Properly maintaining a vehicle is one of those things I will probably get a hundred emails and comments on how I am nuts when I recommend these things. Keep in mind I am talking about the minimum things that need to be done to maintain a vehicle...feel free to adjust as you see fit. The most important thing to do is something...otherwise it will fail you when you need it most. In these tough economic times you don't want to have to replace a vehicle if you don't need to, take care of it and it will take care of you and more importantly save you money in the long run.
1.) Keep the vehicle clean - The minimum I wash my vehicle is once a month and that includes a thorough interior cleaning as well. This can certainly be done more often if needed and in fact when we return from camping I always clean the truck inside and out.
2.) Change the oil on your vehicle - Change the oil a minimum of every 5,000 miles. I personally do it every 3,000 miles. I don't feel it is necessary to do it every 2,000 or 2,500 miles like some folks advise. I change the oil filter every time the oil is changed but I know some people that do it every other oil change (it is so cheap to pick one up this is kinda dumb in my opinion).
3.) Maintain proper inflation in your tires - This will give you a comfortable ride, increase your gas mileage and help your tires maintain even wear.
4.) Rotate your tires - I do this every 7,500 - 10,000 miles or every other oil change. This is extremely important to maintain even tread wear on your tires.
5.) Don't let the vehicle get extremely low on gas - When your gas tank gets real low and if you run out of gas all the garbage that builds up at the bottom of your tank gets sucked into the fuel system and that just causes bad stuff to happen. I usually never let my tank get below a 1/4 of a tank...when it does I fill it up.
6.) Change the air filter - I personally put a K&N air filter in all my vehicles which is a lifetime filter that just needs to be cleaned and oiled when needed. You should check your air filter every other oil change and change it when it is pretty dirty. I have seen people blow it off with compressed air and put it back in the vehicle which is fine as long as it is not filthy. Plain vanilla air filters are cheap as well so I would recommend changing it frequently.
7.) Check all the fluids - I check all the fluids when I change the oil and top off whatever I need to. I pay special attention to the transmission and power steering fluid when it gets near 15,000 to 20,000 miles since changing. The transmission fluid should be clear of debris and red in color (it could be another color but most are red). Top off the coolant if need be and keep the washer tank filled with fluid as well.
8.) Get a tune-up - This is the subject of debate. My owner's manual says 100,000 miles before a tune up. I don't buy that. Check your plugs and wires frequently but at a minimum of 20,000 miles. I think plugs should be checked and wire replaced at a minimum of 50,000 miles. Like I said this is up for debate and feel free to chime in. If you trust your mechanic follow his advice with regard to this and everything I have listed in this post.
Listen please take care of your vehicle. The advice I provide here is strictly for informational purposes and you should consult with a professional mechanic. There is no reason why you should not be able to drive a car until the body rusts around the engine if you take good care of it.
I had a Toyota Corolla for 10 years, it was 4 cylinder and had close to 200,000 miles on it and ran fine when I finally decided I deserved to buy myself a pickup and got rid of it (A/C did not work - that was the only thing wrong with it). I will drive my pickup into the ground before I replace it and the same with my wife's SUV.
...that is all.
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