Routine maintenance can extend the life of your vehicle, lower your gas mileage and possibly protect you from extensive repair bills or a breakdown in an unpleasant location. While the vehicle’s owner’s manual will provide lists of scheduled services at specific intervals, there are additional items that should be checked on a regular basis to keep your vehicle running smoothly.
These routine maintenance services can be divided into three major categories, which are those requiring three-month inspections, annual inspections, and inspections depending upon the use of the vehicle.
Checks at Three-Month or 3,000-Mile Intervals
These items are checked at three-month intervals for a few reasons. Some services simply need more frequent scheduling, while others need frequent inspection because they can fail spontaneously at any time with disastrous results.
Power Steering and Transmission Fluid Levels
A leak or corruption of these fluids can cause major damage and may occur at any time.
Battery and Cables
Corrosion can form on battery terminals and clamps, restricting charging of the battery. Cables can become worn or chewed by rodents seeking shelter under your parked vehicle, which drains your battery when exposed wiring comes into contact with your vehicle’s metallic frame.
Belts and Hoses
They expand and contract according to the weather, and will deteriorate over time, possibly leading to spontaneous belt or hose failure and a breakdown.
Both your cabin air filter, which cleans the air that comes from the AC, and the engine air filter, which filters the air that your engine needs for combustion, can become clogged with dust and dirt, lowering gas mileage and corrupting cabin air for passengers.
Chassis Lubrication and Exhaust System
The undercarriage of your vehicle needs lubrication to keep parts running smoothly. Your exhaust system may exhibit early stages of corrosion, leak dangerous gases or have one or more broken retaining clamps that can cause it to break off after hitting an obstruction in the road.
Checks at Annual or 12,000-Mile Intervals
These items are likely to wear or degrade more gradually, requiring less frequent service appointments. Every year, have these items inspected.
Brake pads will wear out according to your braking habits but should be checked annually along with other components of the braking system. However, if you hear a steady scrape or squeal, even when not braking, it is likely the wear pin of your pads telling you to get them changed ASAP. A red brake light on your dash means brake failure is imminent and you must stop driving immediately.
Steering, Wheel Alignment, and Suspension
Any of these components can be damaged by striking a massive pothole or large piece of debris in the road. Although you may not notice the damage, it can impair handling and tire wear, possibly causing an accident.
Heavy use of air conditioning can cause coolant to expand and overflow from the expansion tank of the vehicle, resulting in low fluid levels. Coolant also degrades over time. Both of these conditions can result in overheating and a breakdown.
Checks That Are Scheduled According to Use or Require Frequent Servicing
These maintenance services require additional vigilance because of hazards to your vehicle and/or your own safety if they should fail. Have them checked as needed.
Checking oil levels is important, especially in vehicles with higher mileage, because oil can leak or burn away without being noticed, losing its ability to protect your engine’s moving parts from serious damage.
Vehicle and Dashboard Lights
Both are essential for your safety and protection of your vehicle. Have a friend help you check your brake lights to ensure that they are functioning properly, and inspect all stationary lights on a regular basis. Red lights on your dashboard mean danger, so attend to them at once, while yellow lights indicate possible maintenance issues or inspection alerts.
Keep tires inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, which is indicated on the side of the tires.
California residents in the San Rafael area can depend on Neuhaus Service, Inc. for all of their scheduled vehicle maintenance needs as well as inspections tailored to specific needs of their customers.