by A.J. Pau
They say that one never forgets their first car, but perhaps it should be said that one should never forget the car they have right now. The vehicles we own are a big responsibility, but that does not mean having to brace for the unexpected giant bill that lurks under every hood (they normally are not there). On the contrary, proper and consistent care saves you money over the long-run, preserving the value of the car you already have. Here are a few key things to keep an eye on:
Until electric cars become ubiquitous, the majority of what is on the road are gasoline, diesel, and hybrid vehicles. Motor oil is the lifeblood of any internal combustion engine, and the least expensive and most effective way to preserve them is with regular oil changes. A proper oil service should be done at the correct interval for mileage (on average, every 5,000kms for conventional oil and every 8,000kms for synthetic oil) and time (every 6 months).
While extended oil change intervals are possible, the amount of stress inside the engine from degrading oil could, and does, cause premature wear on engine components. Two oil services a year together cost much less than what it takes to repair leaking valve cover gaskets or oil breather systems due to seals being eaten away by old oil!
A happy engine gives you the go, but you need good brakes to give you the stop. Brakes are critical for safety for you and for those you share the road with. Disc brake systems nowadays are quite good, but without inspections at regular oil services, a solid brake pad and brake rotor (disc) replacement could become a much more expensive brake caliper replacement on top of it all if the pads are worn too far.
Tire tread is an easy thing to measure, but sometimes that can be misleading. The best way to ensure tire safety is to check the tread as well as the production date (DOT date) on the tire sidewall. Unfortunately, the date code is only shown on one face of the tire, so it may not be easy to see without access to a hoist if for some reason it is on the inner face. Age will cause tires to crack, and when that starts, they definitely need to be replaced.
Over time, steering linkage joints wear out, causing your vehicle to noticeably disobey your steering wheel. Proper inspection can catch these issues early on, allowing repairs to be prioritized and done before the bad alignment ruins your tires.
Suspension keeps you planted, but if joints and bushings wear out, there can be pulling to one direction or another when braking, awful creaking sounds, and or flashbacks to the last time you had the privilege of being in a bouncy castle. There are no set intervals for these items, so they must be inspected regularly.
So, in short, doing a little bit regularly can save a lot in the long run. When we take care of vehicles, they will take care of us on the road. Happy travels!
(originally published in the Cloverdale Reporter, Mar. 24, 2022)