Transportation - Maintaining a car - Part 2
Now I'll pass along some other steps you can take to help maintain your vehicle. Remember, your car is a major investment and it cannot take care of itself. You rely on your car for transportation, but it relies on you for maintenance. Be good to your car.
TIRES: Tire pressure can make a real difference in your gas mileage. Under inflated tires can increase fuel usage, meaning less gas mileage. Tires should be inflated to the manufacturer's recommendation (on a vehicle's door placard or in the owner's manual), not the maximum limit stamped on a tire sidewall. Don't just look and guess, get a tire gauge, uncap the air stem on your tire, place the tire gauge onto the stem, read the markings. This will take a bit of practice, especially since you will probably let out some pressurized air. If your tire pressure is low, add some air, and recheck the pressure. Try not to over inflate your tires. Check the depth of your tire treads. The better the tread, the better your tire grips the road. Make sure there aren't any "bald spots" on your tires. Look at the edges; if they look "rubbed down", your car needs alignment. By the way, this all applies to your spare tire as well. Not much good if your spare is flat.
MAJOR HOSES: Remember all those fluids you have to check? Well, they travel through your vehicle in hoses. Most you cannot check yourself, but there are some you can. Look closely at the couplings (where the hose attaches to the engine part). Make sure they are flush and tight. Make sure the engine is cool. Use your fingers and thumb to check for weakness. Squeeze near the connectors. A chemical breakdown called ECD can occur, usually within two inches of the ends of the hose. Check for any difference in the feel between the hose ends and middle. If the ends are soft, loose, or feel mushy, you should have the hose replaced.
CLEANING: Outside: Keeping your vehicle clean has several advantages. Of course, it looks good. But more importantly, a clean vehicle is much less likely to fall prey to rust and corrosion. If possible, use a car wash at least twice a month. Make certain while drying that all the doors, the trunk, and other outside parts of the car with locks are wiped down, and opened/closed several times to make sure all the little areas are dry. Clean the mud and debris from the undercarriage. Undercarriage treatments, (at most car washes) remove caked-on mud that holds moisture to your car. Rust and corrosion are not attractive. Wax the car twice a year. If your car is red, black or white, wax more often, because these colors are damaged more easily from acid rain and UV rays. Choose the right product for your car's finish. Check the owner's manual, sure the web, read the product labels at the auto parts store.
INTERIOR: Use a trash bag, please. Littering is horrible, and throwing trash onto your floorboards is disgusting. Vacuum whenever you wash your car. Clean the inside of all windows. If you have items you must carry, put them in a bag or box that fits neatly on the back floorboard or in the trunk.
EMERGENCY KIT: Your basic emergency kit should contain the following items. The kit can be added to for special trips or specific weather types.
BASIC EMERGENCY KIT: Emergency Contact and/or Medical Information (even if you have that information elsewhere, put it in your emergency kit!); Flashlight & Fresh Batteries (check these often); Jumper Cables; Quart of Oil and Transmission Fluid; Old Blanket; Plastic tarp; Ice Scraper; A Can of Flat Tire Sealant (Non Flammable!); Small Shovel; Flares or Safety Triangles; Candle and Matches for simple heat and light; Fuses and lamps (if your headlights are the "capsule" type); First-Aid Kit; Rain Poncho or Umbrella; Pliers and Screw Drivers (Phillips and Flat Head); Warm Gloves, Shirt, pants, dry shoes and socks; Bottled Water; Trail Mix or Granola like snack (change these often, don't want to be eating stale food!); Kitty Litter or sand in a plastic bucket for weight and traction on ice; Call Police Sign. Don't use paper boxes to store these in your trunk, either store in plastic bags or heavy plastic tubs.
Well, those are the very basics of maintaining your vehicle. However, unless you're wealthy or you own a mechanic shop, you will need some outside help. Use that outside help. Check with family and friends to find a good mechanic shop. Get the oil changed and the car lubed every 3,000 miles (or so say most of the experts!). Have a tune-up at least once a year, usually just before winter. Educate yourself about your tires and find a reliable tire shop. Your vehicle is an investment and unless you take care of that investment, it will quickly become a liability.