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DIY Maintenance Mechanism For Your Auto Parts

Taking care of your car is a long-term commitment that you canít turn your back on. The more you care about your car, the more you get to know about it and the more you fall in love with it.

However, not taking care of your car does the opposite. The more you drive it, the more frequently it breaks down and the more you end up hating it.

If you donít want this to happen to your car -- now or ever -- here are a few maintenance duties that you must keep on top of your mind, whether your car is new or old.

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Importance of Car Maintenance

Every car comes with an expiry date. The carís journey between leaving the showroom and ending up in a scrapyard is largely determined by how well you maintain it. A well-maintained car ages gracefully whereas a poorly maintained one will drag along and become an endless money pit.

Regular car maintenance also prevents costly repairs down the line. During regular oil changes, a quick walk-around can help you catch potential issues while they are relatively easy to fix. Also, when your car is in good shape, you donít have to drive in fear of a breakdown. Moreover, a well-maintained car retains most of its resale value. When you decide to sell your car after 5 years or so, you are likely to get a great offer if your car drives smooth and looks great inside and out.

Is it too difficult to handle DIY car maintenance?

Well, you donít necessarily have to get your hands dirty, for sure. All you need is fleeting knowledge of car maintenance and auto parts so that no mechanic could dupe you into spending more money on repairs than you should.

Hereís everything you need to know about car maintenance and repairs.

Common Maintenance every vehicle needs

A car has over 30,000 components that tend to wear out with time and usage. You must be vigilant because most car repairs are insidious and progressive in nature. One thing leads to another, and you are handed a hefty repair bill. However, with regular maintenance and inspection, you can nip the problem in the bud and enjoy a hassle-free driving experience for years to come.

Regular Maintenance

The first regular maintenance interval occurs after your car has been driven 5000 miles or has completed one year. This is when you are required to change the engine oil, air filter, oil filter, cabin filter and get your brake pads cleaned. Since your car is still brand new, the first service is basic and relatively cheaper.

Now as you gain distance on the odometer, wear and tear increases and your maintenance cost keeps on adding up with every passing year. This is where you need to be a bit cautious and get grips with the condition of your car so that you know which parts need to be replaced and which ones can wait.

Maintenance Before 30,000 Miles

Up until 30,000 miles, your car will drive like a dream without giving you much trouble. But trouble can double if you donít take care of your car during the first three years or before the 30,000 milestone.

Depending on the make and model of your car, the maintenance requirements may vary, but fundamentally, thereís not much difference.

Hereís a lowdown on your carís maintenance up until 30k miles.

Change engine oil, air filter and oil filter every 5000 miles. This means you will have changed these items at least 6 times by the time your car clocks 30k miles. Apart from that, you will also need to change the coolant every 10,000 miles to ensure optimum engine cooling. Mix one part coolant with one part of water to create your coolant mix. Using 100% coolant or 100% water is never recommended.

Brake Pads

Your brake pads will also need to be replaced at the 20k-mile interval. In some cases,brake pads can even last longer than that. The key here is to check the rubber on brake pads whenever you get a chance. For instance, when you remove your front wheels, you might as well want to take a look at your brake pads. Replace the brake pads before the rubber on them wears out completely, lest the exposed metal will damage the rotor.

Wheel alignment

Wheel alignment and balancing is another important maintenance aspect that you shouldnít overlook or skimp on. This determines the driving dynamics and life of your tires. Wheel alignment ensures your vehicle drives in a straight line with the steering aligned in the center. If your vehicle pulls to the side, that means the alignment is off. Also, if you feel aggressive vibrations in the steering wheel at high speeds, itís an indication that the wheels are out of balance.

Wheel alignment and balancing should be done every 6 months or 3000 miles -- whichever is earlier. And while you are at it, donít forget to swap tires back and front. There are two main benefits to getting wheel alignment done regularly. First of all, the tread on your tires will wear out evenly and last longer. Secondly, your car will drive straight and smooth. If you are careful while driving through potholes and over speedbumps, your wheel alignment can last longer. Also, try not to hit the curb in the parking lot.

Windscreen wipers

Windscreen wipers are the most neglected car parts. You think you can do without them until you canít. The rubber on the windscreen wiper blades wears out over a year of sporadic use. Because worn out wiper blades can compromise your visibility on a rainy day, replace your these as soon as you start noticing water trails behind the blades.

Spend time and money on car detailing

The first three years are crucial to your carís paint job and shine. The dirt, scratches, pollutants, sun-damage and other environmental elements can sabotage your carís exterior appeal. To protect the paintís shine, clean your car every second day and use quality polish and wax products every weekend to keep your car in next-to-showroom condition.

