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Transportation - Maintaining a car - Part 1

Okay, first of all, I'm someone who knows very little about how my car actually works. I know how to pump the gas, check the oil level, check most of the other fluid levels, and whether the big hoses are cracked or not. I don't know much, and freely admit it.

Unless you happen to be very, very wealthly and can afford several vehicles and a private staff to take care of them, you need to maintain your vehicle. The family car is a major investment for most people, and just as important to maintain as your home.

Think about how you would go about your daily life without your vehicle, and then you realize just how much you rely on it. Imagine trying to do your grocery shopping on the bus, or worse, having to walk. Imagine trying to coordinate the kids' schedules without your vehicle. Imagine just trying to get to work by bus: finding a close bus stop, running to catch the bus because you were 5 minutes late getting off work, making sure you connect with your transfer, having the bus pass, tickets or exact change, and the amount of time spent waiting, riding and walking.

It's really not as hard to do as you might think. Why do you think there are so many auto repair shops around? Because people need to maintain their vehicles, but don't have the time/facilities to do it all themselves. But there are some things you can do yourself to avoid high repair bills or the loss of your vehicle. Okay, let's get to a checklist to help you maintain your vehicle. Remember, some of these you can do yourself, but in reality, you'll use a shop or a very good friend to help you. Either way, its important information you should know.

CHECK THOSE FLUIDS! Just as the human body needs water, your vehicle needs its fluids. You can check most of this yourself. Gas, of course, is the first fluid most of us think about. But there is your oil, transmission fluid, coolant (anti-freeze), power steering fluid, battery (yes, there is fluid in your battery!), and windshield wiper fluid. Wow, six different fluids for your vehicle! Also brake fluid, but since I don't know how to check it on my vehicle myself, I haven't included it in the checklist. Checking your fluids is a bit messy, but hey, that's why we have paper towels and shop rags!

GAS: Make sure you never have less than 1/4 tank of gas. In fact, 1/2 tank or full tank is even better. The lower the reading on your gas gauge, the faster your gas is used. If you know your tank capacity, and your mpg info, you can figure out just how far you can go on a tank. But really, do you ever take the time to figure out just how far you are traveling, not to mention how long the car is running, using up the gas? Keep that gas tank as full as you possibly can.

OIL: The oil stick has markings on it that show the oil level and when you need to add oil. There are several different "grades" of motor oil; find out what's best for your vehicle by reading the manufacturer's recommendation, talk with friends/family, or your mechanic to determine the best oil for your vehicle. Pull out the stick, wipe it off,

put it back in the holder, wait a few moments, pull out the stick again and look at the oil level. If it is low, add some oil, 1/4 quart at a time. Check the oil level after adding oil so you don't add too much. Burning oil is a nasty smell that can be avoided, but is far preferable to having to get a whole new engine.

TRANSMISSION FLUID: Hey, if the transmission isn't lubricated correctly, your vehicle is just not going to work. Make sure you have the correct type of transmission fluid for your vehicle. Unscrew the cap and look at the level. If it looks low, add some transmission fluid, but don't overfill.

COOLANT/ANTI-FREEZE: Check only when the engine is cool. This is in the heavy plastic tank that holds the water, but it also holds the anti-freeze/coolant fluid. Again, look at the markings on the tank. If the level is low, add water and/or coolant as needed. Be careful opening the cap on this tank - if the engine is still hot, you'll get steam, and could get burned.

BATTERY FLUID: Always be very careful with battery fluid. Batteries give off two very explosive gases - hydrogen and oxygen. DO NOT SMOKE or work with open flames around a battery. Also the electrolyte is highly corrosive so don't get it on your skin or clothing. Wash it off immediately with large quantities of water or neutralize with a baking soda solution. Fill each cell to just over the top of the cells. Do not overfill because you can lose some of the electrolyte. Use distilled water if possible, but at least use clean water. Don't spill; the corrosive water/battery acid mixture will quickly corrode both painted and unpainted surfaces.

POWER STEERING FLUID: Ever try to turn the steering wheel of a car without power steering? No problem if you're really strong. Again, check to make certain you are using the correct fluid for your vehicle. Unscrew the cap, look at the level and add some fluid if necessary.

WINDSHIELD WIPER FLUID: Dirty Windshields are just bad. If you live in an area that rains every day, you still need windshield wiper fluid. It helps to maintain the wiper blades and keep your windshield clean. Check the reservoir level, but don't overfill. Always use washer fluid, not water which can freeze. When your windshield is covered with icy, dirty slush it can be frustrating, not to mention hard to see where you are driving.



 
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