Maintenance Tips

Maintenance on your vehicle is very important! Below are tips to keep your vehicle running smoothly.

  • Change regular oil every 3,000 miles and synthetic oil ever 5,000 miles
  • Thoroughly flush coolant system every two years
  • Change your transmission fluid every 30,000 miles
  • Change your brake fluid every two years

More Maintenance Topics

Why Cars Need Preventative Maintenance

A properly maintained car will be more dependable, safer, last longer, and increase your satisfaction. Car makers and owners also have a responsibility to make sure emission controls receive regular service and are functioning properly. Regular maintenance helps accomplish these goals by keeping your engine running efficiently and eliminating potential problems that may leave you stranded.

What’s in it for you to maintain your car?

  • A more Dependable vehicle
  • Your car retains the “new car feel”
  • Less chance for costly breakdowns
  • A safer vehicle
  • Cleaner air for all
  • Vehicle is worth more at trade in or sale
  • An intact warranty

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High Mileage Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance

One of the best ways to get the most for your motoring dollar is to extend the life of your current vehicle. With new car prices in the United States averaging well over $10,000, money invested in keeping your existing vehicle in good shape could save you a lot of money down the road. When you consider the true cost of buying a new car (price of the car, sales tax, license and registration fees, insurance), it is not difficult to justify investing a few hundred dollars to repair your present vehicle.

The safety aspect of properly maintaining your vehicle when it has high mileage, should not be overlooked. Failing brakes, exhaust leaks and other problems can be prevented by following sound car care practices.

Unfortunately, most manufacturers only provide maintenance guidelines for the first 100,000 miles or so. Clear procedures for maintenance beyond this mileage do not exist. At best, manufacturers provide interval service schedules, such as every 15,000 miles. These schedules should be followed whenever possible. By doing so, you can reasonably expect thousands more satisfactory miles from your vehicle.

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What should a complete tune-up include?

Electronic ignition, computerized engine controls, and electronic fuel injection have eliminated many adjustments that were once part of a “traditional” tune-up. Most would agree that a tune-up today is a preventive maintenance service and engine performance check.

Call it what you will, a complete tune-up should combine elements of preventive maintenance, adjustment and performance analysis. One of the main reasons people bring a vehicle in for a tune-up is because they are experiencing some kind of driveability problem.

Things like hard starting, stalling, hesitation, misfiring, poor fuel economy, or lack of power are seldom cured by a new set of spark plugs and a few turns of a screwdriver. Every tune-up should include a comprehensive performance check to verify that no driveability problems or trouble codes exist.

Another item that should be included is an emissions check. Thirty-five states now have some type of annual vehicle emissions inspection program, and all but two include a tailpipe emissions check. Most mechanics will check EGR valve operation, the PCV valve, and make a visual inspection of other emission control components and plumbing. But unless an actual emissions performance check is made at the tailpipe, there is no way to know whether or not the vehicle will meet applicable emission standards. An emissions check is a must.

Taking into account longer service intervals and reduced maintenance requirements of today’s vehicles, a tune-up is probably only necessary every 30,000 miles, or once every two to three years. This is altered when a driveability or emissions problem arises that requires diagnosis and repair.

The best guide to tune-up frequency is probably the recommended spark plug replacement interval in a vehicle’s owners manual.

Our list of items that should be included in a “complete” tune-up include:

  • Replace spark plugs
  • Replace rotor
  • Check distributor cap (replace if necessary)
  • Check timing (adjust if necessary)
  • Check ignition wires (replace if necessary)
  • Check ignition performance (firing voltage and ignition patterns)
  • Check idle speed (adjust if necessary)
  • Check choke (carbureted engines)
  • Clean fuel injectors
  • Check compression and/or power balance (identifies bad fuel injectors as well as compression problems)
  • Check manifold intake vacuum (reveals exhaust restrictions)
  • Check battery/charging voltage
  • Check exhaust emissions (verifies fuel mixture, ignition performance and emissions performance)
  • Check vehicle computer for trouble codes
  • Install new air filter
  • Replace fuel filter
  • Replace PCV valve
  • Check all emission controls (EGR valve, air pump, etc.)
  • Check all vital fluid levels (engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, brakes, power steering)
  • Check belts and hoses
  • Check safety items such as lights, wipers, tires (including inflation pressure), horn, etc.

