Car ownership requires responsibility. It may be a privilege to drive and own an automobile, but without the proper care and attention, you might find yourself with a very expensive paperweight and space eater. While the topic of maintenance is very complex, here are 10 tips and tricks to remember.
While we have a comprehensive guide on general vehicle maintenance, these are more general tips and tricks that are easy to follow and important to remember.
Feed your car the right fuel
Just like your body, what you feed your car can affect its health. If you keep eating junk, your body will slow down. The same can be said for automobiles. Fill up with the right kind of fuel that the manufacturer recommends, or things can go wrong. As a general rule of thumb, as long as your car doesn’t have some fancy engine technology, a supercharger, or a turbocharger, you can choose any fuel that you want. Just don’t fill your gasoline car’s tank with diesel and vice-versa.
Consult your manual or the inside of your gas flap for the minimum research octane number (RON) for gasoline, or cetane number (CN) for diesel that your car’s engine can take. In the Philippines, you have a choice of 91 RON, 95 RON, and 97 RON. The same goes for diesel motors, but the minimum CN in the Philippines is pegged at 50 CN.
Most passenger cars like the Toyota Vios or Toyota Wigo will be able to run 91 RON gasoline, but better fuels are recommended for high-performance vehicles such as the Toyota Supra with its turbocharged engine. If your car needs premium fuels, be sure to fill up with the minimum or better. You can fill up with more premium fuels, but your car may not perform significantly better. The difference could be marginal at best.
The right oil at the right time—if not a bit earlier
Just like fuel, you need to fill your car with the right kind of oil. Engine lube is important to keep your engine running smoothly. Be sure to check your owner’s manual for the right weight. Go with what your manufacturer recommends and you should be fine. There are three types of oil that are available: mineral, semi-synthetic, and fully-synthetic. Mineral oil is the most affordable but breaks down the fastest, and fully-synthetic is the most expensive and lasts the longest.
More importantly, make sure to change your car’s oil regularly. Lubricants break down after a period of time, so change it at the manufacturer’s recommended interval—or even a bit earlier.
Use your car’s electronics only while the engine is on
If you habitually leave your car’s radio, interior lights, or headlights turned on without the engine running, you run the risk of draining your battery. Once your battery runs low on charge, your car might not be able to start back up again to run the alternator. Depending on what electronics you’ve left turned on, expect a battery to run out of charge in an hour to several hours depending on what’s open, and on the age of the battery itself.
Stop, listen, then look. Follow these steps to do a preliminary check of your car’s braking system. If you hear a squealing sound whenever you apply the brakes, your brake pads could be worn down. If so, do a visual inspection and check. You need to make sure your pads are still thick. All too often people will run on pads that are paper-thin. If you run on brake pads that aren’t thick enough, you’ll damage your brake rotors.
If you feel your car wobbling while you’re on the brakes, it could be that your rotors are warped. In either case, get your rotors serviced. If your brake pedal is soft and you can’t feel it, then your fluid may be low or your master cylinders could be damaged.
Align your suspension
If you’ve ever driven or ridden in a car that goes in a straight line with a crooked steering wheel, that’s what a misaligned suspension or wheel alignment looks like. You do not want to keep using your car in this state because it will lead to uneven tire wear.
Rotate your wheels
For most vehicles, the main driven wheels will be the ones that experience the most wear over time. Meanwhile, the non-driven wheels aren’t as worn and can still be used. You can prolong the life of your tire set by rotating them regularly, to make sure that the tire wear is even. It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s recommended tire rotation instructions found in the owner’s manual.
Check your tire pressure
It’s funny how much a little air can affect the performance of your car. Keeping your car’s tire pressure in check can save you fuel and even some of your energy. An improperly inflated or deflated tire will cause your engine to consume more fuel, and your steering to get a bit heavier.
If you’re filling your tires with air often, then it might be time to check for any punctures and plug any air leaks. Running a deflated tire can also lead to irreparable damage to your tire’s sidewall and even mess with your steering wheel alignment.
Keep your car clean
A well-maintained car needs to look the part, so keep it clean. Wash it well using car shampoo and microfiber cloths. Make sure to use the two-bucket method and then apply wax or sealant to the paint to protect it.
More importantly, make sure your interior is also clean and well-kept. You will be spending a lot of time in the car, and sitting on month-old trash will undoubtedly be an unpleasant experience. Trash inside the car is an open invitation to other organisms to roost in your car. Clear the trash, vacuum all the surfaces, and disinfect if needed.
Don’t miss a service and schedule by planning ahead
You will need to schedule a service appointment after a certain amount of time or distance is covered. Most modern cars will notify you when it is time for an oil change, but if your car is older or doesn’t have such a feature, note at what mileage or date your next interval is slated.
Also it would help to get to know your service advisor or your mechanic. This will make your life easier, and scheduling won’t be as much of a hassle.
Drive your car
The last bit of advice that we have is to actually drive your car. While it may seem counterintuitive, actually driving your car is also part of maintenance. You need to keep your car’s fluids flowing, the battery also needs charging, and you’ll keep your tires from developing flat spots. Regardless, this last tip is to use the car as it was intended: out on the road and not a dust collector.