5 auto maintenance issues you can’t afford to overlook
Most of us know that vehicles need regular oil changes.
But if your maintenance starts and stops with an oil change, you could be in for a bumpy ride.
There are many other maintenance issues highly rated mechanics say drivers commonly ignore.
Angie’s List got the grease from multiple auto professionals to come up with a list of five maintenance issues you shouldn’t ignore.
Rotating tires, checking pressure
Nothing causes tire wear quicker than forgetting to rotate them, highly rated auto service providers tell us.
They recommend rotating tires every six months or 5,000 miles. Rotating helps the tread wear more evenly and improves gas mileage.
“It will also really prolong the life of your tires,” says David Becker, owner of highly rated Wheeling Auto Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Some auto shops rotate for free, while others charge a small fee, typically no more than $25.
Auto experts also tell us it’s important to check the tire’s pressure. Low or uneven tire pressure can create uneven wear on the tread and will burn more gas.
Proper fluid levels
Engine oil isn’t the only fluid drivers should keep tabs on, auto mechanics say.
Car owners should change engine coolant in intervals based on the manufacturer’s recommendations in their owner’s manual. The coolant’s job is to prevent water from freezing in the winter and overheating in the summer, as well as fighting engine corrosion.
“If left unattended, the (properties) change and the coolant becomes corrosive and leaks can occur, as well as damage to metal components in the engine,” says Stan Creech, owner of highly rated Creech Import Repair in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Experts recommend changing coolant every two years or 24,000 miles in most vehicles.
It’s also important to periodically change the transmission and power steering fluids, according to the owner’s manual guidelines. Over time, these fluids get dirty and need replaced in order to properly lubricate moving parts.
A transmission fluid change costs about $100 and should be done every 20,000 to 60,000 miles, based on manufacturers’ recommendations, mechanics say.
Change your power steering fluid about every 50,000 miles, Creech says. He adds power steering fluid becomes dirty over time, which causes seal leaks. Changing the fluid will ensure the parts are in good working order for optimum steering.
A comprehensive inspection is critical before buying a car, but it’s something you should also include as part of your car’s general maintenance, auto experts say.
“The biggest thing you can do is get a full inspection every 15,000 miles,” Becker says.
A complete inspection should include checking all the car’s critical safety components — inside and out.
Angie’s List members report spending between $50 and $200 for an inspection, on average.
This sounds simple, but it’s something we often overlook, mechanics say.
Poorly performing blades can significantly limit vision during inclement weather such as snow and rain, especially at night.
Some mechanics recommend changing blades twice a year, but it depends on where you live, they say. A hot, sunny climate causes the rubber on blades to dry, while ice causes it to crack.
Jeff Gunning, service manager at highly rated Addison Auto Repair & Body Shop in Denver, says if the wipers are worn or torn and leaving streaking behind, they likely need replaced.
New blades typically cost about $10 to $20.
Timing, drive belts
Unfortunately, there is no way to know when your timing belt might go out; it usually just breaks. Most manufacturers don’t recommend time or mileage interval to replace it.
The average lifespan of a timing belt — whose job is to open and close the engine’s valves — is between 50,000 and 100,000 miles.
A timing belt costs $500 to $900 to replace but can cost much more if it breaks and causes damage to valves, pistons or the water pump.
A drive belt transfers power from the engine’s revolutions to the alternator, water pump and air conditioning. A new belt costs $75 to $200, depending on your vehicle type.
“We recommend inspecting them every oil change,” Creech says.