We can avoid some costly damages to our cars mechanical components just by maintaining the vehicle.  Start by knowing the maintenance requirements of your vehicle. Use your owners manual to access this information, or look online for a car care guide from the manufacturer of your car. You just might be in for a few surprises once you do this. Your recommended tire pressure might be different than you thought it was, and you could discover a whole new little knob under the drivers seat that does something you did not know about. You can also talk to the dealership where your vehicle was purchased, if you acquired it that way, and your Fort Collins auto repair shop will also be a strong resource for any questions you might have about car maintenance. If you have any unresolved maintenance questions, you can always talk to your auto technician.

Robert Couse-Baker
Headlight CC Photo Courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker

In between recommended service calls, there are several simple things car owners can do to keep their vehicles mechanically viable that don’t require any special training or equipment.

Starting with the cosmetic side of things, keep your car clean. Washing the exterior will cut down on rust and corrosive damage to the paint, helping avoid rust and metal damage. Mud and debris build up in the front of the motor, around the tires and in the undercarriage can work themselves into the more delicate mechanical components of your vehicle, and cause a great deal of damage. Clean your exterior  whenever you have driven through mud or fields, or after it is showing signs of dirt build up. When cleaning the windshields, look for any damages to the glass. there are several windshield repair kits on the market for any new dings and cracks you may discover in your inspection. If damage seems to extensive, look into windshield replacement.  Also inspect all of your windshield wipers. They are quite easy to replace, and inexpensive. If they are peeling away from their frames, cracked, or loose, go ahead and swap them out. Different kind of wiper blades are available for different weather conditions. Heavier wipers might be better in the winter when icy sludge builds up, and thinner ones for the warmer months.  While washing the car, go ahead and inspect your tires. Hows the tread? Are their any bubbles or bulging areas on the tire? Look for uneven wear as well, this indicates an alignment issue. One final check is the overall condition of the car body. You just might find a dent you didn’t know about, and can get that addressed.

Next, make it a habit to check your engine fluid levels, hoses and a battery cables monthly. The best way to avoid a problem is to see it before it happens. Once your oil, brake fluid, and coolant levels are all checked, look at the hoses. Are they cracked? Loose? How about the battery cables? Is the battery getting old, or seem overly corrosive? If something appears to be wearing out, or looks like it needs replacing, this is the best time to find out. Better to be aware of the potential issue now than when you are on the road and the problem causes your vehicle to break down.

When checking fluid levels, most of the liquid reservoir containers and canisters will have fill-level lines. Keep the fluids above the minimum line, and below the maximum line. Inspect for any leaks or worn radiator and other tubes, which will need replacing before deteriorating to the point of bursting.

Look around your engine for any loose wires or electrical connections. A completely exposed wire (where its outer counting has been worn or burned away,) is something that will need to be promptly replaced, as it presents a fire hazard. Something like a faulty wire or loose belt may not be something you can replace your self, but an auto technician can do it pretty quickly, and these are not expensive items to swap out, as long as no serious damage exists in the engine itself.

Engine oil needs to be changed regularly, so if you keep your car on an oil change schedule, go ahead and get that done. If the oil seems gritty or thick, it is probably a good idea to go ahead and change it, even if it’s not in the scheduled time frame. Having clean lubrication does a world of good for the engine, and will help you avoid mechanical damage. Getting an oil change in Fort Collins is a very easy and inexpensive bit of maintenance if you don’t want to do it yourself.

Now look under and around the car. these visual checks include watching for leaking fluids or puddles, gritty build up in the exhaust which generally indicates a need for an oil change, and the gas cap. A loose or damaged gas cap will cause excess petroleum vapors, leading to your check engine light coming up, as well as wasting gasoline. If you use a roof top carrier of any kind, make sure it is secure. It is not uncommon to find a coffee cup stuck in the rack, as many of us put our drinks on top of our cars, and forget they are up there while we merrily drive off.