going into your car’s combustion chamber. Excess dust in the filter will cause erratic combustion and can “smother” the car. Regularly clean your air filter by knocking excess dust off or vacuuming it. Certain filters can be placed in water for a few hours and allowed to dry before putting it back into its housing.

When should I replace my oil filter?

It’s advisable to change your oil filter with every oil change you do. Some manufacturers recommend changing it with every other oil change. The type of oil used will influence how often you need to replace your oil filter. The better the quality oil, the fewer changes necessary. Check your owner’s manual for guidelines.

What do I need to know about car battery maintenance?

Corrosion is your biggest enemy when it comes to getting the most out of your car battery. Periodically check for corrosion on your battery cables and use household baking soda to remove it. Make sure you also check your electrolyte levels by removing the tops and use distilled water to top up. Batteries also tend to crack, so make sure you remove it from its casing and check the entire unit.

Is the battery always the cause of my car not starting?

Many people make this assumption but there are other possibilities to your car not swinging. A bad starter motor can prevent the engine from turning over. Also, check that your timing belt is well-maintained as it could cause the car not to start. Faulty distributors, worn plugs and bad alternators are also on the list of usual suspects to check. The causes of a car not starting could be numerous, so best get an expert to have a look.

How do I keep my radiator in top shape?

A healthy flow of water through your engine is critical for performance, lifespan and overall engine health. This makes regular check ups on your water levels important. Make sure that you check your water pipes and belts for any leaks or cracks. Periodically use radiator flusher to get rid of accumulating sud in your water system.

What do I look out for when it comes to my brakes?

Listen for a screeching noise from your brakes. Brake pads come with metal shims that make contact with your brake discs when they’ve reached their replacement stage. Also, worn or wobbled brake discs will cause your brake pedal to vibrate during braking. This is a sign to have your discs skimmed or replaced.

Why does my car use belts?

Many new car makes come with a single serpentine belt, which drives the alternator, water, air condition and power steering pumps. Older cars use multiple belts to perform the same functions. Be on the lookout for cracks, a lack of elasticity in the rubber when checking your belt(s). A failing belt can wreak havoc on your engine so check them regularly.

How often should I get my car serviced?

Always follow the guidelines set out in your owner’s manual and have your vehicle serviced on the prescribed dates. A major car service will typically cover all the automotive parts mentioned in this article, while a minor service usually covers an oil change with some basic checks.

Most car breakdowns are preventable. Keeping these 10 tips in mind will keep you on the road, instead of on the side of it. Remember to check up on your ride periodically and you’ll get to your destination on time, safely and without greasy hands.

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