Is Your Car on the Right Track?

November 9, 2016

If you want your car to handle safely on the roads and stay in good working order, then taking it to the mechanic for routine maintenance is essential. Following the recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle is a great way to catch small mechanical problems before they become big, costly ones that’ll drain your wallet, your time, and your patience. And properly caring for your car helps you get the best deal when you are ready to trade it in or sell it.

Yet a Car Care Council survey revealed that as much as 89% of vehicles are in need of at least one repair. many people fail to have their cars serviced on a regular basis, resulting in burned out engines and thousands of dollars in repairs. In fact, mechanics say that one of the most common reasons a car engine needs to be replaced — at a cost of $3,000 to $5,000 — is simply a failure to regularly change the car’s oil or fix oil leaks.

The good news is, you don’t have to let that be you. With a basic knowledge of your vehicle’s maintenance needs and regularly scheduled visits to your mechanic, you can maintain your car in good condition for many years. Here’s what you and your auto mechanic can do to keep your car on a good maintenance schedule.

Use your owner’s manual to stay on schedule.

Car manufacturers have a recommended maintenance schedule for your specific vehicle, and you can find it in the owner’s manual. So, use it to help you stay on track as you plan visits to your mechanic. Not only is this list handy, but it also usually includes space for you or your mechanic to make notes for each visit. And following the recommended maintenance plan keeps your warranty intact, so don’t neglect this basic tool for caring for your car.

Check your fluid levels and replace the oil regularly.

Today’s cars can go longer between oil changes, but it’s a service that still needs to be done regularly. A good rule of thumb is to change the oil every 6,000 to 7,500 miles, or every 6 months, more often if you frequently drive in severe conditions such as extreme heat or cold. And don’t neglect other fluids for systems like the brakes, transmission and windshield wipers. If you notice the fluids keep running unusually low or you see evidence of a leak, get in to the mechanic right away to prevent damage that could lead to expensive repairs down the line.

Keep an eye on the condition of your tires.

One of the best ways to stay safe while driving is to make sure your tires are at the right pressure.  Pressure that’s too high or low leads to a host of problems, including lowered mileage per gallon, rough handling, trouble braking, and even tire damage that could cause a blowout. When you take your car in for an oil change, have the tires rotated and aligned too.

Change your air filters.

Your car has two vital air filters — one for the cabin air, and one for the engine air. And they both need to be changed regularly. Clean filters help your engine run smoothly and efficiently, while making sure you enjoy fresh, clean air inside your vehicle.

Have the engine’s parts checked.

A “tune-up” is what your mechanic does when he goes over all the parts of your engine to be sure they’re in proper working order. This includes replacing burned-out spark plugs, worn belts, faulty pumps and more.

Test the car’s power and lights.

Your vehicle’s battery should be tested during routine maintenance to avoid finding yourself stranded on the road. And for safe driving, all the headlights, tail lights, blinkers and dashboard lights should be working properly. A good mechanic will review all those systems while doing the rest of the routine maintenance that your car or truck needs.

What to do and when to do it 

If you’ve lost your owner’s manual or don’t have it with you, here’s a handy check list of when to take your car in for maintenance, and what you can expect the technicians to do during that visit.

Check every 6 Months/6,000 Miles

Automatic transmission fluid, battery and cables, belts, dashboard lights, engine air filter, engine oil, exhaust, hoses, lights, power steering fluid, tire inflation and condition, windshield washer fluid, wiper blades, chassis lubrication

Check every 12 Months/12,000 miles

Automatic transmission fluid, battery and cables, belts, dashboard lights, engine air filter, engine oil, exhaust, hoses, lights, power steering fluid, tire inflation and condition, windshield washer fluid, wiper blades, chassis lubrication, brakes, cabin air filter, coolant (antifreeze), steering and suspension, wheel alignment

As you can see, it’s important — and relatively simple — to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape. Of course, you can always turn to your auto mechanic for advice in how to meet your car care needs. Oklahoma Technical College takes pride in training auto technicians in the latest techniques as well as the time-honored skills required to take care of your vehicle. And our career advisors are ready anytime to share with you how we can help you pursue a successful career in the automotive repair and maintenance industry. Contact us today!

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