Car Maintenance Tips
December 8, 2022
Taking the time to do proper car maintenance can prevent major accidents and repairs from happening down the road. It is important to us to educate you, to save you from having to shell out extra cash for car problems that could easily be taken care of.
General Car Maintenance Tips
A little extra effort can go a long way in terms of curbing the repair costs of your vehicle maintenance.
- Check your spare tire. It’s just as important to keep the backup tire inflated as it is the four tires under your car. The last thing you want is to discover your spare is flat while you’re pulling the jack out of your trunk. In that case, you’ll have to call a tow truck which could cost hundreds of dollars if you aren’t covered. Some auto insurance policies have towing as an add-on. Interested in adding towing coverage to your policy? Contact one of our agents. Check the pressure of your driving tires and spare at least once per month for peace of mind.
- Change the oil. Oil problems can often be some of the costliest car maintenance issues to fix, since it affects many of your car’s functions. It is better to change out your oil regularly than to pay for a new engine. Our recommendation is that you change your oil every 5,000 miles, or what is recommended by your car manufacturer.
- Keep the battery clean. Corrosion can form on the terminals of your battery and looks like white or bluish powder. If you don’t clean your battery, it could develop a crack from the corrosion, which will cause it to not function properly. A new battery, plus a tow truck when your battery stops functioning, can cost you several hundred dollars. A wire brush to keep your car battery clean costs $5. Test your battery twice per year and inspect it for corrosion.
- Replace the brake pads. Your brake pads are on their last legs if you start to hear a squeaking sound when you hit the brakes. A new set of brakes can cost up to $300 for all four wheels, plus labor charge. Checking the brake fluid can help with recognizing when your brakes need to be changed before you’re on the road and it’s too late. Our recommendation is to check the brake fluid every time you change your oil. If the brake fluid is dark in color, you should seriously consider getting your brakes changed soon.
- Replace your air filter. Your air filter keeps pollutants from coming through the vents. Using an old air filter can cause problems for your air conditioning system, which can cost between $1,000 – $4,000 to replace completely. Change the air filter every 12 months or 12,000 miles.
- Get new windshield wipers. Depending on the make and model of your car, buying new windshield wipers can run you from $30 to $50 per pair. Efficient wipers are a necessity while driving; if you can’t properly see out of your windshield, then you shouldn’t be driving. If you don’t clean your windshield, dirt can build up over time and may even cause the glass to break down. A brand new windshield costs $100 – $500, so check your windshield wipers at the change of each season and replace them when necessary.
- Get your tires rotated. Did you know you can easily extend the life of your tires just by rotating them every so often? All four of your tires do not wear down in the same way. Sometimes the front or back set of tires wear down at different rates, depending on your car, your speed and the roads you travel on. If you rotate your tires, you can save yourself $400 – $800 for a brand new set of four. Our recommendation is that you rotate your tires every 3,000 – 5,000 miles.
- Check the shocks, springs, and struts (suspension system). The suspension system is an intricate part of your car. Many people take it for granted and rarely think about it, until it stops doing its job. If you find that one of your shocks needs to be replaced, make sure to replace all four of them. Check the shocks and full suspension system every 15,000 – 30,000 miles.
- Check your coolant. If you don’t stay on top of changing your coolant, you run the risk of serious corrosion inside your car. The coolant affects everything from the heater and air conditioner to the radiator and water pump. For something that impacts that much of your car’s overall health, you don’t want to skip the maintenance on this one. Our recommendation is to check your coolant twice per year – before the warm weather hits and before the cool weather swoops in.
- Check your spark plugs. If your engine is giving you trouble, one of the common reasons (and easiest fixes) is the spark plug. And since engine work can be out of this world expensive, swapping out a $15 – $30 spark plug is a small price to pay for avoiding a major engine overhaul. Our recommendation is to check and change the spark plugs every 30,000 miles.
- Inspect your belts and hoses. Giving your belts and hoses a once-over can save you from a huge mechanic bill later on down the road. Worn-down belts can cause other damage to essential components of your car. And if you have a weak radiator hose, it could go belly up completely, which would cause your engine to overheat and not run at all. Our recommendation is to replace your timing belt every 60,000 miles and your serpentine belt every 40,000. It’s recommended that you change your hoses every 4 years or whenever one is showing signs of wear.
- Do the emissions inspection. Depending on the state or even county you live in, your car may be required to pass a state emissions inspection. In Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, your vehicle is required to pass inspections. By keeping up with the necessary car maintenance on your vehicle, it should pass with flying colors. But if it doesn’t pass, that’s something you want to know too. The emissions facility will tell you what failed and what needs to be fixed in order to fully pass the inspection. Don’t forget to take your car in for inspection once a year. Check with your local department of motor vehicles to know the specific requirements in your state.
Winterizing your car
With the onset of the cold weather, it is important to make sure your car is in tip-top shape to take on the snow and ice.
1. Switch to winter tires.
It’s possible to use all-season tires in winter conditions, however, this won’t offer you the maximum performance you may need in a wintry environment. As us New Englanders know, a Nor’easter can put a hankering in your plans. We recommend that you install winter tires. When the temperature consistently hovers around or below freezing, the rubber compounds in non-winter tires harden, decreasing the tire’s ability to grip the road. Winter tires eliminate this problem.
2. Maintain tire pressure.
Every ten degrees in temperature change means a change by 1 PSI. We recommend that you check your tire pressure often during winter, and refill or air out your tires as needed. Appropriate tire pressures for your car can be found on the tire placard in the driver’s side door jamb or in your vehicle owner’s manual.
3. Check for changing temperatures that could affect traction.
Before going for a long winter drive, check to see how temperatures may change while you’re out. This can both affect your traction and driving ability. Knowing is half the battle.
4. Install winter wipers.
Winter wipers come equipped with rubber that keeps ice from collecting on the blades. Just be sure to remove them when spring rolls around, as they are heavier and cause more wear on the wiper motor.
5. Pack a winter safety kit.
Store common tools and supplies in your car in case of an emergency. Some things we recommend you include in your safety kit are:
- Pack of matches
- First aid kit
- Flashlight and batteries
- Ice scraper
- Non-perishable food and beverage
- Warm clothing
- Jumper cables
- Bag of sand and shovel
- Car tool kit
- Cell phone
- Extra antifreeze
6. Keep your gas tank at least half full.
This is important because a full gas tank reduces condensation, which can prevent gas line freeze-ups. Not only that, but if you’re ever stranded, your engine may be the only thing keeping you warm until help arrives. Always make sure your tail pipe is clear of snow so exhaust fumes can escape out.
In the event that you get stuck in a snowstorm, it’s good to know that you have insurance to cover you, no matter what the elements unleash on your car. Consider choosing WebFirst for your auto insurance needs. Give us a call today, and we’ll show you policies that cover your needs, for a great price.