Basic maintenance: AC, battery, radiator and power steering (Pt. 1)

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Automotive air conditioning activation button on a vehicle dashboard.

Your air conditioning can make summer driving bearable. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/Mattes/Wikipedia)

To facilitate long vehicle life, a car owner needs to keep up with basic maintenance. There are obviously many facets to auto maintenance, so rather than tackle them all here, let’s take a look at some key vehicle systems that contribute toward comfort and function: air conditioning, auto battery, radiator and power steering.

Basic maintenance tips: Air conditioning

A car, truck or van’s air conditioning can contribute mightily toward comfortable summer driving. By maintaining proper function in the air conditioning unit, you can experience comfortable cabin temperatures without having to leave the windows open and subject yourself to wind, precipitation and debris.

Air conditioning tip No. 1 – Run the AC in winter

Wait, isn’t air conditioning for drives during summer months? Yes, but preparing the mechanism for next year’s warm season is important. That’s why it’s a great idea to run the AC a few times during the winter months. The moving parts within the compressor will be much less likely to freeze up and seize, and circulating the refrigerant through use will help soften the seals.

Basic maintenance tips: Car battery

In order to fire the spark plug and ignite the air-fuel mix that gets your car’s internal combustion engine pumping – or to start the hybrid electric drive – your vehicle needs a power source. That’s where the car battery comes into play. Considering that most people still own vehicles with internal combustion engines, the majority of the following tips apply to standard car batteries.

Car battery tip No. 1 – Check your battery regularly

Don’t become stranded due to a dead battery. Basic maintenance can go a long way toward ensuring that this does not happen. Clean the battery case with a damp rag so that current drain doesn’t become an issue. With a brass wire battery brush dipped in paste made from baking soda and a little bit of water, clean the battery posts and terminals, being careful to first remove the black negative cable, then the positive red cable. If there are any obvious cracks or bulges in the cables or batter itself, replacement is necessary. If everything is fine and cleaning is done, coat the terminals with a thin coating of grease to help combat corrosion, then reattach the cables, positive first, then negative.

Car battery tip No. 2 – Maintain proper water levels

Remove the vent caps from the car battery every so often to check the electrolyte levels. There should be about a half-inch of fluid above the battery’s top plates. If the fluid level is low, fill with distilled water to one-quarter or three-eights of an inch below the bottom of the vent cap. Do not use tap water.

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Car battery tip No. 3 – Jump starting etiquette

It’s inevitable – you will leave your lights on and drain the battery, leaving your car in need of a jump start. As a refresher on how to do this, first, keep in mind that both cars involved in the jump start should be off at first. Connect a positive cable end to the positive terminal of the dead battery, then connect the opposing positive end to the positive terminal of the live battery. After that, attach one negative cable end to the negative terminal of the source battery, and run the opposing negative end to an unpainted part of the engine metal in the non-functioning car. This anchor point should not be right next to the battery itself. Wait for a few minutes, then try to start the car with the dead battery.

If that doesn’t work, then start the source car and try the dead car again. If this still doesn’t work, don’t keep trying to charge the battery, as it can damage the starter. Shut everything down, disconnect cables in reverse order, then bring the dead battery to an auto shop for inspection.

If everything has worked fine, drive the car at least 5 miles, or leave it connected to a charger overnight to ensure a full recharge.

CLICK HERE to continue reading this basic maintenance article. You’ll find out more about radiators and power steering.

On removing and replacing a car battery


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