car maintenance

Car Maintenance: Regular Car Checks Before and After A Long Drive

In 2023 alone, car accidents are the reported cause of 20 to 50 million injuries worldwide. Despite continuous safety efforts from organizations and national governments (e.g. car checks), there’s still a considerable amount of factors contributing to less safe roads, including the following: 

  • Distracted driving (due to mobile phones)
  • Drug and alcohol consumption 
  • Speeding 
  • Reckless behaviors 
  • Vehicular issues

Regular vehicular and car checks before and after your drive are vital in preventing you from getting involved in car accidents. It can help you stay on top of your car’s maintenance and identify potential risks before they become costly issues.

11 Car Checks You Should Do Before and After a Long Drive 

Long drives can put a lot of stress on your car, so a rule of thumb is always to check and service your vehicle before and after you go on one. Doing so can give you the confidence of a safe drive at any length, especially if you purchased a second-hand car. Here’s a list of car checks you’ll want to do before hitting the road.

1. Oil levels

Old oil can severely damage your engine, killing it and potentially leaving you stranded. If your next engine oil change date isn’t that far off, consider changing it before your next trip.

Many modern cars use their computer to monitor oil levels and automatically displays an alert on the dashboard. However, most cars have a bright yellow or orange dipstick indicating the minimum and maximum oil levels. 

Make sure to let your car cool down before manually checking your oils. Pull out your dipstick and wipe it to avoid having residues that can cause a false level reading. After cleaning, dip it in the oil tank to determine if the levels are within the minimum and maximum markers. 

2. Engine Coolant

Your car’s coolant is a vital fluid that maintains the engine’s temperature. It levels the engine against extremely cold weather; its high boiling point absorbs heat that long drives and hot weathers cause, preventing the engine from overheating. 

Remember to let your vehicle cool for at least eight hours after your last drive before checking on your coolant. It can get scalding, and the pressure from the coolant tank can cause injury. The tank is typically a clear container with minimum and maximum lines on the side for easier monitoring. 

3. Brakes 

Your brake fluids ensure that your brakes have enough bite to safely stop the car whenever you need to. Make sure to inspect it regularly, along with your brake pads. For a thorough inspection, removing the front wheel is best to determine if the brake pads are thinner than six millimeters. If they are, consider having it repaired first. 

Another way to check is to press your brake pedal down without your engine running. It should feel spongy and not slack at all. Similarly, your car shouldn’t pull to either side when firmly applying brakes. If your brakes make a screeching sound or emit a burning or smoke smell, it may be best to have a professional check it. 

4. Lights 

Drivers almost always neglect to inspect their turn signals, increasing the risk of accidents with other drivers. Make sure your car lights are working before starting your drive to avoid getting into mishaps. This includes inspecting the following: 

  • Brake lights 
  • Fog lights
  • Headlights
  • High beams 
  • Indicators 
  • Reversing light
  • Tail lights

While you’re inside the car switching the lights on, ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to check if it’s working correctly. You can also use a reflective surface like a garage door or window to check the lights on your own. 

Consider storing spare bulbs in your trunk in case any lights stop working during a long drive. 

5. Air conditioning 

Before spending the next few hours cramped inside a car, ensure that your air conditioning is working properly. The last thing you’ll want is to suffer from getting a heat stroke in the middle of traffic or, worse, in the middle of nowhere. 

If you notice that your car’s AC isn’t blowing cold air as it once was, you may want to get a ‘car air conditioner regassing’ job. Although regassing kits are available, it’s advisable to leave the job to professionals as it can cause painful freeze burns. It shouldn’t take more than an hour as the specialist will remove the old refrigerant gas in your car’s system and replace it with a new one. 

6. Tires

Your car’s tires can get a lot of wear and tear after spending long hours on the road. There are three elements of a tire you should regularly inspect: its tread, pressure, and appearance. 

Many use the coin test to check on a tire’s tread depth. Simply insert a small coin right side up into the tire’s grooves. If you barely see the coin’s year located on the bottom, your tires should still be fine. However, it may be best to get new tires if you can see the year on the coin clearly.

Even if you’re not going for a long drive, checking your tire pressure is a must. Remember that the number indicated on the side of your tire isn’t the optimal air pressure; it’s the maximum pressure your tire can handle. An underinflated tire may have some wear on the sides and edges, while an over-inflated tire will wear in the middle. 

Cracks can occur on your tires when it’s older or has had prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. At the same time, bulges can appear when your tires repeatedly drive over potholes or knock against curbs, causing them to weaken.

