If you didn’t grow up surrounded by car enthusiasts you may be a little unfamiliar with how cars work and what maintenance they require. And even if you did grow up in a car family, cars have changed a lot through the decades, meaning that the maintenance required has changed as well. It may feel embarrassing to ask questions that you think you should know the answer to, but trust us when we say you are in good company.
Here are the answers to 9 car maintenance questions you are afraid to ask.
1: How often should I check my tire pressure?
It is recommended that you check your tire pressure once a month. The ideal tire pressure will vary from car model to car model. The recommended tire pressure can be found on the inside of the driver’s door and in the user manual. Having the correct tire pressure is important for a few reasons. Incorrect tire pressure will lead to uneven wear on your tires, lower gas mileage, poor handling, and can even cause blowouts. So keeping your tires properly inflated is imperative. Here’s how you can check your tire pressure:
- Get a tire pressure gauge. You can find one in the automotive section of most stores or online.
- Remove the air valve cap on the tire.
- Press the tire gauge firmly against the valve opening for a few seconds.
- Read the pressure measurement. If it is a digital gauge it will simply give the number. If it is a manual gauge it will have a dial that points to the number.
- Compare the reading to the recommended pressure.
If the pressure is too low, inflate your tire to the correct pressure. If the pressure is too high you can press your fingers on the dot on the back of the tire valve to release pressure.
2: How often should I change my timing belt?
A timing belt connects a car’s engine crankshaft with its camshafts, keeping the engine moving seamlessly and in sync. Timing belts are made of rubber and over time they can crack and fray, and if your timing belt breaks it can cause extensive damage to your engine. In the past timing belts needed to be replaced every 40,000 to 60,000 miles, but new materials have lengthened their lifespan to 80,000 to 100,000 miles. That said, it’s important to not neglect it if your car is nearing that mileage. It’s a good idea to take your car in to get the timing belt changed in conjunction with some other maintenance tasks, such as the timing belt tensioner and water pump. These parts help ensure the timing belt functions properly.
3: How often should I change my air filter?
There are two air filters in your car, one for the engine and one for the cabin. The engine air filter prevents dirt and dust from getting in your car’s engine and the cabin air filter prevents dirt and dust from getting into the AC unit and ultimately into the cabin. When the filter becomes too dirty or clogged it restricts airflow and can cause decreased performance. Because of this you want to change your air filters every 12,000 to 15,000 miles to ensure your car is performing at its best.
4: How often should I change my transmission fluid?
Transmission fluid lubricates the moving parts to keep the transmission working properly. Transmission fluid also acts as a coolant if you have an automatic transmission. Over time this fluid deteriorates and gets dirty, becoming less and less effective at lubricating the transmission. If you have a manual transmission it is recommended to change it every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. If you have an automatic transmission it is recommended to change it every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. Waiting too long can result in decreased performance and costly repairs down the road.
5: What happens if I use the wrong fuel?
If you put the wrong type of gas in your car it may not be a big deal, or it may cause a huge problem. It depends on what type of mistake was made.
-Putting diesel in a gas car: This can clog your fuel filters and fuel injectors and cause damage. This is a serious issue and you should have the fuel drained.
-Putting gas in a diesel car: This can cause overheating that damages the fuel sensors. This is a serious issue and you should have the fuel drained.
-Putting regular gas in a premium car: A slip up now and again shouldn’t cause damage. It will result in low fuel economy and reduced acceleration, and repeatedly doing so may cause damage over time.
-Putting premium gas in a regular car: It probably will not result in damage but will also probably not result in higher performance.
6: What happens if I switch to synthetic oil?
Conventional oil is 100% mineral oil that is created by refining crude oil. Cars originally used conventional oil exclusively to keep the engine lubricated and working properly. Synthetic oil is designed to lubricate the engine with less impurities. In general synthetic motor oil protects the engine more than conventional oil. It has fewer impurities than conventional oils and can help prevent sludge and buildup in the engine. It also flows better in low temperatures and protects the engine better at high temperatures. There is no issue in switching back and forth between synthetic and conventional motor oil, and using synthetic oil may be a better option for your car’s health.
7: What does a check engine light mean?
A check engine light can mean a million different things. Well, maybe not a million, but certainly a whole range of issues. Here are just a few of the different issues that might cause your check engine light to go on:
- A loose gas cap.
- An issue with the catalytic converter.
- Faulty spark plug.
- Damaged mass air flow sensor.
- Internal problem with the engine.
These issues range from minor issues to major issues, so if your light goes on it’s important to not ignore it. In some newer cars the check engine light will change color depending on what the problem is. A yellow light may indicate a less serious issue while a red light may indicate a major problem. If your check engine light goes on be sure to check that your gas cap is on correctly (this is a very common reason for your light to come on). Pay attention to how your car is driving to see if you can diagnose the problem, or simply take your car to the mechanic to have it checked out. They can use a code reader to determine the root cause. Do not ignore a check engine light as it could signify a very serious problem that could result in a very costly repair.
8: Why does my car smell?
If your car smells, there could be a few culprits. Keeping your car clean is the biggest thing you can do to keep your car smelling good. A good vacuuming and polish can help get rid of any food bits that may be causing an odor. Here are a few other tips to keep your car smelling great:
- Place a dryer sheet under the front seats.
- Clean the floor mats periodically.
- Leave the windows open when possible to get the fresh air in.
- Hang an air freshener.
- Run the blower occasionally to circulate the air.
Get into a routine of deep cleaning your car every few months to keep your car smelling fresh. Avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in the car to ensure that bad smells don’t get in there in the first place.
9: Why are my tires not wearing evenly?
If your tires are wearing unevenly it could signify a few things. Here are what your tire tread wear can tell you:
- Your tire is worn in the center: Overinflation
- Your tire is worn on the edges: Underinflation
- Your tire has excessive inner or outer wear: Wheel alignment issue
- Your tire wear is patchy: Tire is out of balance
- Your tire is worn diagonally: Known as “cupping wear” this signals an issue with suspension
How your tire wears can tell you a lot about the health of your car, so pay attention to your tire wear. Inspecting your tires can also help you determine when it's time to replace them. All tires are marked with a manufacturer's date and you can expect tires to last between 6 and 10 years. Tires are the only thing between us and the ground, so they are vitally important to keeping us safe.
Those are the answers to your car maintenance questions.
Understanding what maintenance is necessary and exactly why it is necessary will help keep your car running smoothly for years to come. If you need some help keeping your car payments running smoothly, Auto Approve can help! Contact our agents today to find out how much you could save by refinancing your car loan.