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Why Timing Belts Need to be Replaced

Timing belts have replaced timing chains on many of today’s engines. Both belts and chains ensure that crankshaft, pistons and valves operate together in proper sequence. Belts are lighter, quieter and more efficient than chains. 

Like other components, timing belts wear out. Proper maintenance requires belt replacement at regular intervals—before they break.

Timing belts are on the front of the engine protected by a plastic or metal cover.

When a timing belt breaks, the engine stops. Replace belts before this occurs. Most manufacturers provide a suggested service life and replacement schedule for this critical component

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Check Engine Light

When the ignition switch is initially turned on and the engine is not running, the malfunction indicator lamp lights for a bulb check. While the engine is running, the MIL will light only if there is an emissions-related concern.

The on board diagnostic (OBD) generation two (II) system continuously monitors all engine and transmission sensors and actuators looking for electrical faults, as well as values that do not logically (rationally) fit with other powertrain data. When certain operating conditions are met and a comprehensive monitor detects a failure that will result in emissions exceeding a predetermined level, the computer stores a diagnostic trouble code, and illuminates the MIL.

The OBD II system also actively tests some systems for proper operation while the vehicle is being driven. Fuel control and engine misfire are checked continuously, catalyst efficiency, exhaust gas recirculation operation, evaporative system integrity, oxygen sensor response, and the oxygen sensor heaters are tested once per trip when prerequisite operating conditions are met. The computer will illuminate the MIL if during these prerequisite operating conditions the system detects a failure that will result in emissions exceeding a predetermined level.

Whenever an engine misfire severe enough to damage the catalytic converter is detected, the MIL will blink on and off.

Once lit, the MIL will remain on until the vehicle has completed three consecutive good trips (three trips in which the fault is not detected). The MIL is also turned OFF when stored diagnostic trouble codes are cleared. However, the MIL will only remain OFF if the fault is successfully repaired.

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Cooling System Maintenance

Vol. Per Cent Coolant Boiling Point °F (at 0 psig) Freezing Point °F
10 215 +25
20 217 +16
30 219 +4
40 222 −12
50 226 −34
60 231 −62
70 238 −84
80 250 −57
90 272 −33
100 330 −9

Replacing coolant on a regular basis will prolong the life of the radiator and other cooling system components. Most new car maintenance schedules call for coolant changes every three years or 50,000 miles. Many professional mechanics consider that too long and recommend every two years or 24,000 miles.

There are some who argue that annual coolant changes on late model vehicles with bimetal engines (aluminum heads/iron blocks) and/or aluminum radiators is a good idea.

It does not really make much difference how often the coolant is changed as long as it is changed before losing its corrosion resistance. Antifreeze is made of ethylene glycol (which never wears out) and various additives (which do wear out).

Some additives provide “reserve alkalinity” to neutralize internal corrosion before it can start. As long as the coolant is changed before its reserve alkalinity is depleted, the cooling system should be no worse for the wear. If you wait too long, the result can be expensive internal corrosion in the radiator, heater core and engine.

How can you tell when it is time to change the coolant? The only way to know if the coolant still has adequate corrosion protection is to test it. By dipping a test strip in the coolant and noting its color change, you can determine coolant condition and whether or not it is time to replace it.

When coolant is changed, the system should be reverse flushed rather than simply drained. This helps dislodge and remove accumulated debris and debris in the system. It also removes old coolant that would otherwise remain in the engine block.

Use of a cooling system cleaner is not necessary unless the system has been badly neglected and is full of lime deposits.

The cooling system should be refilled with a 50/50 mixture of ethylene glycol antifreeze and clean water. This provides freezing protection down to −34 degrees F and boil-over protection to 265 degrees F.

When coolant is changed, inspect belts and hoses. Make a visual inspection for leaks. Pressure test radiator and cap. Check operation of heater and defroster.

The thermostat does not need changing unless it has been causing trouble or the engine has severely overheated. If a thermostat is replaced, it should have the same temperature rating as the original. This is extremely important on late model vehicles with computerized engine controls. Fuel, ignition and emission functions are all affected by coolant temperature.

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