Apparently, I am suffering from a case of irony. While driving yesterday, I had a tire that blew out on me. That much is sheer bad luck, coupled with the fact that I haven’t been as diligent lately about keeping up with car maintenance. (Sometimes I don’t practice everything that I preach.) The irony comes in when you know that I had an oil change and other routine maintenance scheduled for this Saturday, when the problem with my tire (caused by my front axis being out of alignment, wearing the inner rim of the right front tire down to nearly nothing) would have become apparent. Sometimes, life just doesn’t have the best timing.
So, a quick tire change in a bank parking lot (luckily, I did have my emergency spare and my automobile emergency kit available), a few hours of waiting for my car to be fixed and realigned, and a few hundred dollars in repairs, and my car is now properly aligned, complete with fresh tires and fresh oil, just for good measure. But it seems like a good time to go over some of the maintenance that you should do to keep your car functioning properly. (Goodness knows, I should do a better job keeping my car in order.)
Automotive Maintenance Suggestions
Oil Changes – Ah, the most basic of automotive maintenance activities. If you do any car maintenance more advanced than refilling your windshield washer fluid, you’ve probably done an oil change or two in your life. Keeping your oil fresh can help your engine run more efficiently, decrease the wear and tear it experiences, and save you money in the long run. (The cost of regular oil changes is nothing compared to the cost of a new car.)
If you want to tackle the task of oil changing yourself, there are plenty of guides available. Or if that’s not your style, it’s inexpensive enough to have the oil changed by a professional. (A professional oil change also gives a mechanic the opportunity to look over your car, possibly catching things you might not notice if you, like me, are not very mechanically inclined.)
Tire Rotation – Another part of preventative maintenance, rotating your tires serves a few purposes. It enables your tires to wear out more evenly (depending on your car, driving habits, and the roads you drive on, there is likely to be different levels of wear on each side of your car). It can allow you to see if there are any issues with your axle alignment (knowledge that could have saved me quite a bit of trouble this week). And it gives you (or again, your mechanic) the opportunity to investigate your tires more closely, to determine if they need to be replaced. This might be a bit harder to do at home (particularly if you don’t have access to a garage and the lifts needed to elevate the car as you pull off the tires), so if might be good to head to a mechanic for this.
Check the Wiper Blades – This definitely can be done on your own, and it is important to monitor your wiper blades on a regular basis. It’s sometimes easy to forget about your wipers, particularly if you live in an area that doesn’t get much rain. Making a point to test your wipers on a regular basis, and replacing them if needed, can help to prevent accidents and the damage to your car (and *knock on wood* possibly to yourself or your passengers). Plus, replacing wipers is easy enough; even someone like me with almost no mechanical ability to do it pretty simply.
Check Your Lights – An easy thing to check; all you need is a dark night, your car, and your keys, and you can see whether your lights are functioning properly. (And I suppose you don’t even need the dark night, although that always help me to see whether the light is lit.) Besides helping to increase your level of safety while driving, having functional lights can help you avoid getting a traffic ticket (the money you can save by not having to pay a ticket for an out headlight can pretty much pay for the new lights). As with most types of car maintenance, it is possible to change your lights yourself (I’ve managed to do it myself), but if you aren’t up for that, you can frequently get the stores that sell auto parts to give you a hand if you buy your lights from them (I had some help from the people at Autozone when I changed my lights).
This is far from a complete list (here’s a more complete list, to give you a fuller view of car maintenance). The purpose of this post (besides sharing my continued bad luck with cars) is to hopefully remind you of the maintenance that should be done if you are a driver. As the saying goes, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’; keeping up on routine maintenance can save you money in the long run, and help to keep you safe as you drive. So, don’t skimp!