As a general rule, we visit the dentist every six to eight months for a check-up – or, preventative maintenance. Why don’t we do the same for our vehicles that we rely on daily to get us to work, school, kids’ activities, and more?
We find folks often neglect maintenance on their car because of the perceived cost – but in the long run, preventative maintenance will save you a bundle!
First, let’s clarify between preventative maintenance and routine maintenance. Routine maintenance is performed on a regular basis, based on data insight from vehicle manufacturers in regards to what should be done and when (an oil change every 8,000km, for example). In plain terms, this is what should be done on a regular basis, and differs by model, make and type of vehicle. This type of maintenance might actually be compulsory for your warranty to remain applicable, so it’s incredibly important you follow the recommended schedule.
Preventative maintenance, on the other hand, is typically performed based on the experience and foresight of the vehicle owner or a trusted automotive repair company. This can include a number of things, most importantly the parts of your vehicle which may cause the most concern if they suddenly failed. Similar to the checks you should be doing prior to long distance travel, preventative maintenance not only saves you time and money, but can also be the difference between arriving on time and a stressful trip.
What are the top ten areas in your vehicle that would benefit from preventative maintenance? We have compiled a checklist for you to keep somewhere handy, and for your convenience, we also provide all of these checks in our store:
Although your car is almost entirely composed of plastic and metal, these materials age, deteriorate and can fail completely over time without proper care. Enter the fluids – these are the handy liquids that keep your car’s parts lubricated and operating smoothly. As with any liquid, they have a shelf life, and checking their condition is the first thing you should be doing as a preventative maintenance measure. Along with the regular replacement of fluids, you also need to make sure that there are no leaks in their hoses or tanks.
|Type||Recommended replacement time frame*|
|Brake fluid||2 years or 50,000 km|
|Radiator coolant/antifreeze||2-3 years or 60,000 km|
|Transmission fluid||Depends on vehicle make and type, typically every 50,000 km|
|Power steering fluid||Every 50,000 km|
|Windshield washer fluid||Top up before every long trip|
|Engine oil||Every 5,000-7,500 km|
*use as a general guideline only
Have you heard of the toonie test? Take a toonie and place it in the tread. If the tread reaches above the silver ring the tires are good for winter. If it reaches below the silver ring then the tires should only be used in dry conditions. This will differ slightly depending on the brand and size of tire, but it is a good benchmark for most.
Your vehicle’s owner’s manual lists the specifications for your particular car model, including the recommended tire pressure, both loaded and unloaded. You will also find the information on a sticker usually placed on the inside of the driver’s door. It is important to note the difference between ‘loaded and unloaded’ because the surface area of the tire changes the heavier the car gets. Also take note of how often you are adding air to your tires – if you’re inflating them regularly, it could be a sign of a puncture.
When you feel that your car is pulling slightly to the left or right and you’re blaming the road – it might actually be your vehicle! Wheel alignment plays a big role in the safety and stability of your vehicle. For almost all vehicles it is recommended to check wheel alignment every 6,000-8,000km, and anytime you happen to hit one of those giant potholes, or travel down a rough Forest Service Road.
Signs of bad wheel alignment include:
- Uneven or rapid tire wear.
- Steering wheel at an angle when you are driving straight.
- Pulling to the left or right.
Ignoring these signs can create unsafe driving conditions, as well as accelerate the need for repair on all other wheel parts.
Spark plugs & Wire replacement
Spark plugs are made of carbon fibre, and over time this breaks down which results in high electrical resistance. This consequently degrades the spark, leading to poor combustion, misfires, bad fuel consumption, and ultimately a shiny orange ‘Check Engine’ light. It’s important to replace your spark plugs and wires before they wear out – the recommended timeframe is every 60-100,000km. Waiting too long will cause the wires to start to leak charge to nearby engine parts, which can cause arcing and ignition component failure.
Your vehicle’s PCV Valve, fuel, oil, engine air, transmission, and cabin air filters are all constantly hard at work filtering out impurities from other parts and the exterior environment.
- PCV valve allows exhaust gases to recirculate in the engine by expelling blow-out gases.
- Should be changed every 12 months or 15,000 km.
- Important to note that not all vehicles have serviceable PCV valves, check your owner’s manual or ask your automotive repair company.
- Fuel filters protect your engine, fuel consumption, and overall performance.
- Should be changed every 12 months or 20,000 km.
- You can tell if your fuel filter needs to be replaced by noting loss of power or stalling.
- Oil filters keep your engine oil cleaner for longer engine life.
- Should be changed every 5,000 – 8,000 km.
- Using a higher quality engine oil filter can further increase the longevity of your engine.
- Engine air filters ensure clean air for your engine.
- Should be changed every 12 months or 20,000 km.
- A very small amount of dirt in the engine air filter can cause exponential wear on the engine.
- Transmission filters remove harmful contaminants that affect the performance and lifespan of your vehicle’s transmission.
- Should be changed every 100,000 km however not all tranny failters are serviceable.
- You may notice that your vehicle’s gears stick or become difficult to shift, and this is a sign that your transmission filter may need replacing.
- Cabin air filters clean the air you breathe inside the vehicle.
- Should be changed every 20,000 km or sooner if the air is polluted or smoky.
- Important to pay attention to the air quality in your vehicle because the filter removes dust, pollen, mould spores, and other potentially harmful contaminants that can affect your respiratory system.
Throttle body fuel injectors
The injectors deliver the fuel to the air above the throttle plates, and from there the air-fuel mixture enters the intake manifold where it is distributed to the engine’s cylinders. Tell-tale signs that cleaning is needed include poor fuel consumption, uneven or slow acceleration, poor or high idling and the ubiquitous ‘Check Engine’ light. They typically don’t need to be replaced, but serviced at around 50,000 km.
Belts, hoses, idler pulleys and tensioners
These work together to rotate the crankshaft and camshaft that keep the various parts of the engine moving. Any defects or damage on these parts will cause a knock-on effect and typically need to be replaced around the same time due to their close proximity and closely linked functions. Your mechanic will be able to spot if one needs replacing before it damages the others.
Brakes and clutches
The brake and clutch play one of the most important roles in your car’s safety system. Many wait until there is a problem before they check their brake or clutch, when really they should be checked regularly in order to maintain safety measures.
Brake pads should be inspected every 10,0000 km and replaced when the brake pads measure 3 mm or less. Brake and clutch fluid should be checked regularly and completely flushed every 2 years at the most.
There are a number of tell-tale signs that indicate a poor or failing suspension, and they can be quite dramatic, drastically affecting the driving experience. Most obvious, is that you will start to feel every bump on the road, your vehicle may ‘bounce’, and the overall ride is rough. You may also notice fluid leakage, irregular tire wear, vibrations, erratic braking and clunking noises while you drive.
Shock absorbers and struts should typically be changed every 80,000-100,000 km, but it depends on your driving habits. If you are a more aggressive driver they will wear out faster.
Washing and waxing your car may seem purely cosmetic, but in actual fact you are increasing the lifespan of the paint and ensuring that any rust or cracks are dealt with before they become worse.
A quick wash every 2 weeks and a wax every six months will keep your vehicle in good shape and looking spiffy!
For more questions about safe winter driving or to upgrade your tires before the snow really starts to fall, call us at (250) 860-7444 or book an appointment today.