Just got your new car keys? Still enjoying that new car smell? Can’t stop thinking of where to go with your new set of wheels?
Congratulations on your first car! Now that you are a certified car owner, it’s time to face the realities that come with owning your own vehicle.
Be aware of your responsibilities as an owner
Owning a car is more than just flaunting its exteriors and getting compliments from your friends or acquaintances. It comes a long with huge responsibilities such as maintenance, repair, expenses and the like.
Reminding you to face the realities of prioritizing car care is not meant to douse the excitement of owning a new vehicle. It is, in fact, words of wisdom that you should take heed of to enjoy a seamless travel experience.
While you are not expected to know about every nut and bolt and any other mechanical components in your vehicle, it would work to your advantage if you at least know the basics of car care. Knowing about which multipurpose automotive grease to use when to change your oil or tires, or recognizing red flags are all helpful when you want to prolong the lifespan of your vehicle.
Being aware of how your car works and what to do to keep it in top shape will help you avoid costly repairs down the road.
Here are some of the most important factors to include in your checklist to make sure no inconvenienced will be met along the way:
You don’t really enjoy getting hot and sweaty while driving, right? With your car’s heating, ventilating, and conditioning (HVAC) system, you are saved from the stifling heat and humidity or the biting chill outside. It is then crucial that you ensure your HVAC is working well all the time for great indoor conditions. Likewise, to ensure that few components such as air conditioner bearings are periodically checked as such component is responsible in giving reliable air conditioning service to vehicles.
Aside from keeping you comfortable inside your vehicle, your HVAC also improves your car’s defroster operation. Watch out for leaks or drips, intermittent heating or cooling, or musty odor coming from your air vents.
For your comfort and safety, it is advisable that you have your HVAC system routinely checked to ensure that there are no refrigerant leaks or cross-contamination, that the compressor drive belt and tension are good, and ensure that everything is working properly.
2. Belts and hoses
Belts, radiator hoses, and heater hoses must be replaced at specific intervals, according to car experts.
Belts such as the serpentine belt system, the V-belts, and timing belts should be checked for looseness or signs of wear and tear. Serpentine belt breakage or failure leads to an engine failure that will put you, other car occupants, and other road users in danger. Watch out for cracks, frays, or glazing in the V-belts as these can cause your engine to stall and leave you stranded on the road.
Hoses should also be checked every time you go for an oil change. Cracks, discoloration, leaks, and other signs of wear are indications that a hose must be replaced. A blown hose will also pose a safety risk as it could lead to the engine overheating, thereby accelerating engine damage.
Since you cannot easily determine the condition of the belts and hoses by their outward appearance, it is best to bring your car to an authorized car service center or trusted technical service provider and have a trained mechanic or expert look into your car.
3. Brake service
Your braking system is one of the most important safety systems that can spell the difference between life and death. It is never a good idea to ignore signs of bad brakes, routine checks, or necessary repairs as it will greatly put you at risk.
Always pay attention when the indicator light for the brakes lights up or when you hear grinding, squeaking, or squealing noises as these may indicate problems with your brake components.
Scraping, wobbling, or vibration while braking is also a telltale sign of bad brakes. A burning smell while driving, your car pulling to one side, or a spongy or soft brake pedal are also other indicators that you should have your brake system checked by a technician.
4. Engine light and performance
When the engine check icon lights up in your dashboard, it’s obligatory for you to pay attention. A steady light means that something may be wrong with the vehicle system. Even if the car appears to be running smoothly, this signal light means that you need to have your fuel injection, emission control system, or the ignition checked at the soonest possible time.
A flashing light, on the other hand, means that your immediate action is needed.
This could mean that there might be something wrong with your catalytic converter. Since the catalytic converter is instrumental in reducing harmful exhaust emissions from your car, ignoring signs such as rattling noises, decreased fuel mileage, so-so performance, or dark exhaust fumes can damage the environment, put a dent in your fuel costs, and affect the overall performance of your vehicle.
If you see the engine notification light turn on, go to the nearest service center and have your car checked immediately.
5. Oil, filters, and fluids
Your vehicle oil and filter are critical components that clean, cool, and lubricate crucial parts of your car’s engine. There are also other fluids that are made specifically for certain components such as your car brake system, transmission system, power steering, or cooling, among others.
Your vehicle also comes with a variety of filters such as the ones used for interior ventilation, the fuel system, and the transmission.
Antifreeze, condensation, dust, and metallic shavings can contaminate the oil in your car. Additives can also break down over time, and then become additional contaminants. Some fluids are also sensitive to high temperatures.
These factors can all affect the life and efficacy of your fluids and may lead to corrosion and other problems in particular vehicle systems. It is pertinent that you conduct periodic maintenance checks and changes with regard to your car oil and filters.
Your owner’s manual will tell you the recommended intervals for checks and replacements of these parts.
6. Wheels and tires
Tires and wheels bear most of the weight of your vehicle. They also have a crucial role to play in car traction, road handling, and safety. Therefore, you have to make sure that the tires and wheels are regularly checked to enhance performance, improve fuel efficiency, and avoid wear and tear acceleration.
Some components inside your wheels such as wheel bearings/wheel hub bearings, also play a significant part in ensuring a safe travel experience. Wheel hub bearings are designed to allow rear wheels, especially in passenger cars, to turn on an axle even under heavy loads.
Always make sure to choose a brand that you can trust and a quality that can guarantee a longer service life.
On the other hand, road conditions and normal wear and tear can take their toll on your car suspension and steering systems, and unsettle alignment systems. You must have your vehicle wheels checked, aligned, and balanced at least every year.
Unbalanced wheels can accelerate the wear of your struts and shock absorbers. Similarly, your car tires must also be rotated every 6,000 miles to keep their sizes equal for better road handling.
Knowledge is key
Driving a car does not only mean cruising around in high style. To keep your vehicle in tip-top shape, you must also be conscientious in checking and ensuring that everything is working properly. Basic knowledge about how to prevent technical mishaps is helpful in securing your safety and the ease of not experiencing any vehicle downtime.
Do not ignore the red flags and make sure to bring your car over to a professional mechanic or service center to have its regular dose of tender loving care.
Hassanein Alwan is the Managing Director of Mineral Circles Bearings with more than 10 years’ experience in the bearing industry’s technical support division, sales and marketing, plus strategic business development consultancy.