You looked forward to the freedom that moving away to college represented, but you didn’t consider how many sacrifices you’d also have to make in the name of independence. Grocery shopping, laundry and taking care of your own auto maintenance were all things that you had completely taken for granted. While this newfound freedom is totally worth all of the extra responsibilities, there’s a learning curve to it all.
Here are the auto maintenance basics you need to know to prevent getting stranded on the roadside and keep your vehicle running well.
Evaluate Tire Tread
Worn out tire tread can puts you at risk of a blowout or could cause you to hydroplane in severe weather conditions. Keep an eye on your tires by inspecting them every few months to ensure the tread is at least 2/32-4/32 of an inch. An easy way to measure tire tread doesn’t even require any fancy tools; all you need is some loose change.
First, take a quarter and slip it between the tread with Washington’s head facing down. The distance from the edge of the quarter to the top of his head is 4/32 of an inch, so if Washington’s head is buried in the tread, your tire is in good condition. If not, grab a penny and try the same test. Lincoln’s head is 2/32 of an inch from the edge—as long as the tread is at higher than that, your tires should be fine.
Vehicle safety experts vary as to whether tread that is 2/32 or 4/32 of an inch is the lowest that tread should be before the tires need to be replaced. To be on the safe side and save money, order new tires online as soon as yours fail to pass the quarter test.
Check Tire Pressure
After you’re sure your tire tread is in good shape, you have to make sure the tires are all sufficiently inflated. All tires, no matter how fancy they are, leak air slowly, which is why you need to check your tire pressure on a regular basis to ensure the tires are inflated to manufacturer ratings.
SaferCar.gov, AAA and The Rubber Manufacturers Association recommend checking tire pressure monthly. Set a monthly reminder in your phone so you don’t forget. You can take your vehicle to a tire shop to have the pressure checked or you can do it yourself at most local gas stations. At either place, you’ll also be able to inflate your tire if they need air, usually free of charge.
This is very important because, aside from the fact that your tires will eventually go flat without routine air, you can also improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency by keeping tire inflated to the recommended PSI.
Your vehicle’s motor oil needs changed regularly, though the interval varies by make and model. If your car is less than 10 years old, there’s no need to change the oil every 3,000 miles as was previously widely regarded as the golden rule.
Now the recommendation ranges anywhere from every 7,500 to 15,000 miles. Consult your vehicle manual to find out how often you need to change the oil. To make sure you remember to have your oil serviced, check the service sticker and odometer each time you check your tire pressure.
Top Off Coolant
Your car radiator requires coolant (also known as antifreeze) to keep the engine cool and prevent it from overheating. Use your vehicle manual to locate the coolant reservoir to check that it’s filled all the way up to the “full” line. If it’s below that line, add more. Most coolant comes premixed with water in a 50/50 blend. If the coolant in your reservoir isn’t a bright bold color like the stuff in a fresh bottle, you may need to have the cooling system flushed and refilled to keep your engine running in top form.
Always wait until your car is completely cooled down before attempting this or any other maintenance.
About the author: Allison is a WAHM, an explorer, an amateur chef and a fitness buff. You can find her Instagramming photos of her (adorable) son or researching everything from the latest parenting theories to healthy hacks for desserts.
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