We have two cars in our household now. And there is a lot to be said for that good old roadside assistance we have through our auto insurance policy. In Texas, there is also an 800 number printed on the back of our Texas Drivers License specifically for roadside assistance and emergencies, and it’s free. Of course, we pay for it with our tax dollars, but it’s still nice to have. They’ll send out a white courtesy truck to change a tire or put a little gas in our car, should we break down on the freeway.

Keeping up the maintenance on our vehicles will save us both costly repairs and insurance deductibles. We’re calling our little program car maintenance 101. A good habit we are trying to get into is to check our tire pressure and oil levels once a week while we are putting gas in our cars. Keeping our tires at their proper inflation also helps with fuel economy, so it’s a nice double-whammy. We both keep a tire gauge in our cars for this. Every 5,000 miles, rotate your tires. Tires are expensive and not rotating them will wear the tread uneven and they will eventually have to be replaced (early). Often times, when purchasing tires, they come with an optional lifetime tire rotation, mine did.

When checking the oil level, wait until the engine cools, pull out the dipstick, wipe the oil off of it and reinsert it. This will give an accurate reading of your oil level. As for oil changes, it has always been a standard 3,000 miles or 3 months between oil changes. These days, the revised recommendation is: change regular petroleum based oils every 4-5 thousand miles and synthetic every 5-7 thousand miles. The key issue here is sludge. Sludge buildup is an engine killer. If you feel better about changing your oil more often, it is up to you. After all, this is your own little car maintenance 101 program.

Check your coolant from time to time. The coolant reservoir is normally bolted to one side of your engine bay or the other. It is usually a white semi-transparent bottle. Do not remove the radiator cap to check levels. And always top off with a cooled engine only. The bottle should have low and high markings. The level of coolant should be between the two markings. Keep battery terminals clean. Remove the terminal caps and clean them with a wire brush. The timing belt and accessory drive belt should be checked every 25,000 miles and probably replaced every 50,000 miles.

Until next week…don’t let your little engine falter.

Daun Thompson

Artist / Comedienne / Writer / Grease Monkey

Car Maintenance 101 – Comedy Defensive Driving