Basic maintenance of your car: Oil, filters, hoses and more (Pt. 3)

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Close-up view of the engine of a Hyundai Scoupe. The individual parts are labeled as part of a car show display.

See all of those hoses? Squeeze them and see if they crack. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/skinnylawyer /Wikipedia)

Basic maintenance of your vehicle doesn’t end with these factoids. On the contrary, this is the beginning – but I’m confident you can handle it. Click if you missed PART 1 or PART 2 of this article, or you’ll miss some real basic maintenance nuggets.

Basic maintenance with spark plugs tip: Don’t neglect changing them

We may not need to tune our cars up as often now, thanks to electronic ignition and on-board computers. However, changing the spark plugs is still important. Consider changing your car’s every 30,000 to 40,000 miles to maintain good fuel economy and engine performance. Double-platinum plugs may be able to go as long as 100,000 miles, so if you don’t already have these, you might want to try them. They’re only a few extra dollars more per spark plug. While you’re at it, replace the spark plug wires each time you replace the plugs, unless corrosion makes it necessary to do so earlier.

Basic maintenance with hoses tip: Give them a squeeze

With your vehicle’s engine shut off and cool, squeeze some of the hoses under the hood. If they are cracked and make a crunching sound, it’s high time to replace them, before you attempt to drive across the Gobi Desert. On the other hand, if the hoses are excessively soft or even sticky, they’re melting and will cause you trouble soon if they haven’t already. Look for bulges and collapsed areas on hoses, too. Any evidence, particularly in the coolant hose, can be evidence of impending doom.

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Basic maintenance with belts tip No. 1: Are they tense enough?

Each month, check the belt tension of all the major belts you find on your car’s engine when the engine is cool. If they’re too tight, the bearings in such systems as the AC compressor, water pump and power steering pump can wear out prematurely. If the belts are too loose, the belts themselves will wear down more quickly, crack and break.

Here’s how to test the belts. Press in the center of the longest exposed area while holding a ruler next to the belt. If you can depress the belt between one-half inch and an inch, it’s good. Anything else is either too tight or too loose, depending upon what you find. Don’t forget to check for glazing, fraying or cracking in belts, too. Any signs mean the belt should be replaced.

One more thing: Replace your car’s timing belt every 50,000 miles. If you wait too long, you can do thousands of dollars worth of damage to your car’s engine. That’s a lot more than the standard auto loan payment.

Basic maintenance with engines tip: Clean it well

People don’t see your car’s engine when you’re cruising down Main Street, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean that beast. Clean engines run cooler, and it becomes much easier to spot leaks when the engine exterior is clean. Put plastic bags over the air intake, distributor and electrical parts for protection, then get to scrubbing the rest with a bristle brush with dishwashing liquid or a similar grease cutter. More potent engine cleaners are available at auto parts stores for particularly messy jobs, and a steam cleaning may even be in order. When you’re done scrubbing, rinse the engine thoroughly.

Sources

Edmunds

Pep Boys

Reader’s Digest


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