The automobile is an equally amazing and remarkably complex machine. It is expected to function under a wide range of weather conditions and other adverse conditions, yet it often is subjected to careless hard driving and indifferent maintenance. Recommended service intervals are often ignored by the same car owners that wouldn't let a week go by without vacuuming all the rugs in the house.
Here are the most common systems and components (always used genuine OEM parts) that should be regularly maintained on your vehicle:
Oil and Oil Filters
Having your oil and oil filter changed, at least as often as recommended by the manufacturer, is likely to generate the single biggest return on your routine-maintenance investment. Replacing the dirty oil and filter will help protect the internal parts of the engine from premature wear. It’s important to use the recommended grade of oil for your vehicle for the best protection and fuel mileage. It is recommended that you replace your oil and oil filter every 3,000 miles for conventional oil and 5,000 miles for synthetic oil. See your vehicle owner’s manual for the recommended oil change interval, or follow the oil-life monitoring system, if equipped.
Inspect tires and inflation once a month. Under-inflated tires can result in a loss of fuel efficiency and premature tire wear. This is the least expensive form of preventive and safety maintenance. Tire rotation is essential to tire life and should occur every 5,000 miles or sooner if you notice your tread is uneven or tread depth is reduced, it is time to consider replacements.
A dirty air filter prevents the engine from breathing properly, which can decrease fuel mileage and performance and make the engine work harder than it needs to. Let your vehicle breathe! Have your air filter inspected every 5,000 miles and replaced every 10,000 miles, or as recommended in your owner's manual. Change it more often if you drive in dirty or dusty conditions.
If your vehicle is equipped with a cabin air filter, change that too. A dirty cabin air filter reduces the airflow through the vehicle’s ventilation system. Cabin air filters help keep pollens, fumes, smoke, and other materials from reaching the inside of a vehicle. See the owner’s manual to determine if your vehicle is equipped with a cabin air filter.
Driving conditions determine how often certain parts have to be replaced. Brake pads should be inspected at regular service intervals by your mechanic to determine condition and recommended replacement. If you notice vibration or loss of braking, have your brakes checked immediately. Fluid should be replaced every two years. If you think there may be a problem with your vehicle’s brakes, have them inspected at any one of our O'Brien Automotive Team locations.
Inspect windshield wiper blades for cracks, tears and windshield contact. For optimum performance and visibility replace them at every six to 12 months or sooner if streaking begins. Don't wait until it's pouring rain and you can't see the roadway to change your wiper blaces. Even though they may look okay, they deteriorate quickly.
Avoid an expensive service or tow charge (and the worry of being stranded!) by keeping your car battery working at peak performance. Extreme heat and cold are hard on automotive batteries. If your vehicle is a few years old, have the battery and charging system tested to be sure that your battery has the power to start your vehicle and that your alternator is recharging the battery as it should.
Drive belts are essential for keeping your vehicle’s electrical (alternator), engine cooling (water pump), and air-conditioning systems running. Having them inspected periodically and replaced when necessary means you’re less likely to experience a broken belt and the resulting vehicle breakdown.
Have all fluids inspected, including brake, power steering, transmission/transaxle, windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant. These fluids play a vital role in the safety and performance of the vehicle. A cooling system that is clogged or low on fluid can cause serious damage to the engine and other components. Get into the habit of checking the fluid level regularly, and have the fluid changed or flushed when recommended.
Though many spark plugs are designed to last 100,000 miles, they can still get dirty or fail prematurely. A fouled spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30 percent. Ignition wires lose insulating ability over time, and the connection to the plug or ignition coil can degrade as well. Having your service technician regularly inspect your ignition system can help you avoid conditions that may result in poor performance or reduced fuel economy.
The suspension system affects your vehicle’s steering, braking power, and stability, so it’s important to have these functions inspected regularly and to replace parts when they become worn — and dangerous! It’s also important to have other chassis items, such as tie-rod ends, control arms, and ball joints, checked periodically.
Automatic transmissions have become more sophisticated with additional gears and computerized electronic controls and are designed to work with the engine controls for best operation. Have the transmission inspected and serviced as recommended in the owner’s manual.