Car care 101: What women need to know to keep their vehicle running smoothly

Monday, May 7, 2012
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We gals are great about scheduling time to go to the hair salon, the nail salon and maybe even, occasionally, the gym. But when it comes to car care and routine maintenance, we sometimes put those appointments at the bottom of our to-do list.

Keeping auto fluids filled and tires in good condition can not only keep you from avoiding trouble down the road,; it can also lengthen the life of your vehicle.

Keeping tires rotated properly and in good condition is very important. "We recommend rotating your tires every six months or 6,000 miles," says Jon Niswonger, manager of Plaza Tire Service on North Kingshighway in Cape.

How often you should replace your tires depends a lot on what type of driving you do. "It can vary anywhere from every 30,000 to every 80,000 miles depending on road conditions, tread depth of tires and the amount of driving that you do," says Freda Lintner, assistant manager of Raben Tire & Auto Service on Independence Street in Cape.

The old penny trick still holds true for checking wear on tires. "Put the penny in upside down in the tire tread," says Niswonger. "If you can see the top of Lincoln's head on the penny, then the tire is worn out. If you can see all of Lincoln's hair, then the tire is completely worn out." Niswonger also advises looking at the side walls of your tires for cracking. "If you see cracks in the side walls, then it's time to replace the tires," she says.

When it comes to oil changes, the frequency depends on what type of oil your vehicle uses. "We recommend oil changes every 5,000 miles if you use conventional oil, or every 10,000 miles if you use synthetic oil," says Ashley Davis, service adviser for Coad Toyota on Siemers Drive in Cape.

Things like air filters and windshield wipers need to be checked on a regular basis as well. "Have your air filter checked every 3,000 miles," says Lintner. "If you do strictly in-town driving, the filter won't get that dirty. But if you do a lot of driving on country roads, the filter will get dirtier much faster."

Wipers should be checked at least once a year. "We replace wipers at 30,000-mile routine inspections," says Davis.

Tire pressure can change due to various conditions as well. "Check the air pressure in your tires once a month," says Niswonger. "The pressure can change due to weather conditions, heavy driving or lack of driving."

Brakes should also be kept in good working order. "Have your brakes checked every time you get your tires rotated," says Lintner.

Finding a trustworthy service shop for your car is important for women.

"If a place is busy, that's a good sign," Niswonger says. "If they are friendly and willing to talk to you about your vehicle, that's another good sign. If they don't want to talk to you, that is a bad sign."

High-pressure sales tactics are a red flag and should be avoided. "Go somewhere that you feel comfortable," says Lintner. "There should always be open communication between you and your service location. And don't be afraid to ask questions."

If you do need to have something repaired or replaced on your vehicle, choose a mechanic you can trust. "You want to go to a place that has an honest service department," says Davis.

Second opinions can help as well. "If you are having a problem with your vehicle, get it diagnosed. See what is recommended, and then get a second opinion. If both diagnoses match, then you are probably on the right track," says Lintner. "Also, ask family and friends for their recommendations on finding a good mechanic. Word of mouth is always a good source."

Before you take your vehicle on a long trip, have it checked out by a service location that you trust. "Let the location know that you are heading out on a long trip and get a general routine inspection," says Niswonger. "That should cover belts, tire pressure, hoses and the oil level."

Keeping good records of routine automobile maintenance is key.

"Once you find a service location that you like, stick with it as they will have all your service records," says Lintner. "It's hard to keep good records if you hop around from place to place a lot."

Maintenance guides that come with the vehicle can be helpful as well. "Always keep an eye on when services are needed by following your vehicle's maintenance guide," says Davis.