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    Car maintenance is the act of maintaining and inspecting a car and all of its components on a regular basis. Car maintenance often entails replacing or repairing parts, refilling fluids and checking the safety systems thoroughly. Regular maintenance of a vehicle is a vital part of owning a car, as it ensures the various components are performing optimally and that the car is safe to drive. If regular maintenance is ignored, it can lead to very costly repairs, or even put you and your passengers at risk.

    Scheduled Maintenance

    Most car manufacturers recommend that a vehicle be inspected and maintained on a scheduled basis. The schedule set for the vehicle varies depending on several factors such as how often the car is driven, the distance travelled each day, environmental conditions and whether or not the vehicle is used to tow heavy cargo. For a car that is used to commute short distances daily, every 4 828 to 9 656 kilometres is typically sufficient. If the vehicle is put under heavy loads during towing or hauling, a thorough check more often is recommended.

    The Owner's Manual

    The owner's manual is one of the most helpful tools when maintaining a vehicle. The manual can tell you many things including the types of fluids to use in the vehicle, how to make repairs and the size or model of repair parts you need. If you do not have access to the owner's manual, a repair guide for your exact vehicle or some advice from a mechanic works well.

    What the Maintenance Entails

    Some car components need serviced more often than others. Even if specific items do not need to be checked as often, it is always ideal to give them a look over when you are performing the other maintenance. When you take the time to look everything over at once, or set yourself up on a maintenance schedule, it eliminates the probability that something will be overlooked.

    Tyre Pressure

    When tyres are not holding the right amount of pressure, it leads to a decrease in fuel economy, uneven wear on the tyres and poor handling. Tyre pressure can be checked with a gauge available at most auto parts stores. Both electronic and manual gauges are available, but they both work the same. The gauge hooks to the tyre's valve stem and gives a reading of the pressure. This is a good time to check the tread depth on the tyre also. You can use a tread checker that is sold at auto parts stores. If you see uneven wear, very little tread, bubbles or wires that are showing, it is time to get the tyre replaced. If left alone, a bad tyre can flatten, or even blow out while driving.

    Brakes

    When brake pads wear down, you risk not stopping properly when needed. The pads can also wear down the rotors if the metal begins to grind together. If you see brake dust on the wheels or other parts, wipe it off with a damp sponge.

    Oil

    Changing the oil regularly helps keep the engine running at an optimal level. As oil breaks down or becomes contaminated, it damages the engine. With a few tools, you can change the oil yourself, or you can pay to have it done for you. When changing the oil, have the oil filter and air filter replaced.

    Tyres

    Tyres should be rotated and balanced every 8 000 kilometres. This makes sure the tyres wear evenly and that they keep the car smooth while driving. When you get a rotation and balance, have the alignment checked as well. Alignment that is off can also cause uneven wear on tyres. It can also cause the car to pull to one side or the other.

    Fluids

    Under the bonnet sits a large amount of vehicle parts, including the engine and coolant system, both of which need fluid to operate correctly. Checking these fluids is simple since they are equipped with either dipsticks or some other type of measuring device. When checking fluids, do not neglect brake fluid, power steering fluid or transmission fluid. If any of these are low, fill them up to the proper level before driving. If the fluids appear dirty, or as if they have water in then, they might need to be replaced all together.

    Belts and Hoses

    A car is full of hoses and belts and for this reason, when checking under the bonnet, look these over. They should all be free of cracks and holes as well as firm to the touch. If any of the hoses or belts have a glazed or shiny look to them, they are at risk for cracking.

    Car maintenance can be performed on your own, or you can have an experienced mechanic help out. While the latter is more expensive, it can give you peace of mind knowing your vehicle is ready and safe to drive. Referring to the owner's manual is a handy tool when inspecting your car.

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