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The Simple Maintenance Task Your Mechanic Says Will Extend Your Car’s Life

car maintenance - changing your oil

Car maintenance goes far beyond bringing your vehicle in for inspections and emissions tests. It requires regularly checking on your car and consulting with your mechanic before a serious problem arises.

Improper maintenance can decrease the longevity and performance of your vehicle. Additionally, minor problems that could have been fixed easily can turn into major issues that require extensive – and expensive – repairs.

We spoke with Justin Knight, mechanic at AAA Approved Auto Repair facility Knights Automotive in Ledgewood, N.J., to get his best tips on car maintenance as the Northeast heads into winter.

What is the biggest car maintenance myth/misconception?

One of the biggest maintenance myths/misconceptions is that every new vehicle still under its factory warranty must be serviced at a dealership or its warranty will be voided. I hear from many customers that dealerships tell them they must have their car serviced there. That is simply not true. It is your right to have your car serviced by any certified automotive repair shop. But remember, services must be performed within the manufacturer’s maintenance schedules or warranties will be voided.

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What’s the most common mistake people make in regard to keeping their car in good shape?

The most common mistake is being on time for oil changes. The number of people I see going way overdue on oil changes is staggering. This simple task will maintain the health of your engine as well as allow more opportunity for your mechanic to inform you of any needed services before things break down. It is all about maintaining your vehicle, not waiting until it needs to be fixed.

While we generally suggest referring to the manufacturer’s recommendations for your car’s oil change schedule, it also depends on factors such as the age of your vehicle and how often you drive it. Learn more about oil changes from AAA experts.

What are your best general tips to keep your car in the best condition?

The best thing to do is to be on time for oil changes and all your manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance. It is important to look at your owner’s manual and know when services should be done on your vehicle, as well as know what all the warning lights on your dash mean. Not letting warning lights linger will help maintain the life of your vehicle.

Heading into winter, what are some car problems people should watch out for and how can they prevent them?

Some car problems you should always be aware of during the winter months are battery issues, door locks and latches freezing, windshield washer fluid freezing and broken wiper arms and transmissions. The last one can easily be prevented by always making sure you clean off any snow or ice from your windshield before using your wipers, as well as starting your car and letting it warm up before you start to drive it.

Also make sure your washer fluid has enough strength, meaning it should be able to withstand temperatures of at least -20 degrees Fahrenheit. And that it is not too low, otherwise it will freeze and cause the bottle to crack.

Another thing to be aware of is the condition of your tire treads and pressures. Extreme cold weather leads to a fluctuation in tire pressure, causing tire pressure monitoring system lights to come on. The winter can be referred to as tire light season.

Is it smart to invest in winter tires, and what makes them different from year-round tires?

I believe it is smart to invest in snow tires, especially if you have a two-wheel-drive vehicle. At the same time, it all depends on your situation and how often you drive your vehicle during snowstorms and bad weather to determine if they are a worthwhile investment.

Another factor is how your vehicle handles in the snow. Every vehicle handles differently in extreme weather. To this point, it is important to know exactly how your vehicle handles in all weather conditions as well as snowy conditions with or without snow tires.

It is also important to consider snow tires for all-wheel-drive/four-wheel-drive vehicles. Some of these vehicles will be fine with all-season tires but snow tires will just increase handling ability in the snow.

The main difference between snow tires and all-season tires is the tread pattern. There are also minor differences in the rubber compound; snow tires are typically softer to increase grip. Some snow tires do come with tiny metal studs in the tread. While certain states prohibit snow tires or set restrictions on the months that they can be used, they are allowed throughout the Northeast.

Stay safe on the road this winter!

All the tools needed for at-home car maintenance can be purchased at NAPA Auto Parts, where AAA members receive 20% off. If you prefer to let the pros handle it, find a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility near you.

For more experts car tips, see our article on what your mechanic says is damaging your car

What automotive questions do you have for our mechanics? Let us know in the comments below.


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