While basic car maintenance should be done routinely throughout the year, there’s no better time to check up on your vehicle than October – it’s AAA Car Care Month. Proper car care can improve your vehicle’s performance, keep you safe on the road and save you significant amounts of money. We rounded up our top car maintenance tips to help you get started.
Washing and Waxing
Keeping your car’s exterior in good condition isn’t just aesthetically pleasing. Regular washing can help maintain the vehicle and keep its value, thus saving you money now and earning you more money later should you try to resell it. Once your car is clean, you’ll want to keep it that way. Waxing forms a protective coat over the paint, which will help repel road grime, bird droppings and tree sap. Here are a few tips to properly wash and wax your car:
–Move your car out of direct sunlight and make sure it is not hot to the touch.
–Get the vehicle good and wet to wash off any accumulated dirt to wash off any excess dirt, grime and other debris.
— Use a dedicated car wash soap, not hand or dish soap that can strip off the car’s protective wax.
–Use the two-bucket method. One bucket will have the clean, soapy water, the other is where you’ll drop the dirty water.
–Hand-dry your car with a microfiber cloth. Once dry, spread a small amount of wax onto your cloth or pad. Then apply it to the car using a circular motion and steady pressure. Work the wax into the paint until it’s completely absorbed.
–To buff, use a clean towel or microfiber cloth, gently buff the paint until you get the shine you’re looking for. This step ensures that the wax fully bonds with the paint.
–And though you’re focusing on the exterior, don’t forget to get around to cleaning the car’s interior as well.
Unless the bulb burns out, headlights are probably the last thing you think about when it comes to car maintenance. Yet headlights can begin to deteriorate after as little as three years. AAA found that deteriorated headlights produce only 22 percent of the light output (low beam) that new, original headlights provide.
AAA recommends routinely checking headlights for discoloration, such as a yellowed or cloudy appearance. If it’s difficult to see the bulb through the lens, have the headlights replaced or restored as soon as possible.
Most of the roadside assistance calls AAA Northeast receives are for battery issues. But many of these issues can be avoided with proper car maintenance. Here are a few tips to keep your car battery in top shape and ensure you’re not stuck in your tracks.
–Drive your car for at least 30 minutes once per week in order to maintain a full state of charge. Shorter drives can discharge the vehicle battery over time.
–Battery terminals require regular removal and cleaning in many environments. Periodically disconnecting the car battery to clean its terminals with water, baking soda, and a specialized terminal cleaning brush can help extend its life.
–If you accidentally drain the battery and need a jump-start, your battery needs to be recharged properly on a battery charger likely for several hours, sometimes even a whole day. Years ago, we may have let a car run for an hour or so to recharge the battery, but this will not properly recharge batteries in today’s cars, and you will likely find yourself stuck again with a no start after turning the car off. There is no set amount of time that can be relied upon to recharge a battery by running its engine. Let AAA Car Battery Service test your battery and charging system anytime you need a jump!
–All car batteries will eventually die. The average battery life in the Northeast is between three to five years. As they age, batteries should be checked yearly, ideally before cold temperatures hit.
–Have AAA check your vehicle battery before the weather gets cold. As part of your membership, AAA will test the battery and charging and starting system to help avoid problems before winter weather sets in.
Oil and Fuel
Your car needs several different fluids to run. Two of the most prominent are the oil and the fuel. You may not give much thought to the gas you put in your car. But there are numerous types of fuel available. Choosing the right one can improve your vehicle performance and potentially help the environment. Opting for the wrong one can seriously damage your car.
In the past, it was recommended to change your car’s oil every 3,000. But today engines are built to go 5,000 miles or more between oil changes. To get the proper schedule for your car, refer to manufacturer recommendation in the vehicle owner’s manual.
Regardless of how often you need to change your oil, you should still check the vehicle’s oil levels every month. Fortunately, checking your oil is one of the more basic car maintenance tasks. To do so:
–Make sure the engine is cold or has been turned off for at least 10 minutes.
–Locate the dipstick, which will have a hook or ring on it, and pull it out. Wipe off any oil with a clean, lint-free rag so you can see the markings.
–Put the dipstick back in place and pull right back out again and look the markings.
— If the oil reaches the high line where it says full, then you’re all set. If it’s down at the bottom line, then you’re running low and need to add oil. Add oil until the level is up to the full or safe mark without overfilling.
Tires are the only parts of the car that touches the road, so their importance cannot be overstated. A tire that is worn down or not properly inflated could have disastrous effects on the roadways. Additionally, proper tires – in good condition – improve your car’s fuel efficiency, which will save you money. A few things to consider when checking your tires:
–Take a good look at each tire to see if there are any visible signs of damage. These include tears, bulges, bumps or wayward nails stuck into the tread.
–Check tire pressure and use the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure as your guideline.
–Keep a close eye on tire pressure when the outside temperature shifts. As a rule, when the temperature drops 10 degrees your car’s tires can lose between one-half and one pound of air pressure. Add or reduce the air in your tires to stay at the manufacturer’s recommendation.
–Check tire tread by using a quarter. If the tread touches Washington’s head, then you have 4/32 inch of tread left and your tire should be replaced.
Or you could always head to AAA Approved Auto Repair facility to let the pros handle it. During October Car Care Month, all Approved Auto Repair facilities special month-long deals for AAA members, including 10% all labor. The cap on the 10% discount has been doubled for the month of October only. You can save up to $100 instead of the usual $50.