Top Five Car Care Dos

Professional race teams work hard at having the fastest car. They also know they must invest time in proper maintenance to avoid experiencing a mechanical failure – a frightening reminder of improper car care.

Increase the odds of your car completing all of its laps. Make sure you do the top five car care things that often don’t get done. You can also find additional maintenance tips at

1. Tire Pressure

Why: Over-inflated tires ride roughly and suffer premature wear at the center of their tread. Under-inflated tires decrease fuel economy, cause imprecise handling, suffer premature wear at the edges of their tread, and can overheat and fail at highway speeds. Tires typically lose about one pound of pressure per month through normal seepage, and as seasons change, tires lose or gain another pound of inflation pressure with every 10 degree change in outside temperature.

When: Check the tire pressures (including the spare) at least once a month when the tires are cold. Always follow the inflation pressure recommendations in your owner’s manual, or those on the tire information label that is located in the glove box, on a door jamb, or on the underside of the trunk lid. Do not use the inflation pressure molded into the tire sidewall; this is the pressure needed to achieve the tire’s rated load capacity, and it may or may not be the correct pressure for your particular car.

2. Engine Air Filter

Why: Your vehicle’s air filter prevents dust and dirt from entering the engine. A dirty or clogged air filter restricts airflow and will reduce engine performance and fuel economy while increasing exhaust emission levels.

When: Check the air filter every six months or 7,500 miles. Typically, your repair shop will inspect the filter at each oil change. You can check it by holding it up to a 60-watt light bulb. If you can see light through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if the light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.

3. Battery Cables/Clamps/Terminals

Why: Power from the battery flows to the rest of your vehicle’s electrical system through the cables, clamps, and terminals. If these components and connections become corroded or loose, your car won’t have the power needed to start the engine and operate other systems.

When: The battery cables, clamps, and connections should be inspected at every oil change. If there are signs of corrosion, or you notice other indications of electrical problems such as slow engine cranking or dimming headlights at idle, have your repair shop test the charging and starting system, and clean and tighten the battery connections as necessary.

4. Windshield Washer Fluid

Why: Rain, insects, grime, and other debris on your windshield will compromise your vision if they cannot be removed by your windshield wipers. A supply of the proper washer fluid will help your wipers remove these contaminants effectively.

When: Check your washer fluid reservoir monthly and more often when you use the washers frequently. Top it up with a washer solution formulated to aid in the removal of insects and other debris, and during winter, be sure to use a solution with antifreeze protection. Finally, test the washer spray nozzles for proper operation and aim.

5. Engine Oil

Why: Oil is the lifeblood of your engine. Without an adequate supply of clean oil, your engine will wear more rapidly, and could even seize and be destroyed. Oil doesn’t freeze like water, but its viscosity (thickness) does increase as the mercury drops. Lighter grade oils reduce the load on your car’s battery and starter, allowing more rapid cranking and starting. Lighter oils also reach critical engine lubrication areas much quicker than heavier oils, greatly reducing wear.

When: Change your engine’s oil and oil filter at the specified intervals, and follow the more frequent “severe service” recommendations if your driving habits meet any of the conditions described in your owner’s manual. Always use the weight of oil recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer for the existing temperature conditions.

Not only will better vehicle maintenance improve fuel economy, in most cases it also will protect you from budget-busting repair bills. And, your savings account isn’t the only thing you’ll protect by paying attention to your vehicle. A car that is in top working condition is much safer for you and your passengers.

For more information about caring for your car, visit

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