Another blind spot in car maintenance
Credit: WAVEBREAKMEDIA LTD / THINKSTOCK
Go over this list and make sure your vehicle is operating at top efficiency. It may help with the longevity of your vehicle.
Randy Loyk – technical services manager at Alberta Motor Association (AMA) in Edmonton, Mike Rolland – academic chair of automotive service technology and automotive management programs at SAIT, and Lino Ferronato – owner of Twistedwrench Garage, offered suggestions on what drivers and vehicle owners can do themselves to make sure their machines are operating at top efficiency.
“Every day that you drive, perform a visual inspection of your car,” said Rolland.
This includes inspecting lights and tires to make sure they are in good condition.
According to him, most vehicles are now equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that will alert a driver through a flashing light or an alert on the vehicle’s display if there is a problem with the tire pressure.
Ferronato said that tire pressure is the number one neglected part of a vehicle, and the one thing that affects a vehicle the most on a dayto- day basis.
Loyk says it is also important to monitor the wear on tires, and ensure that they are wearing evenly.
Drivers should also consider having winter tires installed on their vehicles during the winter season.
The tread compound on a winter tire performs well during colder temperatures, whereas all-season tires are “like the hardness of a hockey puck,” said Rolland.
Winter tires also have better grip and handling and improve stopping distance when driving on ice and snow.
For those worried about the cost of purchasing a set of tires for the winter season, Rolland said that it would be no more expensive to not buy them.
Depending on how much one drives per year over a period of five to six years, if one were to go through two sets of all-season tires, then a set of winter and a set of all-season tires would last about the same time, so there is no extra expense.
Loyk said that checking oil is important and easy to do.
Oil should be changed when required, and he said a good rule of thumb is to change the oil every 6,000 km.
However, every vehicle is different, and if people aren’t sure they should go through their dealership or regular service establishment.
Most service outlets provide customers with the choice between regular mineral oil, synthetic oil, and ester oil, Rolland said.
With ester and synthetic oil, the benefits include longer engine life, easier vehicle start-ups, and faster engine warm-ups. However, they are more costly than regular oil.
“You get what you pay for,” he said.
“Fluids are the lifeblood of your vehicle, so take heed when your service shop recommends they are replaced, exchanged or flushed,” Rolland said.
The replacement of fluids can have a positive effect on vehicle performance, and is much more important in newer vehicles than it is for older ones.
Now, vehicles are made with lighter materials and have a higher performance so the demand on fluids is greater.
For brake fluid in particular, most new vehicles have braking systems that require a lot more from brake fluid because of traction control, anti-locking braking systems (ABS), and vehicle dynamic control systems.
The components that make up the braking systems are also made of a lighter material that can cause a greater heat transfer to the fluid in the calipers and lines.
Rolland said that brake fluid should be replaced at least every two years, especially if moisture content is high, or if the fluid becomes contaminated.
Moisture in the braking fluid can cause the boiling point to lower, which compromises the efficiency of the brakes and can result in complete failure.
“The pedal [could go] to the floor precisely when you need your breaks the most,” he warned.
Windshield wipers should also be inspected at least once a year, especially during the winter and spring when they endure the most use.
If the wipers are streaking on both the front windshield and rear window, Loyk said that they can be replaced easily by the vehicle owner.
Car batteries should be checked and tested every year if they are over three years old, according to Loyk.
If the vehicle doesn’t sound right, Rolland said it should be taken to a professional for an inspection as soon as possible.
Battery cables are also important to inspect and kept clean.
Both Rolland and Loyk recommended following the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule.
The manufacturer will inform the owner of when to tune-up the vehicle, when to change the fluid levels, and more.
With newer vehicles, the amount of work to be done during services and the time in between has decreased in recent years.
By following the recommended maintenance schedules, drivers can expect to have a more reliable vehicle and a higher trade-in or re-sale value if the vehicle can be proved to have a solid service history.
“Where you live and how you drive have a lot to do with the preventative work you have done,” Rolland said.
Following scheduled maintenance is important, but many dealers also recommend going above the guidelines and taking more preventative measures that can vary depending on where a person lives.