A little bit of attention to these seemingly minor tasks will save you money, enhance your safety and that of your passengers, and help ensure a long and satisfying ownership experience with your vehicle. Whether you service your vehicle yourself or enjoy the convenience of using your dealer’s factory-trained personnel, use this list to help you get started:
Read Your Owner’s Manual
Every vehicle has its own service schedule and individual nuances. All of those things and many more are covered in your owner’s manual. It’s important to know what all the lights mean, how the dials and buttons work, and how and when to take care of your vehicle and all its parts. Some people read their owner’s manuals from cover to cover as soon as they get a new vehicle while others pick and choose the chapters of greatest interest; whichever type of driver you are, be sure to ask a factory-trained technician if you ever have any questions.
Get Your Tires Rotated and Balanced, and Ask About a Wheel Alignment
Your vehicle is only as good as the rubber it’s riding on – even a supercar won’t get very far with a flat tire. Your tires don’t always wear evenly when you drive, even when your wheels are properly aligned, so getting your tires rotated and balanced is important to extend their life. Check your owner’s manual or ask your service technician how often it should be done on your particular vehicle. Making sure your tires/wheels are balanced is important as well, to ensure proper weight distribution and a comfortable ride. An alignment adjusts the angles of the wheels to factory specifications. After a long winter of potholes and rough driving, it’s important to be sure both your front and rear wheels are still in alignment. Dealers often offer seasonal alignment specials, so watch for coupons.
Check your Belts
Some of your vehicle’s moving parts may rely on belts to keep them going. If you hear any squeaking or high-pitched squealing when you start your vehicle, that might be a sign that it’s time to have your belts checked. Waiting too long can result in a broken belt and possibly wider damage. A serpentine belt, for example, normally drives things like the power steering, alternator and other items, so if it malfunctions, you’re going to have bigger problems. When you have your oil changed, check your belts for obvious cracks, chips or signs of dry rot, and have them replaced at the recommended intervals, even if they look ok.
Clean Your Headlamps
It may sound obvious, but even a thin coating of dust, mud, snow or salt film can severely impact your visibility, especially in poor weather. The durable polycarbonate plastic from which many headlamps are made can also become excessively chipped, scratched or cloudy over time, from both the elements and long-term UV exposure, and this can also reduce the amount of light you get from your headlamps. Keep them clean and inspect them regularly. If you notice a problem, ask your dealer’s service department for suggestions to correct the issue; they may also recommend something you can treat the plastic with to help protect it and extend its life.
Replace Your Filters
Many of today’s vehicles have monitors that prompt you when it’s time to change your oil, but there aren’t filter replacement reminders and items like filters don’t always come to mind, especially if you change your oil yourself. Failure to replace filters––such as fuel, air and oil filters––can cause damage, reduce fuel economy and increase emissions. The same goes for the cabin air filter that helps remove pollutants, allergens and noxious fumes from the air being drawn into your vehicle. Best of all, filters are normally not expensive to replace––in vehicles with complimentary factory maintenance, some filters may even be replaced for free––so be sure to have them checked regularly and replaced when needed.
With so many things already on your mind, getting your car serviced can be overlooked. Fortunately, there is some impressive technology out there that can help you ensure the work gets done. If you have a smartphone, there are some excellent apps available, ranging from basic to intricate, to help guide you. Road Trip, an app available for iPhones/iPads, tracks your maintenance schedule, fuel economy and other expenses. For android users, Car Maintenance Reminder is similar and can send reminders when a service due date approaches. Other apps include aCar and AutoCare, or you can search your favorite app store to find the right one for you. Many automobile manufacturers also offer automated service reminders via email and/or smartphone app.