Care and Maintenance Tips Keep Your Car Running in Top-Notch Condition
We’ve compiled our best expert advice, surprising tricks, and car care tips to prolong the life of your automobile!
Run your AC in winter
To keep your car’s air-conditioning system fit for the next warm season, run it a few times throughout the winter. This will prevent moving parts in the compressor from seizing. Also, circulating the refrigerant will help keep the seals soft and pliant.
Maintain your car’s battery
Maybe the manufacturer says your battery is maintenance-free, but don’t you believe it! Check your battery regularly to extend its life and avoid the hassle of being stranded with a dead battery.
- Begin with the simple: keeping your battery clean. A dirty case can actually cause current to drain. Wipe with a damp rag. Use a mild detergent if necessary.
- Next, clean the battery posts or terminals. Loosen and remove the negative cable (black or minus sign) first, then the red positive cable. Use a brass wire battery brush dipped in a paste made from a few tablespoons of baking soda and a little water.
- Inspect the battery case for damage, such as cracks or bulges — signs that a battery needs to be replaced.
- Reinstall the cables, positive first, and coat the terminals and clamps with a thin coating of grease to prevent new corrosion.
Some batteries need water
If your battery has vent caps, remove them to check the level of the electrolyte. It should rise 1/2 inch (13 mm) above the battery’s top plates. If it doesn’t, use distilled water to raise the level to 1/4 or 3/8 inch (6 or 10 mm) below the bottom of the vent cap. Don’t use tap water, as it may contain minerals that can damage your battery. Mechanics should check your battery as a part of your regularly scheduled maintenance, but they often skip the procedure. Be sure to ask to have it done.
Be kind to your battery
If you inadvertently leave your lights on and drain your battery, take the following precautions to prevent damage to the battery and the starter when jump-starting your car:
- Don’t risk causing the battery to explode. With both cars off, connect a positive cable end to the positive battery terminal of the dead battery.
- Connect the other positive cable end to the positive terminal of the source battery.
- Connect a negative cable end to the negative terminal of the source battery.
- Attach the remaining negative cable to unpainted metal on the car engine (as far from the dead battery as possible).
- Wait a few minutes and try to start the disabled car. If it doesn’t start, start the source car and then try starting the dead one again.
- When the car starts, be careful to disconnect the cables in the reverse order.
- If the car still doesn’t start, don’t keep trying to charge it or you are liable to damage the starter. Bring the battery to an automotive shop to see if it can be recharged.
- Even if you’re successful, ensure a full recharge by hooking up the battery to a charger overnight or by driving the car for 5 or 10 miles (8 to 16 km).
Dilute your coolant
Your cooling system needs both coolant-antifreeze and water, so don’t pour undiluted coolant into your cooling system. Dilute it with water to the commonly recommended 50-50 ratio. Similarly, don’t use straight water in your system either.The coolant protects against corrosion and freezing.The water ensures good heat transfer from the coolant to the radiator.
Keep your cool
Check the coolant-antifreeze level weekly that shows on the translucent coolant-antifreeze overflow tank. If low, fill to the maximum fill mark on the tank with a 50-50 solution of coolant-antifreeze and water. Some coolant manufacturers now sell premixed coolant and water for the motorist who wants a quick and easy way to top off.
Don’t forget to flush
Coolant-antifreeze eventually degrades and becomes contaminated. Flush it from your cooling system as recommended in your manual (typically every two years; every five years for newer coolants). Failing to do so can damage your radiator, clog your heater core, and cause the thermostat and water pump to fail.
Don’t mix coolants
Avoid mixing coolants that are different in color. If your coolant is pink, don’t add a green formulation to it. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a thick solution that won’t do its job. Use only the coolant specified in your owner’s manual.
Check power-steering fluid
Check the power-steering fluid once a month with the car warmed up. If the level is low, have the hoses and pump inspected for leaks. In addition to making your car difficult to steer, low power-steering fluid will damage the power-steering pump. Be sure to use the power steering fluid recommended for you car.