Auto Maintenance – Safety, Reliability, and Longevity

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 23,467
    Auto Repair Expert John Neilsen discusses safety, reliability, and longevity with your vehicle.

    John Nielsen: Hi! I am John Nielsen with AAA. Today, we're talking about making sense of car care. In this segment, we're going to talk specifically about increasing the safety, reliability and longevity of your vehicle through proper maintenance. Now there are a number of things that you need to be aware of and we're going to break them down into a couple of categories.

    Let's start with safety. The number one thing you need to know about maintaining your car in a safe way is to take care of your tires. There is a number of things we want to look out there. We want to make sure that we're checking tire pressure. Now tire pressure is listed, the actual tire pressure for your specific vehicles has listed in two places.

    One is going to be inside the driver's door jamb, the other is going to be in your owner's manual. These are not always what's printed on the sidewall of the tire. In fact, there maybe a difference for the front of your car and the rear of your car, but it's important that you know the right tire pressure. It's also important that you know that these tire pressures are designed to be checked in cold, not after you driven your car for a long.

    Driving your car can increase the pressure two or three pounds which will give you inaccurate readings. Now we've talked a lot about this, but it is so important because proper tire pressure can affect the fuel economy, it can affect the traction of your vehicle, and it can actually affect its safety in various road conditions.

    Another key thing to check on your tire is actually the tread depth. Your brand new tire could have anywhere from 9:30 seconds to 11:30 seconds of an inch tread depth, and that's great but as it wears we need to be aware that the tire is wearing out, it's ability to perform in snow and water and ice really starts to decrease. And by the time you're 3:30 seconds of an inch, your tires completely worn out and it's actually reaching upon where it starts to become unsafe.

    So we want to make sure that we replace our tires long before we get to that level. If you live in a climate where you can expect snow and ice, replacing it early is a good idea.

    When we talk about safety, brakes are another thing that comes immediately to mind. When we rotating our tires, usually every six to 12000 miles, we want to make sure that we're checking the brake pads looking for wear, so that we're catching those brake pads before they actually wear down to metal and start damaging very expensive components of the vehicle.

    Now this is something you can do yourself by simply looking at the brake pads, looking through the wheels, trying to see how much pad is left, or take it to a shop, take it to a pro and have them check it. It's easy for them to do it and it's pretty quick, and it's a great way to save some money to keep your cars safe.

    There are two other areas I want to touch on. One is wiper blades, and it's often overlooked until it snows, or it starts raining and you realize that it's very difficult to see. On average, wiper blades are going to last about six months, no matter what climate you live in. make sure you checking them, make sure you clean them. You simply take a clean cloth and with a little bit of water and wipe the dirt off. They'll help to extend them and when you see them wearing, when they don't clean well anymore, when they chatter to make noise, it's time to replace it because when it's raining or snowing, it's too late you're going to be in a dangerous situation.

    Finally, we look at headlights, tail lights, turn lights. These are things that are hard to see inside your car, and it's important that we check them at least on a monthly basis to make sure there are lights that are in good shape because that helps us to see. It helps others to see what we're trying to do and keeps us safe.

    The next area that we would like to talk about is reliability, and specifically we talk about batteries and battery cables. Depending on the part of the country that you live in, your battery can be expected to last anywhere from three years to five years. In the Southern part or hotter climates of a country, again three years is average. So we know about two and a half years, it's time to have our battery tested. It's not something we can do at home, but it's something you can often get done for minimal charge and it will prevent you from being stranded on the side of the road.

    The further north you live in the country, you can stretch out to four years and get an idea on when to replace it, but having that test done is the difference between making your plan, when you want to replace your battery and having to call AAA for roadside assistance because you're stranded. There is always an opportunity of time.

    Something you can't do with your battery that's equally important is to check the cables on a regular basis by simply grabbing the cables and wiggling to see if they're loose, if they're corroded, if they have contaminants on them. This is something we can all do and it will protect your car and eliminate those unplanned breakdowns.

    When checking your battery cables, you want to make sure that the vehicles isn't running, that the engine isn't hot, that the hood is properly propped open. And if any of those seem a little bit too much to deal with maybe it's time to take your car and have this part done professionally as well.

    Last thing we want to talk about longevity and while we've talked about the importance of using your owner's manual to select the right intervals to change your fluids. It's equally important to understand it that you're using a right fluid in your vehicle. There are host of motor oils with different grades and certainly different weights. These have exploded in the last couple of years and we have so many new fluids to used in the vehicle and new types. So it really is important that you select the right fluid to be used in your vehicle and make sure that that's actually what's being installed to protect your investment and maximize the longevity. So in this segment, we've talked about maintaining your car through reliability safety and longevity. And in the next segment, we're going to talk about who specifically should be working on your car.