Know the basics of vehicle preventive maintenance

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) -- An ounce of prevention, it has been said, is better than a pound of cure. While this may sound cliché, it actually makes a lot of sense. Whether it applies to one’s health or to one’s vehicle, not waiting for things to break down is the best option.

Not only does preventive vehicle maintenance save you money, it also spares you from the stress of being left stranded on the roadside. But what exactly does one check during these preventive maintenance routines, you ask? And how often should it be done?

The best way to answer these questions is to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual. This booklet that is often left unread in the glove compartment contains all the valuable info on maintenance schedules, recommended oil, fluid reservoir location, and the like. Just as you’d normally read the manual before firing up a television set or VCR (in the olden days), reading the manual wouldn’t be a bad idea upon acquiring that new ride.

As for maintenance, you don’t need a degree in rocket science or be a car lover to do these simple checks. Some of them can actually be done at home. Things like visual inspection, for instance. Check to see if the lights are working properly, if the tires are still in good condition and if there are no cuts, if your wipers are still usable, and the like.

While you’re at it, why not check the vital fluids such as the oil, coolant, power steering, brake, and transmission fluids. The owner’s manual should let you in on where these are located in your vehicle. Check the levels to see if they need to be topped up. The manual might also give you few pointers on how to replace these (or bleed the system) if needed.

Another thing to check is the battery, particularly if the terminals/contacts are clean. If not, use an old toothbrush or cleaning brush to get this job done. Also, you may want to invest in a battery tester, just to periodically check that your battery has enough voltage. The last thing you need is to experience a dead battery at the most unexpected moment.

Replace those air filters. We of course refer to the engine and cabin air filters. The former will keep your engine running more efficiently as it helps it breathe better. The latter, on the other hand, will make your drive more pleasant as the cabin stays cooler and free of air pollutants.

Change your windshield wipers. This should be done when your visibility starts to blur or you begin to see streaks on the windshield. This is particularly helpful when the rainy season starts to set in — which in our country, can be any time of the year nowadays.

Have your tires rotated, balanced, and aligned regularly. This not only helps your car run smoother, it likewise saves you money. Performing these procedures can extend the life of your tires — which can be a rather costly replacement. And of course, always ensure that all tires are properly inflated. The correct tire pressure is usually found on a sticker located on the post of the driver’s side door.

Speaking of replacements, why not do the same for your spark plugs? Your owner’s manual usually tells you how often to do this. You can also check to see if these are worn out or filled with dirt and sludge. If so, it would be a good idea to throw out the old ones and get a new set. This will help your engine run better and more efficiently. And yes, it will help you save money as fuel consumption will definitely improve.

While these may sound basic, these are the essential checks needed to keep your vehicle in top form. Think of it as giving your car a well-deserved executive checkup.