If you have been driving for a number of years, at one point or another you have probably had car trouble. Whether it was something simple like a dead battery from leaving your lights on, or your engine blowing up while heading down the highway, car breakdowns are stressful, and consume a lot of your time and money.
But what if there was a way to prevent your car from breaking down? I can't guarantee that you will ever have troubles, or need to pay for repairs- cars are mechanical and parts will break over time and long term usage. However, if you follow these tips, you will avoid most of the common problems that leave people stranded on the side of the road. Even if your car is old or in bad shape, by following the advice outlined below, you should be able to get your car to limp home in the event of an emergency.
Change and Check Your Oil Regularly
I know, I know, nobody wants to hear this because it has already been beaten to death. But unfortunately, the reason you hear this advice so often is because it really does helping. Regular and consistent oil changes are one of the most important things you can do to extend the life of your vehicle.
Luckily, you don't need to change your oil every three months or 3000 miles. This is a myth that the oil companies and lube shops want you to believe. Why? Because it means they get more money from you. Consult your owners manual for the exact intervals for when this should be done. If you are running full synthetic, you can probably get away with every six months and 6000 miles.
Also, check your oil regularly. Do it twice a month, and mark your calendar so you don't forget. Doesn't matter if you just changed it a few weeks ago, maybe you have a leak or other problem. It takes 1 minute to check your oil level but it could save your engine. Furthermore, it's not a bad idea to carry some extra with you in a car emergency kit.
Check Your Tires
Everyone knows about flat tires and blow outs. You probably see shredded chunks of rubber strewn about the side of the highway every day. Obviously sometimes you are just unlucky and have issues with a tire that isn't your fault. But for every bad tire that isn't the drivers fault, there is another one that could have been prevented.
From now on, every time you get gas, no more standing around with your hands in your pockets. Walk around your car and give each tire a good look. This doesn't have to be a 20 point inspection, you can tell if one is sagging or losing air. In addition to major problems, you could have issues like poor ride quality, bad gas mileage, etc. So there's more reasons to do this while pumping gas, as opposed to just standing there.
Consult your owners manual so that you know the correct pressure in your tires. And then every month check it out. This is very easy to do, and guides are online. Additionally, when you are doing this, pop the trunk and check out the spare tire, and ensure that it's got air in it. If you ever do have a break down, you want to have a working spare.
Check Your Fluids
You've got a bunch of different fluids and containers for them under the hood. Once every two months it is good to just do a quick check of them and make sure you're all good. Again, mark these days on your calendar so you don't forget. This only takes a couple minutes, and you have to do it about 6 times a year. For those 15 minutes a year, you could avoid dodging traffic pulled off the highway, so it's a fair trade.
Check out the coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid. Make sure none of them look discolored or dirty. Do not worry about doing the transmission fluid if your car is a stick shift, it's a much more difficult job. If you have an automatic though, there's no excuse not to include it in your fluid check.
Also, while you are doing this, add windshield wiper fluid to top it off. You probably use wiper fluid up throughout the month, and this guarantees that you will never run out on a bad or particularly dirty day. And while you're at it, this is a good time to replace windshield wipers if you notice they aren't doing the job right. If you go to an auto parts shop they will probably put these on for you, free of charge.
Do a Simple Monthly Checkup
Make it a part of your monthly routine, either on the first or last day, to do this quick monthly checkup. Just like everything else on this list, it doesn't take a lot of time to do. Most of this is just popping the hood and looking at stuff, and it will give you a better idea on how your car works.
First, check out your battery and make sure it looks alright. If you have noticed some trouble turning over when you start the car, or lower voltage, or it's been a while, check it out. The great thing about car batteries is most problems will be pretty obvious. Make sure that the battery doesn't have any loose wiring or corrosion.
Next, have a look at your air filter. The air filter is the easiest auto repair job in the history of the world, even easier than changing you oil. Pop it out, and ensure that it isn't super dirty.
Lastly, have a look at the different hoses under the hood. Don't feel overwhelmed, you don't have to be an expert on car repair. You don't even have to know what each hose does. But if you see that one is cracked or loose, it is going to look very obvious to you. Sometimes you won't notice it in the performance of your car until it gets really bad. Even if you're not handy, it's something to mention to the mechanic. Believe me, he'd much rather do a simple hose replacement for you than a long complicated job that results from the problem worsening.
Part of preventing car breakdowns is knowing that cars are imperfect. As I said earlier, parts will break and need replacing over time. But the difference between good and bad car care is that good car care is done on your terms and time, because you did your due diligence.