The owner’s manual

Published On: December 1, 2016 11:47 PM NPT By: The Week Bureau

Engine oil
You should check your car’s oil at least once a month to make sure that there’s enough oil and that it isn’t contaminated. Oil reduces the friction in your engine and keeps it running smoothly. When you check your oil if you find it’s dirty or smells of gasoline, know it’s time to have it changed.

To find out whether your vehicle needs oil, you will need a dipstick. Be sure the engine is cold (or has been off for at least ten minutes) before you check the oil. The location of the oil dipstick depends on whether your vehicle has an in-line engine (rear-wheel drive). If you have a transverse engine (front-wheel drive) your dipstick should be located near the front of the engine.

So insert a dipstick into the pipe. If the dipstick gets stuck on the way in, turn it around. The pipe it fits into is curved, and the metal stick bends naturally in the direction of the curve if you put it back in the way it came out. Pull the dipstick out again and look at the film of oil on the end of the stick. Note how high the oil film reaches on the dipstick and the condition of the oil, and add or change the oil as needed.

Expert tip
If the engine is hot, wait at least 30 minutes to avoid getting burnt.
Oil turns black pretty quickly, but that doesn’t affect the quality. Rub a little between your thumb and index finger, and if it leaves a dirty smudge, it probably needs to be changed.

Tire Pressure
Everything any car does depends on the four rubber donuts on which it sits. Making sure those tires are properly inflated is the best way to guarantee your car performs at its best from a handling and fuel-efficiency standpoint.

There are fancy tire gauges and straightforward tire gauges, but they all work pretty much the same way. Simply take the gauge to each tire, remove the valve-stem cap (and put it in your pocket so you don’t lose it on the ground), press the gauge flat against the valve stem, and the gauge will read the pressure. If you hear air hissing out of the valve alongside the gauge, you don’t have a complete seal and will get an inaccurate reading. What that reading should be is usually listed on a sticker in one of the front doorjambs. Or it’s in the owner’s manual. The proper pressure is not the maximum listed on the tire itself; that’s often far too high.

After that, it’s a matter of adding air and rechecking the pressure until the tires are at their correct inflation. But be careful not to overinflate, because that leaves the car riding on smaller, less stable contact patches.

Expert Tip
It’s best to measure your tire pressure when the tires are cold – after the car has been parked for the night is ideal. Tires that are warm after running all day will have a higher pressure from the additional heat. Tire pressures should be checked at least once a month.

Air filter
It’s recommended that you change your air filter once every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Since we live in a particularly dusty place, we must do it more frequently. It’s always a good idea to at least check your air filter at every oil change.
Engines are big and powerful, but they can be surprisingly sensitive to the smallest grain of sand. A dirty air filter doesn’t allow air to get through to the engine. A reduced amount of air means your engine needs to use more fuel to get the same bang to run your engine. Thus regular air filter checks can also help prolong engine life. 

Open the hood and locate the air filter box. It’s the black plastic box sitting on top of or to the side of your engine. The filter box usually has a giant hose sticking out of its side. Open the air filter box and remove the dirty air filter. Opening an air filter box is a cinch. Just unclasp the big metal clips that hold the top down and open the box. Remove the dirty filter.

Look inside the folds. If you see a lot of dirt and gunk, it’s time to replace it. Put in the new air filter. Place your filter in the filter box. Make sure it sits snuggly in the box. Close the top of the box and snap the clips. That’s it. Your engine will no longer be gasping for air.

Expert tip
Some older vehicles have permanent air filters, and some off-road vehicles have more-complex filters with wet and dry elements. Clean and replace these according to the instructions you will find in your owner’s manual.

Windshield wiper blades
Check the condition of your windshield wiper blades periodically. When wipers become torn or cracked your vision can be impaired. Wipers will start to deteriorate even if not used extensively due to exposure to sunlight, pollution and related factors. Check your wiper fluid reservoir and make sure you always have plenty of wiper fluid. Also never use just water unless it’s an emergency.

Shocks and struts
If you come to a stop and your car feels like it is rocking back and forth most likely, your shocks and struts are worn and not doing their job, dampening the movement of your vehicle. When driving an older vehicle, even rattling while going over bumps can be a good sign that the shocks and struts have seen better days. Many drivers don’t notice their shocks and struts going bad because it happens over time.

Brakes and rotors
If you press your brake pedal and feel the steering wheel shake while you are applying the brakes and/or feel the brake pedal move back and forth that is a sign that your brake disc rotors have excessive run-out or what is referred to as pulsation. This can actually affect the ABS (anti-lock braking system) and the stability control system.

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