Love your car? Some of us might. Some are beyond love and are at obsession. I’m not talking about those people here though. I’m speaking to the vast majority. Those who use and abuse our vehicles and treat them like the appliances they are.
According to Fox, a OnePoll study conducted on behalf of Cooper Tire found the average American spends 18 days driving per year, that’s 8 hours and 22 minutes per week!
Although some people personify their vehicles, I’m not telling you to do that. By loving your car I mean to learn to care for it. Learn a little bit about your particular machine and how it functions. This will not only make you a better operator but save your potential headaches.
Cars have come a long way in the last 100 years. They went from literal horseless carriages to real dependable pieces of technology. However no technology is able to function without care, and some require more active inputs than others. With the amount of time you spend in it, you should love your car more.
For the last 50 years, cars have been constructed virtually the same way, requiring the same basic inputs. Standardization makes it easy for you and me to get behind the wheel of a car. Not to mention easy to work on too.
It would be impossible for me to tell you exactly how and what to do with your car but, I’ll try. Manufacturers, models, years, usage, climate, driving style, ability, cost, and million other things affect your car and the issues it may or may not have.
So what you need is a breakdown of all the major components and what to look for.
Table of Contents
Basic maintenance is something we all know cars need. However certain cars require more maintenance than others. So where do you start? I guess the most obvious place to start would be the engine.
Most people know that you need to change your oil about every three to five thousand miles. Some however don’t. Changing your car’s oil regularly is one of the most important ways to love your car.
Oil is the blood of your vehicle. It brings the heart (engine) to life and keeps its working optimally. Poor oil will cause a failing heart. We don’t want that. Maintenance is one thing but, can we improve the health of our engines?
A lot can be done by just changing the brand and quality of the oil. If you’re still putting regular oil in your car you need to switch to synthetic immediately, it’s infinitely better for lubrication.
Although it does cost more, synthetic oils have longer intervals between changes so the cost difference is pretty even. What about additives?
Some additives can work wonders. Look for an update with a list of products that I have used and personally recommend.
Certain products can be added to your oil to improve engine life but, that’s highly dependent on the product. A great resource to check out which additives are worth buying is Project Farm on youtube. He has tons of videos comparing products testing the viability of each one.
Oh, and if the engine is your heart, the air filter is your lungs. Be sure to replace that often, a cheap clean filter is better than any dirty one. Love your car and let it breathe.
Brakes are easy for you to maintain. If you feel less stopping power, check your brake fluid. Low? Top it off. Next brake pads. Yes, they do wear out.
If you can’t tell by stopping distance (your car taking more time to stop) have a mechanic take a look. Brake systems do have wear indicators that will start to make noises when your brake pads are too low but you want to avoid that. Going low can damage rotors, and we don’t want that.
Replacing rotors is determined case by case but, hey if it’s cheap enough why not? Check places like amazon, you can find fantastic deals! Upgrading beyond stock when you need to replace is a fantastic idea too.
Depending on your car, brakes are something that you can either prove dramatically or incrementally. If you have an older car just a simple rotor and brake pad swap can dramatically increase your braking and stopping power. If you throw on some stainless steel brake lines and some higher quality brake fluid you can probably take it a step further.
Fluids are probably the most overlooked part of Car Care. Most people don’t usually find out they’re low on something until they’re out. Also by fluids, I’m talking the all the liquids, not engine oil. So that’s antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid.
A good way to keep up on these is just to make sure you look at the full levels of all your fluid tanks in your engine bay. You’ll be surprised at how much damage low fluids can cause to your major working parts.
Also, remember certain fluids can collect water and get dirty with time. Just topping off isn’t enough, replacing these is necessary to prolong life. Consult with your manual (that book that has all the car info in it) if you have one, or a quick google search can tell you.
Lights? It’s simple as walking around your car at night with the lights on. If you see any of them out replace the bulbs. Didn’t work? Check the fuses. Just as simple as that. On the rare occasion, you have flickering lights you can check the wiring harness for cuts.
Tires are overlooked by most drivers. If they aren’t flat most people never check them. That’s a bad move because your tires tell a lot about your car. For example, uneven tread wear indicates misalignment or suspension issues.
Rubber is a fantastic material but, as with everything else, deteriorates with time. So yes your tires do have an expiration, it’s sometime after the manufacture date listed on the sidewall of the tire.
If it’s time to change out your tires, check out Tirerack for fantastic deals. I’ve used them a bunch to find the best-priced tire for my application. They have reviews and even suggestions for your car. It makes tire buying effortless and the best part is they ship directly to you.
Belts And Hoses
Belts and hoses are another rubber component in the engine bay. These, like the tires, deteriorate with time and need to be replaced. Depending on the age of your car you can check for these deteriorating hoses by feeling, looking for bubbles, or even leaks. The clamps occasionally will give out before the hoses do. If you have one of these problems, replace both while you’re at it. Trust me it’ll save you a headache later.
Belts are a little tougher to notice. Tension tells when a belt needs to be replaced. Use a little Common Sense here but when a belt doesn’t have enough tension, that’s a bad sign. Tears and cuts are dead giveaways so replace those as soon as possible.
A bad belt can make squealing noises like my Toyota Camry did a little while back. Check out how I replaced the serpentine belt here, it’s easier than you think.
Batteries are the one item people are actually on top of. They’re kind of obvious, once they give out they need to be replaced.
If your car is having a harder and harder time starting, might be time to check out the battery. Most auto part stores will do a battery check for free and let you know if you need a new one.
Heating And Cooling
HVAC systems are easy to check. Just switch your climate control to the desired hot or cool setting. If your ac doesn’t work it could be that you’re just low on refrigerant. This is easy to do yourself and kits can be bought for under $50.
Just hook up a can to the refrigerant lines on your car and boom. Just make sure your ac lines are empty because leaving old refrigerant when adding new could cause some problems.
Heating is more complicated. Heater cores are usually a pain to get to if they go. Usually buried deep in the dashboard, it’s doable but might not be worth it. Luckily that doesn’t happen that often.
If your vents aren’t blowing any air at all, it’s a blower malfunction or blockage. That too is a little involved like the heater core, but you might be able to figure it out.
Cabin filters are another easily overlooked part. Change them as often as you can. They are fairly inexpensive and have a lot to do with removing the dust, pollen, and otherwise obnoxious odors that circulate in your car.
Suspension items are big, bulky, and easy to check. The car feels extra bouncy? Leaning to one side? Shocks and struts are the big line item to be replaced on cars.
Hopefully, you catch these items before anything breaks. They aren’t the most DIY-friendly things to change because some specific equipment is needed.
In 14 years of owning my 2007 Toyota Camry and 120,000 miles, I’ve only just replaced the rear suspension. In all, it cost $300 from an indy mechanic and she’s good as new, even with a hard New York life. Modern suspension can last a long time before they need to be replaced so don’t fret.
Love Your Car
Cars don’t take much when you stay on top of things. A dollar of preventative maintenance is worth probably ten dollars in repair. As with most things in life the more time and effort you put in usually the results speak for themselves.
However, if you can’t be bothered, just follow the things on this list and you’re good. No need to overthink it, just spare an extra thought or two once in a while to love your car and it will do the same.