January 4, 2016

Essential Used Car Maintenance Tasks You’re Probably Neglecting

Owning a used car in Oklahoma City means freedom and opportunity for many people. However, that freedom also comes with responsibility. It’s important to take good care of your car and check or replace parts that are wearing out. Doing so can extend the lifespan of your car by hundreds of thousands of miles; at the same time, not doing these checks can result in huge repair bills and early retirement for your vehicle.

Oklahoma City Used Car Maintenance

Checking and Changing Oil

By far the single most important regular maintenance task, oil changes are also one of the most neglected and misunderstood. We’ve written before about why regular oil changes are vital for your Oklahoma used car, and our advice hasn’t changed much in the meantime. You need to regularly change the oil in your car in order to keep it running the way it should.

That said, exactly how often you need to change your oil depends on several factors, including the type of car you’re driving, how often and how far you drive it, the type of oil you use, and even whether you’re usually driving in the city or on the highway. Most experts agree that you don’t need to change your oil every 3,000 miles – that advice is outdated and based on older, less efficient engines.

To figure out how often you should change your oil, look in your car’s owner’s or service manual to find the recommended intervals for different oil types and driving conditions. For cars made in the last few years, a good rule of thumb is to change the oil every 5,000 miles or at least twice a year. Just don’t do what this Audi driver did and drive 84,000 miles without changing the oil.

Aligning, Inflating and Rotating Tires

Of all the parts on your car, only one keeps you in contact with the road itself – your tires. Unfortunately, many drivers neglect their wheels and tires or simply don’t notice when problems are occurring.

The most basic and important maintenance job for your tires is simply keeping them inflated to the correct PSI. Tires that are low on air will wear out much faster and will reduce your vehicle’s handling and gas mileage. Tires that are too hard will make your car’s ride rough and uncomfortable, will reduce your traction, and will be more likely to burst if you hit a pothole or debris. Fortunately most gas and service stations offer free air near the gas pumps. Check your owner’s manual to see the recommended tire pressures for your car and go fill them properly.

Along with tire pressure, wheel alignment and rotations are also important tasks. Getting your wheels aligned will help your tires last longer and will improve your car’s handling and gas mileage. Rotating your tires will ensure they wear down evenly and will improve your car’s handling and traction on water or ice. Most service shops can rotate your tires when they change your oil, but alignments must be done separately and take more time.

Servicing the Transmission

Automatic transmissions have come a long way in the last few decades. Modern transmissions are more efficient and need less service than ever before. However, that doesn’t mean you can ignore this essential component of your car entirely. Indeed, depending on your car’s mileage and the way you drive, you might be overdue for a transmission service.

Like your car’s engine, the transmission is full of a lubricating fluid that helps dispel heat and keep everything running smoothly. Over time, though, this fluid will break down and degrade. In turn, this will increase the wear and tear your transmission experiences. Left for too long and your transmission could start to grind itself away. You will be left with nothing but a pile of metal shavings and a very expensive repair bill.

To prevent this from happening, it’s a good idea to get your transmission serviced regularly. Transmission services don’t need to be frequent – many manufacturers don’t call for a transmission service until the car has reached 100,000 miles. (Some experts think this is too long of an interval, however, and recommend 50,000 miles as a good benchmark for changing transmission fluid.) Check your owner’s manual to see what your car’s manufacturer recommends, or talk to a mechanic the next time you get your car serviced.

Checking Brake Pads and Fluid

Oklahoma isn’t exactly known for its steep and hilly roads, but that doesn’t mean your brakes won’t still wear down over time. Good brakes are extremely important for keeping you safe while driving. Thus, keeping an eye on them and changing the pads and fluids when necessary should be high on your maintenance priority list.

Checking your brake pads is relatively simple – just look between the spokes of your wheels at the brake system. You should be able to see the rotor – a large silver disk – and the outer pad to one side of it. That pad should be at least a quarter of an inch in thickness, although thicker is better.

Along with your brake pads, you should also keep an eye on the hydraulic brake fluid that enables the brakes to work at all. Checking your brake fluid is a relatively simple task as well. Most cars have a brake fluid reservoir under the hood that shows how much fluid is in the system. If the fluid is low, simply add more according to the manufacturer’s instructions in the service manual. You should also check the color of the fluid: darker fluid indicates it may be breaking down, which means you should get it changed to protect the hydraulic components in your brake system.

Checking and Changing Belts and Hoses

Along with the central components of the engine, transmission, and drivetrain, your car also uses a number of “peripheral” systems like power steering, alternators, air conditioners, and so on. Many of these systems get their power from an intricate network of belts, pulleys, hoses, chains, and cables. Allowing these components to wear out or break down can cause damage to important systems and make it difficult or impossible for you to drive normally.

Most of these parts are easy to check if you know where to look. When you open your car’s hood, look at different visible belts, hoses, and other parts for signs of degradation or decay. These signs can include cracked or wrinkled rubber, belts with a “shredded” appearance, and exposed wiring that is missing a protective shield. If you do notice any of these problems, take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible to prevent any further problems.

Learn More about Caring for Oklahoma City Used Cars

Taking proper care of your car might seem time consuming, but it’s far easier to perform preventative maintenance than it is to get major repairs or replacement parts. By performing regular maintenance you can help your car last far longer and run better, which will make it cheaper and easier for you as well.

To learn more about taking care of your used car in Oklahoma City, come to The KEY today! All of our used cars come with a FREE Lifetime Warranty, making it simple to perform all the important maintenance your car needs. Call us today at (405) 526-7000 or take a look at our Facebook page to get more helpful car ownership tips and advice.