The automobile is a complex machine consisting of numerous assemblies and components that work together to give you a smooth and comfortable ride. Along with basic components like the engine, transmission, suspension, and brakes, the modern car has numerous comfort and safety-related features that should be inspected at periodic intervals. Here we have a list of the top 10 critical auto maintenance tasks that a responsible car owner should never ignore.
- Power Steering Fluid
If your car has power steering (which most do), then it is important that you maintain that system by keeping the fluid level correct. Car owners often overlook this point since other fluids and lubricants are checked and changed less frequently. Simply inspecting the fluid level regularly will help you identify potential issues and avoid a situation where the power steering mechanism breaks down without warning. If the fluid is low you may hear a whining noise when you steer. Ignoring the warning signs can lead to costly steering rack damage.
From powerful sports cars to reliable family sedans, the safety and comfort of your ride depends on the tires. Make sure your car’s maintenance routine includes periodic tire rotation and wheel alignment checks. Proper rotation and periodic alignment ensure that the tires run at the proper angles, which will result in lower tire wear and tear, better mileage, lower strain on the car’s engine, and a comfortable and safe ride.
- Fuel Filter
The fuel filter keeps out harmful dirt and rust from your fuel system. Make sure you follow your manufacturer’s recommendation for replacement. We recommend replacement at every major service interval, approximately every 40,000 miles.
Your car’s battery ensures that your car’s electrical system, including essential systems like the starter, indicators, and lights can operate even when the engine is not running. The average lifespan of a battery is 5-6 years. Clean the terminals and check for cracked or damaged cables. Extreme temperature changes can stress an already low battery and speed failure.
- Timing Belt
The engine is a complex mechanism with multiple parts including the crankshaft, valves, pistons and other components working together at high-speeds with split-second precision. The timing belt, as the name suggests, coordinates the timing of the valves with the piston for smooth performance. Often it is recommended to replace the timing belt once every 80,000 miles, but check your owner’s manual to be sure.
- Oil Change
Your car’s engine contains numerous moving metal parts that operate at high-speeds in a high-temperature environment. An engine operating without enough oil will cease. This is why it is imperative that oil changes are done at regular intervals. Many times you will hear that it should be changed every 3,000 miles, but in fact every make and model has different recommendations. For example, a Volkswagen maintenance schedule suggests that a 2004 Jetta has its oil changed every 5,000 miles if you are using synthetic oil. Driving habits and conditions also factor into the proper interval for your car. The exact mileage when engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid, and other lubricants should be changed and topped off will be specified in your owner’s manual.
- Windshield Wipers
Discovering that your windshield wipers are not cleaning the windshield properly, or are not working at all, can result in significant safety risks during unexpected showers. As a rule, inspect your wipers every time you perform an oil change. Better to err on the side of caution as faulty wipers can be very dangerous if you can’t even see the road.
Have your car’s brakes checked at least once in a year. Brake maintenance should cover inspection of the calipers, cylinders, brake shoes, the hydraulic mechanism, and other parts. Check for wear and tear and issues like leakage of brake fluid.
- Coolant Inspect
Your car’s engine is a hot place, which is why manufacturers use radiators filled with water and coolant to prevent the heat from damaging the delicate piston heads and other parts of the engine. Some autos come equipped with “lifetime coolant” from the factory, such as many late model VW and Audi engines, so gone are the days of a routine coolant flush for those types of vehicles. However, if you develop a leak and are adding excessive water you will dilute the mixture and lower the protection factor. Likewise if you are adding incorrect coolant – you will contaminate the system. In those instances a coolant flush would be recommended. A simple and rather inexpensive process, adequate coolant will ensure a cool drive at all times.
- Spark Plugs
The spark plugs, literally, provides the sparks that keeps your car running. A faulty or malfunctioning spark plug will make it impossible for your auto to function properly. Over time, spark plugs get damaged due to wear and tear, exposure to high temperatures, and the residue of combustion. Routine replacement recommendations are listed in your owner’s manual, but we typically see the need during your major service intervals, between 30,000 to 40,000 miles depending on the engine.
Car maintenance will become a lot easier and simpler if you break it up into multiple tasks to be performed on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Compare your options and identify a professional auto maintenance center for quality and reliable auto maintenance services.
DISCLAIMER: Every make and model has different recommendations for the intervals at which certain maintenance should be completed. For recommendations for your auto, consult your owner’s manual or trusted, professional Audi and Volkswagen maintenance experts, like Hillside Imports of Portland, OR.
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Owner, Hillside Imports
Rene Rodriguez has over 25 years of experience working exclusively on VW and late model Audis. As Hillside Imports owner, and service writer, he’s dedicated the past 20 years to educating consumers about safety, reliability and performance.