8 Overlooked Car Maintenance Services
Don't forget these overlooked car maintenance services when planning out your regular car maintenance schedule.
Some routine car maintenance services, like regular oil changes and periodic checkups, end up becoming almost second-nature to diligent drivers who want to keep their cars in good shape. But there are plenty of car maintenance tasks that are just as important that often get overlooked by even the most savvy vehicle owners.
Sure, some parts of your car don't require much ongoing maintenance. But there are a lot of vital systems that respond to wear on a gradual basis, which can cause big changes in your vehicle over time if they aren't addressed.
Here are some of the most important preventative car maintenance tasks that often go overlooked.
1. Air Filters
Most vehicles have an air filter for the engine and another one for the cabin. While these air filters are cheap and accessible, a lot of us don't replace them because we don't see them as vital. However, doing a routine or periodic air filter replacement can not only help preserve your car’s core systems, it can help improve air quality when you're behind the wheel.
2. Transmission Fluid
Most of us know enough to put oil in the engine, but we may never check the transmission fluid for years on end. Just like motor oil, transmission fluid can get contaminated as the vehicle ages. It's also important to check the transmission filter, check and clean the transmission pan and generally make sure that this important vehicle system is working smoothly. Warning signs of a bad transmission include grinding or knocking sounds during gear changes, and bright red fluid leaking out of your vehicle.
Your transmission fluid dipstick is usually located towards the rear of the engine and looks similar to your oil dipstick. To check your transmission fluid level, remove the dipstick and check your fluid level against the markings on the end of the dipstick.
Note: check your owner's manual to see if you should check your fluid level while your engine is on or off.
3. Battery Terminals
Most drivers don't spend a lot of time messing around with their car battery, for obvious reasons. But neglecting your car battery entirely might eventually leave you stranded somewhere.
If the battery connection is even a little bit loose, your vehicle won't start. Every time you change your battery, make sure all of the connections are tight. If you notice a whole bunch of powdery or foamy stuff around each terminal (like a cauliflower or as if someone sprayed it with foamy soap), your battery terminal is probably corroded. That means it’s time to get your terminals cleaned. You can buy a battery cleaning brush or set of brushes for this purpose, or take it to a mechanic who will step in and clean them so that the car has a better chance of starting every time the ignition key is turned.
4. Motor Mounts
Motor mounts play an important role in stabilizing your engine, but many drivers don't know that motor mounts can become loose or break over time.
Your biggest indicators that your motor mounts need attention are going to be motor noise and shaking, as the loose engine causes the vehicle to shimmy around while idling. These aren't expensive items, but they're important and they'll often be checked in an annual inspection.
It may seem like common sense, but it's important to note that making sure your engine is correctly held in place should be part of any regular car maintenance schedule.
5. Wheel Alignment
If your mechanic doesn't offer wheel alignment, there's a good chance you aren't going to go out of your way to have your wheels aligned. That's a bad idea.
The problem is that improper alignment wastes fuel and can cause uneven tire wear. Improper alignment can also void the warranty on your tires and can lead to problems where a tire can go flat or blow out on the road.
Next time you're getting your oil changed or having your car serviced, make sure to ask about wheel alignment service if you haven't had it done recently.
6. Proper Tire Tread and Inflation
Tire tread level is something that a lot of people keep track of in order to determine when they need to get new tires. Tire inflation, on the other hand, isn't something that most drivers think about regularly.
When you're driving around on low tires, you're wasting fuel and wearing down your tires quicker than normal. You’re also not as safe on the road. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that tire under-inflation does affect crash rates.
Drivers who are really invested in their vehicles and attend to their needs will take them to an air fill-up station routinely and check inflation as part of a regular car maintenance schedule.
7. Check Brake Fluid and Rotors
Brake issues can be serious and even deadly. While your service shop will usually let you know if you're due for brake service, in between those annual checkups, it's important to pay attention to your fluid levels and other signs that something is amiss.
First, make sure you have enough brake fluid in the reservoir at all times so your brakes don't fail. Second, pay attention to any unusual sounds or indications that something is wrong. For instance, your routers may be miscalibrated and need to be corrected or replaced.
8. Evaluate Headlight Brilliance
Over time, headlights can become dimmer as their casings become yellow and dirty. This is another problem that you have to think about as your vehicle ages. Local shops will use a certain kind of chemical and polish to get lights bright again. It’s also important to keep checking the small brake light bulbs and other bulbs that illuminate parts of your car at night.
9. Prevent Damage, Protect Safety
We know you've got more important things to worry about than car maintenance all the time. But a little diligence and knowledge up front can save you a lot of time and hassle down the road. Some of these maintenance tasks will prevent direct damage to your engine and transmission parts and other core systems, while others can improve your safety.
Regardless of how old your car is, pay attention to what your car needs and you’ll get a lot more out of it, all while keeping yourself and passengers out of harm’s way.