Vehicle issues happen, sometimes it feels like they have a mind all of their own, doesn't it? But it does not mean that it has to hinder your driving experience. Some issues can be quick fixes, but you need to know which ones are the “under 10-minute fixes” and when it is time to just take your vehicle to the shop.
- Checking Your Coolant – Coolant is the fluid that keeps your car’s engine cool. It is found in a large translucent plastic tank. The cap is marked “coolant” and because the tank is translucent, it is easy to read whether the fluid is low or not. Let your engine cool before you open the lid to add coolant. NEVER open the lid while it is hot. As a rule of thumb, you should check your coolant level twice a year, once before summer and once before winter.
- Changing Your Coolant Fluid – Most service shops recommend a coolant change more often than the maintenance schedule recommends, such as every 30,000 or 50,000 miles. If you decide to do this yourself, here are a couple of tips:
- Make sure your engine is cool before you loosen the cap. Loosen the reservoir cap just a little, then step back while the pressure releases. Then, remove the cap completely. If the coolant level is low, add the correct coolant to the reservoir (not the radiator itself).
- Capture your old fluid in a container that you can seal and recycle it at your local auto parts store or recycle center.
- Checking or Changing Your Car’s Air Filter – Depending on your car’s engine, you should change the air filter every 30,000 and 45,000 miles. A dirty air filter can cost you in gas efficiency, shortens your engine life, and it’s a simple fix. Truthfully, changing your car’s air filter is quite possibly the simplest maintenance job you can perform. It seriously takes about a minute to complete and requires no special tools. Swing by an auto parts store after work or pick up an air filter that is right for your car. Google this or look in your owner’s manual. The guy or girl at the store can help you with this as well. Open your hood and locate the air filter box. It’s the black plastic box sitting on top of or to the side of your engine. The filter box usually has a giant hose sticking out of its side. Unclasp the big metal clips that hold the top down and open the box. Remove the dirty filter. Give the old filter a look over to see if it’s past its prime. Look inside the folds. See a lot of dirt and gunk? It’s then time to replace it. Place the new filter in the filter box. Make sure it sits snuggly in the box. Close the top of the box and snap the clips.
- Cleaning Battery Terminals That Are Corroded - Clean off the powdery deposits on the positive and negative terminals. The deposits that form on the top of your terminals are made by battery acid. Before you clean it, remove the cables (negative first) from both terminals by undoing the nut on each cable clamp and wiggling the cable until the clamp comes off the terminal post. To brush the deposits off the terminal posts and cable clamps, sprinkle some baking soda onto each terminal, dip an old toothbrush or disposable brush in water, and scrub the deposits away. Never do this while the car engine is running!
- Topping Vehicle Fluids (Windshield Fluid, Brake Fluid, etc.) – The car’s engine oil is the most important. Locate the dipstick, pull it out and wipe it clean. Insert it again and pull out to read oil level. If it is low, now is the time to add more oil for your engine. Other fluids to check are your coolant, washer fluid, brake fluid, and transmission fluid.
Most of these listed fixes can be completed in 10 minutes or less, which can save you not only time but money too. However, if you are not familiar with doing any or all listed, it is best to schedule a service appointment and proceed with caution.
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