Car Care Resolutions For a New Millennium
Start the new millennium right by resolving to keep your car running well through proper preventive maintenance
by Peter D. DuPre
Whether you counted last year or this past New Years as the start of the millennium, one thing is sure, we have entered the dawn of a new age. Rather than start out the millennium by making the standard trite promises to lose weight, quit smoking, begin exercising and so on, why not start the millennium out right by making a resolution that will make your life safer, simpler, and put money in your pocket? Instead of making promises to yourself that you know you won't keep, why not resolve to take a little better care of your car or truck? No, you don’t need to start detailing your machine for the concours or take a high-level mechanics course, all you have to do are a few simple things that will make your vehicle run cleaner, last longer and look better. Here are my suggested resolutions for improved car care during this new millennium:
- Keep your vehicle tuned up. A properly tuned vehicle uses about 10 percent less fuel than a poorly tuned one. Your savings in fuel costs could be between $100 and $225 a year, more than enough to pay for a tune up. A vehicle in a good state of tune will also run better, have more get-up-and-go, and be more fun to drive. It will also pollute the air less, producing about 10 percent fewer emissions. If only 100,000 drivers got their vehicles tuned up instead of neglecting them, CO2 levels in the atmosphere would be reduced by some 90 million pounds annually. Additionally, when you take your vehicle in for a tune up, there’s a good chance your mechanic may notice other problems with your vehicle that could be safety-related.
- Check the tire pressure. Under-inflated tires wear out more quickly than properly inflated ones and decrease fuel economy by about 5 percent. If all Americans simply made sure their tires were properly inflated, we could save up to 2 billion gallons of gasoline each year. Also, keeping the tires properly inflated over the life of the vehicle is the same as getting a complete set of tires for free (in dollars saved). This saves you money and helps keep landfills from clogging with a non-decomposable automotive product. If you also have your mechanic rotate the tires every other time you have the oil changed, they will wear evenly and last longer, too.
- Change the engine oil every 3,000 to 4,000 miles. A schedule of regular oil and filter changes is the single most important maintenance item for long-term reliability of the engine. An engine that lasts longer has less daily wear and tear so it pollutes less. Have your oil changed at an auto service center or a quick lube shop instead of doing it yourself. You won’t get dirty and they will recycle the used oil and filter casing so you won’t have to worry about whether you’ve properly disposed of the toxic, used oil and filter.
- Check the belts and hoses. Most owners’ manuals suggest replacing the drive belts every 40,000 to 60,000 miles. But they should be inspected at least a couple of times a year. Look for glazing and cracking on the underside and if the belt is ribbed, check for broken ribs. If you are in doubt as to the condition of the belt, ask your auto service professional his opinion. Radiator hoses should also be checked at least a couple of times a year. Make sure the engine is off, the gear selector in Park and the emergency brake set before you open the hood. Then just give the hoses a squeeze between your thumb and forefinger. The hoses should be pliant, or offer a slightly springy resistance. They should not appear swollen or feel mushy, soft, rock hard, or brittle. Have suspect hoses replaced immediately and while you are at it, have your mechanic check the coolant for acidity. Over time, the coolant collects impurities that hinder its effect and clog the coolant passages in the engine and radiator with sludge and scale. Experts recommend having the coolant changed every other year; your mechanic will be able to tell you if it is time to replace the coolant.
- Clean your vehicle regularly. A clean car or truck not only looks better than a dirty one, it helps put you on the path towards taking better care of your vehicle. When you care about something you tend to take care of it. That’s why people generally take much better care of a new vehicle than an old one. They have a big financial investment and want to make sure it looks good and runs well for a long time. A clean, well-maintained vehicle will also bring your more money at trade-in time and make you feel better about yourself. There are few things as satisfying as driving a clean car and then pulling up along side a friend who is driving a dirty one!
Well, that’s it -- five simple car care resolutions that I promise are a lot easier to keep than resolving to lose those 20 extra pounds. If you do each of the items on this list on a regular basis, your vehicle will look better, run better, last longer, and be more economical to own. And with the money you save on car repairs, you’ll be able to afford a long weekend at the fat farm or a vacation resort --- you decide.