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Chances are, you spend a lot of time with your vehicle. It reliably gets you where you need to go, protects you and your passengers on the road—it might even have a name! Taking good care of your vehicle and keeping up with regular maintenance checks will help ensure that you get the most miles out of the life of your engine. From making sure your tires are aligned and checking fluid levels, to checking brake pads, understanding the needs of your car will help you identify potential issues and avoid the hassle of costly repairs.
Check Fluid Levels
If you want your car to run like a well-oiled machine, you need to keep an eye on the levels of various fluids that your vehicle needs to run properly. You’ll want to get your fluids checked every time you take your car in for routine maintenance, like an oil change, but it’s also important to perform your own checks in between professional inspections. Here’s a list of common car fluids to check regularly:
You should check your engine oil regularly when the car is warmed up and sitting on level ground. Follow these steps:
- Turn the engine off and wait a couple of minutes for the oil to settle.
- Remove and clean the dipstick. It is usually a bright color with a round or T-shaped handle.
- Reinsert the dipstick completely, wait a moment, then take it back out.
- Check the oil level. There are two notches on the dipstick that show the optimum level for your oil. Your oil level should fall somewhere between the two marks.
- Remember to reinsert the dipstick fully when finished.
Your transmission fluid helps lubricate your transmission to make sure it keeps functioning properly—whether you drive a manual or automatic. Low transmission fluid can lead to contaminants forming which could clog up the mechanics and shorten its life. You do not want your transmission failing—it is a very expensive repair!
Follow these steps from Quakerstate to check your brake fluid:
- Locate brake master cylinder reservoir. This is typically mounted on or near firewall at rear of engine compartment, in front of where the brake pedal is mounted. If you're having trouble finding it, consult your owner’s manual.
- Check the fluid level. Most vehicles made after 1980 have a translucent reservoir with an easily identifiable “full” line.
- If level is low, add brake fluid to "full" line.
- Replace cap.
The coolant in your vehicle helps it absorb heat and funnel it through the radiator so that your car doesn’t get overheated. Over time, coolant brakes down due to the high temperatures inside your engine. This causes rust to form, which could block the cooling paths and overheat your engine.
Check Your Tire Pressure and Alignment
Maintaining the optimal tire pressure for your vehicle and tire size will help prevent flats and blowouts and keep your vehicle in alignment. I Drive Safely recommends the following simple steps for checking your tire pressure:
Identify the recommended PSI in your owner’s manual.
Ensure the recommended PSI is not higher than the PSI on the tire sidewall.
Remove the nozzle cap from the tire.
Using a tire gauge, check each tire for its PSI while the engine is cold.
Using an air compressor, fill each tire to the recommended PSI.
Replace the nozzle cap.
Checking your tire alignment will help ensure that your vehicle’s suspension is performing well. Improper tire alignment can result in your vehicle veering to one side while you’re driving. Uneven tread wear on your tires, and your steering wheel vibrating or veering off-center may be signs that your car is out of alignment.
Check Your Brake Pads
The very last thing you want going out while you’re diving down the road is your brakes. You should take your car in for regular brake checks, but between inspections, it’s a good idea to check your brake pads. They can become thin over time, which could decrease the efficiency of your brakes.
According to HowStuffWorks, “All you need to do to check your brake pads is look between the spokes of your wheel to spot the shiny metal rotor inside. When you find it, look around the outer edge where you'll see the metal caliper. Between the caliper and rotor, you'll see the pad. You'll have to estimate, but generally, your pads should be at least one-quarter of an inch thick. If they're any thinner than that, it's a good idea to get them changed.”
Shop Around for Better Auto Insurance Rates
When it comes to selecting auto insurance, sometimes it’s just easiest to go with the company with the catchiest commercial jingle. However, since insurance companies have different rates and coverage options, these really aren’t the best ways to decide what carrier and coverage are best for you. Shopping around is essential to getting the proper coverage and service you need at a price that fits your budget.
With all of the competitive auto insurance companies out there, taking the time to do your research on your auto insurance policy is the smartest thing you can do. Finding something that works best for you and your family will always win in the end.
As Executive Vice President, Lending & Insurance Solutions, Ty Harrison leads teams of lending and insurance professionals that are dedicated to delivering value-added programs, services and technology tailored to address the needs of lenders, loan servicers, portfolio managers, mortgage brokers, insurance agents and insurance brokers.