7. Emergency supplies

Keep a supply in your trunk to assist you in case of roadside emergencies like a flat tire or if your engine won’t start. Here are some items you can start with when filling your supply kit: 

  • Essential tools such as pliers, hammers, and screwdrivers
  • Battery jumper cable
  • Different kinds of tape, such as duct tape and cellophane tape
  • Gloves
  • Tire-changing tools like a spare tire and a tire jack 
  • Umbrella and a raincoat 
  • Warning triangle kit 

You can also prepare a personal emergency kit filled with your essentials. Have wet wipes, towels, and a first aid kit within reach. Extra pain relievers, dizziness medications, and other maintenance pills can also be helpful to have during a long drive.

8. Windshield and windows 

You’ll want to ensure that there are no chips or cracks on any of your windows and your front and rear windscreen. Although small chips aren’t that much of a problem, it’s best to have them repaired soon before they become a larger and more expensive problem. 

Make sure that there isn’t anything that can impair the driver’s field of vision or obstruct their view. It’s also worth checking your wipers to see if they leave water lines on your glass. A simple mark or a piece of dirt may still impact visibility.

9. Battery 

Another critical component of your car safety checklist is ensuring your car’s battery still has enough power. An easy way to check this is to use a multimeter. A regular battery reading ranges from around 12-13 volts when the engine is off and between 13.5-14.5 volts when it’s running. However, it’s recommended to have your battery changed every two years. 

If you don’t own a multimeter, there are also several ways you can quickly check your car’s battery. You can start your engine and turn the headlights on to test your car’s electrical system. If the lights are dim but get brighter when you rev the engine, your lights are running off the battery, and the alternator is not producing enough current at idle. 

10. Fuel levels

Although you’re very eager to get behind the wheel and start your road trip, filling your fuel tank near the start of your journey saves you a lot of time and stress. In doing so, you’ll be able to reduce the chances of desperately hunting for fuel stations in an unfamiliar place. 

If you have a plug-in electric or hybrid car, it’s wise to ensure it’s fully charged at home or in charging stations. Although plug-in cars are gaining media attention and global popularity, there aren’t many charging stations availableโ€”especially in remote areas. 

11. Power steering

Nearly every modern vehicle today features power steering. It’s essentially a hydraulic system that uses a special fluid to make steering easier and less intensive for a driver. It assists drivers in easily maneuvering a large vehicle through tight corners or in parking lots. 

However, your car’s power steering fluid can gradually break down over time as it gets contaminated with dirt and debris. When you take your car to get serviced, your mechanic may do car checks on the quality and condition of your power steering belt to identify any risk that can potentially cause an accident. 

Car Checks For Safer Roads, Safer Trips

As lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have eased, many are planning their out-of-town trips. And like anything, preparation through habitual car checks is key to ensure a smooth and enjoyable drive. The last thing you’ll want on a road trip is getting involved in car accidents, worrying about a blown-out tire or an overheated engine in the middle of traffic. After all, owning a vehicle can be more convenient than other transportation options, especially if you’re a resident of a city.

Car Maintenance Dos and Don’ts ๐Ÿš—๐Ÿ’ก

Proper car maintenance is essential to keep your vehicle running smoothly, ensure safety on the road, and extend its lifespan. Here are some important dos and don’ts to follow when it comes to maintaining your car:

๐Ÿš— DOs:

  1. Regular Oil Changes: Follow the manufacturer’s recommended oil change intervals. Clean oil keeps your engine lubricated and helps prevent costly damage.
  2. Check Tire Pressure: Regularly inspect tire pressure and ensure it matches the recommended levels. Properly inflated tires improve fuel efficiency and enhance driving performance.
  3. Scheduled Maintenance: Adhere to your car’s maintenance schedule. This includes regular inspections, filter replacements, and other services recommended by the manufacturer.
  4. Monitor Fluid Levels: Check engine coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and windshield washer fluid regularly. Low fluid levels can lead to overheating and other issues.
  5. Replace Air Filters: Replace air filters at the suggested intervals to maintain good air quality inside the car and optimize engine performance.
  6. Inspect Brakes: Regularly check brake pads, rotors, and brake fluid levels. Properly functioning brakes are critical for your safety on the road.
  7. Keep It Clean: Regularly wash and wax your car to protect the paint and prevent rust formation.
  8. Pay Attention to Warning Lights: If any warning lights appear on your dashboard, address the issue promptly by consulting a mechanic.
  9. Drive Responsibly: Gentle driving habits, like smooth acceleration and braking, help reduce wear and tear on your car.
  10. Store It Right: If you’re storing your car for an extended period, use a car cover and, if possible, store it in a garage to protect it from the elements.

๐Ÿšซ DON’Ts:

  1. Ignoring Warning Signs: Don’t ignore strange noises, vibrations, or warning lights. Addressing issues early can prevent more extensive damage.
  2. Neglecting Tire Maintenance: Avoid driving with underinflated or overinflated tires. This affects handling and can lead to premature tire wear.
  3. Ignoring Oil Changes: Don’t skip or delay oil changes. Dirty oil can cause engine damage and reduce fuel efficiency.
  4. Neglecting Brakes: Don’t ignore brake issues. Faulty brakes compromise safety and can lead to accidents.
  5. Overloading: Avoid overloading your car beyond its capacity. Excessive weight can strain the suspension and lead to handling problems.
  6. Ignoring Fluid Levels: Neglecting fluid levels can result in engine overheating or other mechanical issues.
  7. Using Incorrect Fuel: Always use the recommended fuel type for your car. Using the wrong fuel can harm the engine.
  8. Revving the Engine Cold: Avoid revving the engine excessively when it’s cold. Warm-up the engine before driving to allow oil to circulate properly.
  9. Neglecting Battery Care: Keep battery terminals clean and check the battery’s condition regularly.
  10. Using Worn-Out Wipers: Don’t wait too long to replace worn-out wiper blades. Clear visibility is crucial for safe driving.

By following these dos and don’ts, you can ensure your car remains in top condition, providing you with a safe and reliable driving experience for years to come. ๐Ÿš—

Car Maintenance Hacks: Simple Tips to Keep Your Vehicle in Top Condition

Owning a car brings convenience and freedom, but it also comes with the responsibility of regular maintenance. Proper maintenance ensures that your vehicle runs smoothly, extends its lifespan, and reduces the likelihood of unexpected breakdowns. While car maintenance may seem daunting, there are several hacks and tips that can make it a breeze. In this article, we’ll explore some simple yet effective car maintenance hacks that will keep your vehicle in top-notch condition.

1. Regularly Check Tire Pressure

Maintaining the correct tire pressure is crucial for both safety and fuel efficiency. Invest in a good quality tire pressure gauge and check the tire pressure at least once a month. Underinflated tires can decrease fuel efficiency and cause premature wear, while overinflated tires can lead to poor handling and reduced traction.

2. Change Engine Oil and Filter

Regularly changing the engine oil and filter is one of the most vital car maintenance tasks. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the oil change interval and use the recommended grade of oil. Fresh oil keeps the engine lubricated and ensures optimal performance.

3. Keep Your Car Clean

A clean car not only looks better but also helps protect the paint and the interior. Regularly wash your car to remove dirt, grime, and contaminants that can damage the paint. Additionally, vacuum the interior to prevent dust and debris from accumulating.

4. Check and Replace Air Filters

The air filters play a crucial role in maintaining good air quality and fuel efficiency. Check the air filters regularly and replace them when they are dirty or clogged. Clean air filters ensure that the engine receives a steady flow of clean air, promoting better combustion.

5. Inspect the Belts and Hoses

Belts and hoses are essential components of the engine’s accessory system. Inspect them for signs of wear, cracks, or fraying regularly. Replacing worn-out belts and hoses can prevent engine overheating and potential breakdowns.

6. Test the Lights

Regularly check all the lights of your vehicle, including headlights, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals. Properly functioning lights ensure your safety and visibility on the road.

7. Keep an Eye on Fluid Levels

Check the fluid levels, including coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid, at regular intervals. Low fluid levels can lead to mechanical issues, so make sure they are topped up as needed.

8. Maintain the Battery

Inspect the battery regularly for corrosion and clean the terminals if necessary. Ensure that the battery is securely mounted and check its charge to avoid unexpected battery failure.

9. Rotate and Balance the Tires

Regularly rotating and balancing your tires promotes even tread wear, extending the life of your tires and improving overall handling and performance.

10. Listen to Your Car

Pay attention to any unusual sounds or vibrations while driving. Strange noises or vibrations can be indicative of underlying issues that require immediate attention.

11. Practice Smooth Driving

Avoid aggressive driving habits, such as hard braking and rapid acceleration, as they can put unnecessary stress on your car’s components. Smooth driving reduces wear and tear and contributes to better fuel efficiency.

12. Get Regular Inspections

Schedule regular inspections with a qualified mechanic to catch any potential problems early on. Early detection can save you from costly repairs later.

13. Use Sunshades

Using sunshades in your car’s windows during hot and sunny days can help protect the interior from UV damage and keep it cooler.

14. Check the Brakes

Brakes are critical for your safety, so have them inspected regularly and replace worn-out brake pads or rotors promptly.

15. Keep Your Owner’s Manual Handy

Your car’s owner’s manual is a valuable resource for maintenance schedules, specifications, and DIY tips. Keep it handy and refer to it when needed.

Remember, regular maintenance not only keeps your car running smoothly but also saves you money in the long run. By following these car maintenance hacks and tips, you can ensure that your vehicle remains in excellent condition, providing you with a safe and enjoyable driving experience for years to come.

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