Follow your manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule, but here are a few helpful guidelines.
Keep all service records, and keep them together. From every oil change to major repairs, a service record is highly valuable. From a re-sale point a view, handing someone a folder of what you have done to maintain a vehicle is a shocker. Plus, if you do happen to have a problem with your car, an extensive service record is beyond valuable for a mechanic. Saving your repair records will save you money in the long run.
Never ignore a check engine light. There are no check engine light causes that “don’t matter”. Any condition that will turn on the check engine light will effect the way the vehicle’s computer delivers fuel and ignition timing, and thus fuel economy and power. The computer sees that their is a fault present, and changes its strategy from optimised fuel economy and power to to engine preservation.
Also, the check engine light is the only way the vehicle has to alert you to a problem. If the check engine light is on for a problem you know about, it will still be on when the vehicle has another problem. I don’t know how many times a car has come into the shop for a check engine light and the customer is floored to hear the computer has stored a dozen different codes, all of which require separate diagnoses, and repairs. Also repair the cause of a check engine light, it is important, no matter the cause, and it should be fixed.
Change your engine oil EVERY 3,000 miles. I recommend using Oil BG’s MOA (motor oil additive) with every oil change. Furthermore, I recommend you use an engine cleaner and fuel treatment every 4th oil change. All of these oil changes that use BG products come with a BG roadside assistance card. These cards are good for a gallon of gas, having someone unlock your car, or a free tow to the shop. In most cases, a new air filter should be replaced every oil change, or maybe every other oil change. The air filter not only is a huge determiner in fuel economy, but it is the most important barrier between you engine and dirt. Dirt is the engines worst enemy, and the air filter is the only line of defense to prevent dirt being sucked into the motor. Lastly check your engine oil every time you fuel up.
Change any fluids that apply to your vehicle regularly. Automatic transmission fluid, standard transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, differential fluid, should be replaced every 30,000 miles in most cases. Some newer vehicle are “filled for life”. These vehicles have to recommended service intervals for the fluids. Check with your service provider for more details. Generally speaking, fluids break down, and become dirty. Dirty and old fluids causes other more expensive problems, and flushing the fluid from a system and replacing it with new is often the first step in a repair process. Be proactive with your fluid maintenance and you will undoubtedly save money in the long run.
Replace your radiator cap every spring. They are inexpensive, and ware out faster than most people think. Plus, your radiator cap is actually one of the most important parts of your cooling system. The radiator cap maintains the proper amount of pressure in the cooling system. Without a properly working radiator cap, an otherwise perfect cooling system will fail and cause the vehicle to overheat. Overheating an engine is one of the worst things that can happen to it. You can technically have the radiator cap tested, and nine times out of ten the radiator cap on a car does not hold the specific amount of pressure they should.
If you go to a mechanic and ask for a “tune up”, they will most likely think you are asking for an ignition tune up. Ignition tune ups should be performed in accordance with the manufactures maintenance schedule. The mileage between ignition tune ups varies greatly and may be 30,000 miles, or 120,000 miles. A proper ignition tune up may include just spark plugs (for those vehicles equipped with coil on plug ignition), or may require spark plugs, ignition cables (spark plug wires) a cap and rotor. Always, make sure you have the proper spark plug in your vehicle. If you are unsure what plugs should be in your car, email email@example.com, and Scotty will tell you the exact plugs you should be using. Also, when it comes to ignition cables, you really get what you pay for, so I recommend paying for top notch ignition cables.
The often overlooked “tune up” is the fuel system tune up. Many cars are equipped with a fuel filter which should be changed every 30,000 miles (some vehicles have the fuel filter in the gas tank and are not regularly changed). I also recommend a top end de-carb and injector purge every 30,000 miles. When you have a de-carb done, make sure to ask the mechanic to clean the throttle body and Mass air flow (MAF) sensor (if equipped with a MAF). Proper maintenance of the fuel system will help maintain the best fuel mileage possible.
Most imported cars, and many domestic cars have a timing belt. The timing belt and water pump should most definitely be change before the recommended mileage as a broken timing belt often results in a damaged motor, and a costly repair bill. Timing belts are scheduled for 60,000 -120,000 miles depending on vehicle. Ask your mechanic when your timing belt and water pump are due, and he will gladly tell you.
Rotate those tires regularly, and keep them full of air. Also, take your car out on the highway and stretch its legs once in a while. Cruising down the highway helps clear carbon out of the car, and is just good for a car at least once in awhile.
I understand all this maintenance seems expensive, but I often perform these same procedures to repair problems. It’s better to plan for them, plus it may save you a tow bill. Also, the cost of this maintenance is often covered by the fuel you save from having a properly maintained vehicle.