Investing in quality cleaning supplies, such as a squeegee, micro-fiber cloth and cleaning solutions, will save your time and efforts while maximizing results.

Maintenance Before 60,000 Miles

When your car is nearing 60k miles, know that a major maintenance bill is heading your way. But if you are an informed car owner, you can fend off extra expenses without compromising your vehicleís performance and life. All you need to do is understand what needs to be done and whatís not.

Clutch Plates

If you drive a bit rough in the cityís stop and go traffic, your clutch plates will go out first. Some drivers manage to ride their stock clutch plates until 100k miles, which is quite impressive and difficult to achieve. However, if your clutch lasts 60k miles, consider yourself lucky.

Tires

The next thing you want to replace is the set of tires. If well maintained, a new set of tires can last 50k miles. Some drivers like to stretch their tread and continue to drive with nearly bald tires. This can be dangerous, especially when the weather is extremely hot or wet. Ideally, you should replace your tires when its 50% tread is gone. If you are more concerned about the performance and grip, consider replacing at 70% tread.

Transmission oil

This is also a time to bleed your transmission system and put fresh oil in it. Transmission can start to feel rubbery at around 60k miles, and itís mainly because of the worn-out transmission oil. Changing the transmission fluid on time prevents further wear and tear, increasing the life and performance of the transmission significantly.

Timing Belt

The average life cycle of a timing belt is 60k miles or 4 years. The teeth on the inside edge of the timing belt wear out over time. Since the belt is made of rubber, it tends to get brittle and snap under extreme mechanical pressure. The main signs of a failing or failed timing belt are engine misfires, jerking motion from the engine and oil leaks since everything goes out of sync when a timing belt fails.

Although a timing belt is an affordable part, its installation is tricky. Unless you know how to put the timing belt in sync with the system, let an expert mechanic do it for you.

Maintenance Before 90,000 Miles

When your car has driven around 90k miles, itís about time to be more vigilant as a lot of crucial parts start to fall apart at this point. This is also when the chassis and suspension system lose their strength, and rattling noises become rampant. However, with the following maintenance measures, you can have your car driving smooth and strong up to 100k miles.

Water Pump

The timing belt drives the water pump, and co-incidentally, both have the same life cycle. The purpose of a water pump is to pump coolant into the engine and keep the cycle going to prevent overheating. If the water pump fails, the coolant stops circulating. The hot coolant stays where it is (inside the engine) and the relatively cold coolant stays in the radiator core. Due to lack of exchange of heat, the engine overheats, which is by far the worst thing that could happen to a car.

Replacing the water filter at around 90k miles is the best way to avoid a catastrophic failure. Even if the water pump hasnít broken down yet, you must get it replaced as a preventative measure.

Radiator hoses

The radiator hoses carry hot coolant away from the engine and run it back into the engine after it has cooled down in the radiator core. Due to this temperature variation, the rubber hoses tend to get brittle over time and start to leak from where they are clamped onto the radiator and engine parts.

Radiator hoses should be replaced before they burst open and splatter coolant all over the engine bay. Thereís nothing worse than losing coolant and not realizing it. Driving without coolant means letting your engine overheat. And you know how devastating it can be.

Therefore, it is advised to get the hoses replaced at 90k miles.

Fuel system cleaning

If you have never had your fuel system cleaned until 90k miles, now is the best time to do so, as you know that there are fuel impurities that can clog the system over time. Cleaning fuel lines and replacing the fuel filter can get rid of these impurities and prevent engine damage.

Battery

The life cycle of a car battery is largely determined by years and not miles. If you have driven the same battery for 5 years, itís likely to die in a couple of months or weeks. Most car batteries are replaced after 4 years, and that makes sense because getting stranded with a dead battery can be a nightmare if immediate help is not around.

Brake Rotors

Brake rotors tend to wear out and catch rust over time. This leads to squealing noise and inefficient braking despite the new brake pads. Brake rotors, as they get old, tend to overheat during hard braking, which can lead to a complete brake failure. When you replace brake rotors, get new brake lines and fresh brake oil for better safety and performance.

Spark Plugs

Modern spark plugs are built to last. Unless thereís an issue in the system, you will not be required to change spark plugs before 90k miles. The telltale signs of worn-out spark plugs are low gas mileage, trouble starting the engine, rough idle and low acceleration. Spark plugs should be tested in a workshop to rule out the chances of misdiagnosis.

A Schedule Of Preventative Maintenance

The idea behind preventive maintenance is to keep issues from occurring in the future. Itís about knowing things that can go kaput, and taking proper measures beforehand to avoid that situation.

