Whether you drive every day or just every so often, your car needs attention just the same. What should you look for? What should you do? Here are some tips on how to do a simple car checkup.
Check tire air and wear and tear
Monthly, check to ensure all tires, including a spare, are properly inflated. Do this when the tires are cold using a quality gauge. The proper pressure levels for your vehicle’s tires are spelled out in your car’s owner’s manual and on a sticker located on the driver-side door jamb. Don’t use what’s stamped on the tire’s sidewall. Also, be aware that pressure levels are different for front and rear tires on some cars.
As for tread depth, check this with a quarter placed upside down in the tread grooves. If you see the top of Washington’s head, you probably need a new set of tires. Look for any uneven tire wear at the same time. Why is this important? Uneven wear may indicate problems with alignment, wheel balance or suspension that need correcting.
Check the battery for a good charge
To avoid being stranded without warning due to a drained or corroded battery, your battery needs some regular attention, too. At every oil change, check battery cables to ensure they’re securely attached to the terminals. If there are signs of corrosion, disconnect cables to clean hidden areas where they contact battery terminals. Depending on usage patterns and local climate, most batteries have three to five years of service life.
Check oil, coolants and fluids
Do a thorough check monthly to ensure all oil, coolants and fluids are in adequate supply. This means checking fuel levels, engine oil and coolant, and brake, transmission and power steering fluids.
While you’re checking out fluid levels, also check out the hoses for any signs of cracking, fraying or missing pieces, hoses that may be cut or abraded from contact with other components. Inspect hose ends for dampness, deposits or buildup of dried coolant.
Ensure lights function properly
Enlist someone to help and, with the headlights on, one person walks around the car to make sure the lights are lit. Check both high and low beams. In addition, check the turn signals, parking brakes, and backup and taillights.
Check windshield wipers for proper working order
Visibility is critically important to safe car operation. Inspect the wiper blades each month, checking to see any worn, cracked or rigid areas since damaged wipers can’t properly remove debris. Chattering and streaking are two signs the rubber on the blade is breaking down and needs replacement. The typical life of rubber inserts is six to 12 months, depending, of course, on the amount of exposure to sunlight, heat, dirt, acid rain, and ozone. In addition, make sure the windshield washer fluid reservoir is filled with an appropriate solution and test washer spray nozzles for correct aim and proper operation.
Suppose your quick car checkup uncovers a problem or you have other indications that something may be wrong with your car? It’s best to have a reputable car repair shop that you can turn to for anything other than simple windshield wiper replacement, for example, and for routine maintenance. If you don’t already have one, ask friends and family for recommendations for a good auto repair shop or mechanic – before you need one.
If you need help in a hurry, visit www.aaa.com/repair to find nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities.