Vehicle Maintenance Month, complete with stories and steps!

By Eva M July 14, 2017

Take care of your car, and your car will take care of you.

Transit professionals are likely more aware of vehicle maintenance than most people—after all, vehicles are your bread and butter. But even so, life gets in the way sometimes, and it can be easy to let time go by and then realize that you’re out of wiper fluid, and has that rear passenger tire been looking a little low? Even if you spend much of your time at work thinking about car care, it can be easy to let your own personal vehicle's schedule fall by the wayside.

Because hot weather is hard on cars, and it's the season to pack up for vacations, we’re here with some cautionary tales and tips to keep your car’s well-being in mind. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, they’re easy habits to maintain, and will pay for themselves in spades.

 

Every time you drive your car:

--Keep the interior tidy. Crumbs can attract pests and encourage mold, and dust and dirt from the carpet can shorten the lifespan of your interior air filter. Each time you leave the car, carry out debris, and you can skip the “sorry for the mess” apology when someone gets in.

"I was working a sales job that involved a lot of driving, so I often ate lunch in my car between appointments, and didn’t really pay much attention to keeping my car spotless. One Monday morning after a weekend off, I was driving down the road and felt a tickle on my leg—I looked down to see a trail of little brown ants making its way up my ankle. They had built a nest under my seat, and had begun raising babies on my crumbs. You can bet that I went straight to the car wash and started cleaning my interior regularly!"

Critters like mice and ants thrive on crumbs and trash, while enjoying the dry, safe nooks in vehicle interiors. Don't give them a leg up!

 

Every other time you fill your gas tank:

--Clean your windshield and headlights! Particularly in the summer when insects are very active, it doesn’t take long for your visibility to suffer. If you wait until it’s raining, those first few wiper strokes could totally obscure your vision.

--Check your oil level, and top off if needed.

--Check the tire pressure (when they’re cold, before you’ve driven more than a mile). Properly inflated tires last longer, are safer, and help you get optimal gas mileage. If you notice a slow leak, get it fixed immediately, so you can catch an easy fix before it becomes a bigger issue.

 

Every 3-5,000 miles:

--You got it—oil change. Follow your owner’s manual guidelines, and if you do it yourself, check and top off your wiper fluid, antifreeze, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid. Follow your vehicle manual’s guidelines for changing those fluids, as well.

"My son was driving my Isuzu as his college vehicle, and the oil light started flashing on the two-hour drive from our house to school. He decided he could drive on back to campus and then check it out later, but the engine blew on the way there, and the vehicle was totaled. I let him walk around without a car for about a year, and he learned his lesson that when a warning light comes on, it’s telling you something very important. It also taught him the importance of regular vehicle maintenance—if the oil hadn’t been low to start with, this never would have happened."

Regularly checking and changing oil and fluid levels is the easiest way to keep your vehicle in good working order. Get out of the practice, and your engine pays the price!

 

Every 5-10,000 miles:

--Rotate your tires.

--Check your interior and exterior air filters, and replace if needed. You might need to do this more frequently if you drive on dirt or gravel roads regularly, or after a seasonal high-pollen period.

--Check your battery terminals for corrosion, and clean them off with a wire brush to ensure good connection.

 

Other maintenance intervals:

--Replace windshield wipers once a year.

--Replace battery every three years.

--Check the spare tire pressure every month.

--Replace brake pads every 25,000-50,000 miles. This might need to be done more frequently in coastal areas or wintry areas where roads are salted.

"We inherited a car from a family member, and it looked like it was in great condition. A couple of months later, I was driving down the road with a client in my car, and had a blowout at 70 mph on I-40. My client handled it really well—she was blind, and just started grabbing for something to hold onto, but was ok, and not too stressed out after it was all over. I had to call someone to pick her up from the side of the road while I waited for a tow truck. It turns out the tires were completely dry-rotted, and it was an accident waiting to happen."

 

Even if a vehicle hasn't been driven much, components are subject to the effects of time and weather.

 

As needed, or seasonally:

--Repair chips in your windshield immediately. This costs $30-$40, and can prevent small chips from expanding into giant cracks (it can happen fast.)

--Inspect and polish hazy headlight covers.

--Replace burned-out head, tail, brake, and signal lights.

--Use a  reflective sunshade during sunny weather to prolong the life of interior components (upholstery, dashboard surfaces, and interior tools and devices like GPS and MDTs)

--Detail the interior and exterior to keep drainage channels around door and window seals clean and functional, and to prevent leaks.

--Wash the vehicle’s exterior and undercarriage at least every 3 months, or more frequently in coastal areas or wintry areas where roads are salted.

 

If you manage a fleet of vehicles, using a tool like our Vehicle Maintenance Module is invaluable for building schedules and tracking maintenance expenses. Staying on top of maintenance helps you provide great customer service and keep your drivers and passengers safe!