How To Manage Your Vehicle’s Service Repair

Dustin Hawley | Sep 15, 2022

As a car owner, taking care of your vehicle is essential. There are two ways of doing this. Vehicle service consists of standard maintenance that needs to be performed on a regular basis. Vehicle repair is what it sounds like: fixing a broken part of your car.

How To Manage Your Vehicle’s Service Repair

What follows is a general maintenance guide, along with a list of issues you should address as soon as they appear. Keep in mind that different manufacturers have different recommendations. Regardless of what you read here (or anywhere else), always defer to your manufacturer’s maintenance and repair instructions.

Why Maintain My Car?

As you drive your car, it’s subject to ordinary wear and tear. Tires wear down, and you’ll need to replace them. Oil and other fluids degrade and lose their performance. Filters get dirty and clogged.

At first glance, maintenance seems like nothing more than an added expense. Having your tires rotated or oil changed can be cheap, but it isn’t free. That said, proper maintenance is a lot more affordable than the alternative. Forego maintenance long enough, and sooner or later, you’ll find yourself broken down on the side of the road.

Regular maintenance also provides an opportunity to spot any long-term problems. For example, you might find small amounts of coolant in your old oil, which can be a symptom of a damaged manifold gasket. If left unaddressed, such a gasket failure could cause your entire motor to seize.

Basic Vehicle Maintenance

Different maintenance tasks need to be performed more or less frequently. You should check some things monthly, other things every three months, six months, annually, or even less often. Different manufacturers have different recommendations, so take this as a general overview, not gospel.

Every month, you should check your lights. You’ll know if your headlights are damaged, but you should visually ensure that your turn signals, running lights, and brake lights are working correctly. Check your oil, coolant, and other fluids to ensure they’re topped off. You should also check your tires to ensure they’re properly inflated and the tread is still intact.

You should change your oil and filter every three months, although you can do this less frequently if you’re using certain synthetic oils. While you’re under the hood, take the time to inspect your motor physically. Check the belts to ensure that they’re not dry or cracked, and make sure your hoses aren’t leaking or bulging. You should also look at your battery and cables for corrosion or leaks. You should change your oil and filter every three months, although you can do this less frequently if you’re using certain synthetic oils.

Every six months have your tires rotated, which evens out the wear on the treads. Have the battery checked to ensure it’s still in good condition, and replace it if necessary. Inspect the exhaust system for damage, especially rust around the muffler. Some vehicles must also have their chassis, steering, and other parts lubricated semi-annually.

Every year, inspect your brake pads, rotors, and brake fluid level, even if the brakes seem to be working fine. It’s also wise to replace the cabin air filter (you should replace the engine air filter every three months when you change your oil). In addition, you’ll need to flush your engine coolant and inspect the shocks and struts. These tasks require special equipment, so you’ll need to have them done by a professional.

Every two years, check your spark plugs, wires, and the rest of your ignition system. Replace the fuel filter, and check the transmission fluid level. If you drive an automatic transmission, you’ll need to replace this fluid every 30,000 to 100,000 miles. A manual transmission will require more frequent fluid replacement.

You’ll need to address other components on a more long-term basis. Your transfer case and differentials will need maintenance after tens of thousands of miles and should be checked by a professional. Your tires can last a few years or as many as 10, depending on how much you drive. If your vehicle has a timing belt, this will also need to be adjusted occasionally.

When Should I See a Mechanic?

No matter how well you maintain your car, you’ll eventually encounter a mechanical or electrical failure. When this happens, you’ll have to have the issue repaired. If you’re paying attention to the symptoms, you can visit a mechanic pre-emptively before the problem worsens. There will be warning signs before your car breaks down entirely.

Here are some warning signs to watch out for:

  • The “Check Engine” or “Service Engine Soon” lights indicate something is amiss. A mechanic can use an OBD scanner to quickly identify the reason for the warning light.
  • Unusual vibrations can indicate any number of problems. For example, your tires could be out of balance, or one of the motor mounts could have become damaged.
  • A stalling engine, or one that’s difficult to start, could have issues with the fuel injectors, spark plugs, or other motor parts.
  • A sudden drop in fuel efficiency could indicate defective sensors or a leaky fuel injector.
  • If your car lurches or jolts during shifting, it could indicate a problem with the automatic transmission. Alternatively, it could be due to a faulty sensor. Either way, you’ll want to have it fixed.
  • Many problems can cause poor acceleration. It could mean a mechanical problem with the engine or something as simple as a computer glitch.
  • Soft or inconsistent brakes are a significant safety problem; you should address this immediately. You should also see a mechanic if your brakes are scraping or squeaking; this can be caused by worn-out brake pads or even by worn rotors.

If you’ve owned your car for more than a few months, you’ll have a good sense of how it performs and handles. In general, any unexplained change in performance should be a cause for concern. Talk to your mechanic, and they can help you diagnose the issue.

Summary

Vehicle service and repair are part and parcel of being a car owner. You keep your car in the best possible condition by performing regular maintenance. And by promptly performing any necessary repairs, you’ll keep yourself and other motorists safe.

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