3 Easy Car Maintenance Tips Every Driver Should Know

Knowing how to perform basic car maintenance tasks can save several trips to the mechanic. Here are three essential tips every driver should know.

Cleaning Battery Terminals

When the car won't start and the interior lights and headlights won't turn on, the first assumption that many drivers make is that they have a dead battery. In many cases, however, the problem may be much simpler. If the battery terminals are covered with corrosion, they will not be able to provide enough electricity to power the vehicle. Fortunately, this can quickly be resolved by cleaning the terminals.

To clean car battery terminals, you will first need to remove the cables from the terminals by loosening the nuts that are holding them in place. It is important to always remove the cable from the negative terminal first and reconnect it last when you are finished cleaning the terminals. This is because the battery will short circuit if both cables are connected and your wrench touches metal while you are disconnecting the positive terminal. In most vehicles, the negative cable is black and the positive cable is red.

After the cables are removed, secure them so they cannot fall back onto the terminals. To clean the terminals, pour baking soda on them and use a wet toothbrush to scrub away the corrosion. If you notice corrosion on the ends of the battery cables, you will need to scrub them with baking soda as well. For heavy corrosion that cannot be removed with a toothbrush, you can purchase a steel battery terminal brush that will handle any level of corrosion.

Maintaining Tire Pressure

Driving your car with tires that are underinflated poses several problems. In addition to the risk of a blowout, under-inflated tires have higher rolling resistance, reducing your fuel economy by forcing your engine to work harder.

It is a common misconception that you can gauge the inflation level of your tires by visually inspecting them. By the time your tires are noticeably flat, it is likely that you are running them at a dangerous level of inflation.

Keep a tire gauge in your vehicle and use it to check your tire pressure at least once a month. You should be extra vigilant about maintaining tire pressure during the winter months, as they will lose approximately one psi of pressure per 10 degree Fahrenheit decrease in temperature. Most modern vehicles have a label on the inside of the driver's side door frame that indicates the manufacturer's recommended tire pressure.

Changing the Oil

It is important to change your oil regularly so that dirt and other contaminants in your oil do not cause your engine to seize up over time. How frequently you should change your oil will vary based on the make and model of your car, so you should check your car's manual to find the manufacturer's recommendation.

To drain the old oil, let your car idle for two to three minutes to warm up the oil and allow it to drain more easily. Drive the front wheels of your car onto ramps, turn on your parking brake, and place chock blocks behind your back wheels. You will now be able to lie down safely under the front of the car and locate the drain pan directly under the engine.

In the middle of the bottom of the drain pan, you will see a single bolt. The oil will start running out of the engine as soon as you loosen the plug, so be sure to place a large pan or other container under the car first. You should also wear gloves and coveralls to protect yourself from splashing oil. After the oil has completely drained, dry the drain plug opening with a paper towel and replace the drain plug. You can now unscrew the old oil filter, replace it with a new filter, and add new oil to the engine.

Basic car maintenance is an invaluable skill that any driver can learn. Go to sites or use these tips to keep your car running smoothly for as long as possible.