Preventive maintenance not only means taking care of the car parts but also following good driving habits to avoid unexpected breakdowns.

Short Term Check-ups

Letís talk about short-term check-ups first which should be performed at least once in two weeks.

Engine Oil

Pull out the dipstick to check the level of the engine oil. Do this when the engine has cooled down overnight and also make sure the car is parked on a flat surface to get an accurate reading.

Ideally, the engine oil level should not drop; if it does, thereís an underlying issue that needs to be looked into.

There could be a leakage in the system or the motor might be burning oil. The leakage could be internal or external. Internal oil leaks refer to a situation when the oil leaks into the exhaust manifold or the cooling system due to a head gasket failure. On the other hand, external leakage refers to a situation where the engine oil may drip down on the driveway due to a leakage in the engine block or hoses.

Coolant

Open the radiator cap to check the coolant level. If you canít see coolant filled up to the radiatorís neck, this means the level has dropped below the recommended mark. Top it off with water and check again after a couple of hours. If the level has dropped again, thereís a leakage in the hoses, radiator or somewhere in the system. Get it diagnosed immediately.

Caution: do not open the radiatorís cap when the car is hot. Let the car cool down for at least 20 minutes before removing the radiator cap.

Tire Pressure

Most car owners ignore tire pressure unless they get a flat tire. Driving with under-inflated or over-inflated tires can be detrimental to tiresí life and performance. Whenever you fill gas in your car, always get the tire pressure checked. It should be somewhere around 33 PSI, or check your carís manual to know the recommended tire pressure.

Lights & Turn Indicators

Lights & Turn Indicators can go out without a prior warning. And driving without them can be misleading for other drivers on the road. For instance, if your brake lights or turn indicators arenít working properly, but you think otherwise, that could lead to a serious accident. Therefore, it is important to check headlights, brake lights, turn indicators and tail lights whenever possible. Ask your friend or family member to stand at the back of the car to ensure brake lights come on as you press the pedal.

Cabin filter

Your cabin filter acts as a filter for external elements such as dirt and debris. The cabin filter is placed in the ACís duct and prevents dirt from entering the cabin. Just like the air filter in the air intake assembly, the cabin filter gets saturated with dirt over time. If you drive in a construction zone, youíll want to change the cabin filter more frequently.

Door latch

Catching a failing door latch can be difficult. Sometimes, you keep on driving a car that doesnít latch when you lock it. The worst part is you may not realize that the door is not latching and leave your car vulnerable to theft. That is why it is important to check the doors manually after you lock your car. Make it a habit so that you can catch a failing latch right away.

Long Term Check-ups

Now letís have a look at parts and systems that need to be inspected annually or bi-annually.

Air Filter

The air filter is responsible for the amount of air that goes into the intake manifold to support combustion. A dirty or clogged air filter obstructs the airflow, which leads to poor throttle response and fuel efficiency. Check the condition of the air filter every 6 months to make sure itís not saturated with dirt and debris. You can clean the filter with a pressure hose or consider replacing it with a new one if it looks too clogged up.

Clutch plates

You donít have to check your clutch plates every day. Youíll know your clutch plates need to be replaced when you face trouble shifting gears. Avoid riding clutch while driving. Your foot should be off the pedal as soon as you release the clutch. This will prevent wear and tear of the clutch wheel, and it will last longer.

Head gasket

Now, the head gasket sits inside the engine block, and itís quite daunting to access the head gasket physically. Instead, you can determine whether the head gasket is blown or not by doing a simple test. You will need to check the integrity of the head gasket if the engine has overheated or is losing coolant without any apparent leakage in the system.

Checking a blown head gasket is fairly easy. Open the radiator cap and observe the coolant carefully. Now ask a friend to turn on the ignition. As soon as the engine cranks, the coolant will spill out. This means thereís a leakage in the head gasket.

Seasonal Check-ups

Seasonal check-ups should be carried out before the arrival of summer, winter and monsoon season.

AC check-up

Take your car to the workshop for a quick AC check-up, including freon level, compressor oil and hoses. It is better to have your AC serviced at the onset of summer than to face the unbearable heat on the hottest day of the season.

Wiper Blades

Before monsoon, make sure the wiper blades are in good condition. They should be able to wipe down the windscreen without leaving trails of water or dirt. Replace the blades if necessary, as poor visibility is the number 1 reason behind accidents during monsoons.

Get Winter-Ready

Before the winter arrives, make sure the radiator has antifreeze, and tires have sufficient tread to glide you safely through the snow season. The heater coils should also be working properly to avoid frostbite while driving on a cold night.

Doing these car checks will help you avoid breakdowns and enjoy stress-free car ownership for a good 15 years.

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