We’ve all been there! You’re driving down the road, happy as you please, when all of a sudden, you hear something. Rising above the steady and familiar chug of your cars inner workings, is a noise that instantly makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
Maybe it’s an irregular clunking, or a cringe-inducing grinding sound. Maybe it’s a shrill screech that starts off almost inaudibly, but then increases in strength and pitch until it makes you want to stuff tissues in your ears. Whatever the case, the meaning is always the same; something has gone wrong with your car.
Maintenance is the answer!
Honestly, given the mind-boggling complexity of the modern motor-vehicle, it’s not surprising that every now and again certain components fall out of whack. After all, when you get down to it, a car is basically a computer-controlled clockwork puzzle powered by a contained explosion—the fact that they’re able to run at all without collapsing into a burning mess of gears and pistons is an absolute miracle. However, when something does go wrong with your car, it can really ruin your day.
The good news is that simply by keeping up with your car’s regularly scheduled maintenance, you may be able to avoid those dreaded moments of creeping terror that accompany unexpected car noises and not to mention the more overt problems that bring any car-journey to a screeching halt. Maintaining your car can also help by increasing the overall life of your vehicle.
Things you can do at home
All it takes is some common equipment, a few minutes of spare time, and a little know-how, and you’ll be saving money on maintenance issues.
While there are certainly a number of maintenance-related procedures that should only be handled by a trained and licensed mechanic, not every process has the same complexity. If you don’t have a lot of money to give to your local mechanic, there are a number of maintenance procedures that can be done at home.
All it takes is some common equipment, a few minutes of spare time, and a little know-how, and you’ll be saving money on maintenance issues that would otherwise be eating away at your bank account. Here are some maintenance procedures that you can easily do today from home:
Headlights aren’t built to last forever. In fact, most are nothing more than incandescent bulbs mounted on the front of a vehicle, so eventually they’re going to burn themselves out.
To replace a headlight, you first need to open your car’s bonnet (make sure that the car is not running). Remove the plastic backing from the back of the headlight. While wearing insulated gloves, remove the electrical connectors from the back of the bulb. The bulb should be removable at this point. Don’t remove your gloves; oils from your hands can actually damage the new bulb, so be sure to only handle it with gloved hands. Place the new bulb where the old one had been, and replace the electrical connector and the plastic backing. Once everything is secure, turn on your car’s headlamps so that you can be sure that the new bulb is working properly.
Changing a battery
The average car battery has a life-expectancy of 3.5–5 years, meaning that you’re probably going to have to deal with the process of replacing one at least once during your ownership of your car. Replacing a defunct battery is not difficult, but can be dangerous. Be sure to wear insulated gloves and protective eye-gear, and to consult your vehicle’s owner manual before you begin the process.
Make sure that the car is turned off completely before beginning the procedure. Start by opening your car’s bonnet and locating the battery. Use battery pliers or a battery wrench to loosen the nut holding the black cable in place. Twist the black cable while pulling up on it to remove it from the wire (if the cable doesn’t come free, you may either have to scrub away some of the corrosion holding it in place, or use a battery terminal puller, so as not to damage the cables). Using the same method, detach the red cable.
Use a socket wrench to remove the clamp holding the battery in place. Lift the battery free from its housing, and set it aside (do not throw the battery away; instead, take it to a local automotive store and have them recycle it). If there is corrosion left behind after removing the battery, use a mixture of bi-carbonate soda and water to scrub it away. Allow the casing to dry. Place the new battery in the tray, and re-secure the holding clamp. Attach and secure the red cable to the positive (+) connector, and then attach and secure the black cable to the negative (-) connector. Make sure that both cables are totally secure and immovable. Test the battery connections by starting your car. Close the bonnet.
Replacing windscreen wipers
Windscreen wipers are only designed to last for about a year (give or take, depending upon your local weather conditions). Replacing a windscreen wiper may be the easiest car maintenance procedure you’ll ever do.
Despite this, many car owners still prefer to pay mechanics and automotive dealerships to replace the wipers for them. To replace a wiper, start by purchasing your replacement blades. Not all blades are the same, so know beforehand the exact make and model of your vehicle. Find a pair of blades that are compatible with your car.
Pull your car’s wiper assemblies up and away from the windscreen. Turn the blades so that the hinge is visible. Pull on the tab that is located on the hinge of the blade so that it disengages from the wiper. Pull the wiper down towards the windscreen to separate the wiper from the arm. Remove the blade completely. Attach the new wipers in the same way that the old ones were attached (consult your car’s manual if you’re having trouble). The wiper hinge should make an audible click once the wiper is secure. Do this for both wipers, and then lay the entire assembly back against the windscreen. Clean the windscreen with a quality glass cleaner before testing the new wiper.
Replacing an air filter
Air filters make it possible for your engine to draw clean air into itself free of debris. Dirty air filters can reduce fuel efficiency and cause strain to other parts of your engine. To replace an air filter, first make sure that your car isn’t running. Open the car bonnet, and locate the air filter housing (your car manual can show you where to find it, and what it looks like). Open the air filter housing, and remove the old filter. Using an old rag, clean out the air box. Place the new filter into the housing, and then replace and secure the lid. Close the bonnet.
Of course, if your car starts having problems and you’re not sure what to do about it, it’s usually best to take it to a professional. . After all, the last thing you want to do is make matters worse by tinkering around inside your car when you don’t know what you’re doing. Car maintenance is a complex issue—one that requires an in-depth understanding of how a car works. Understanding the facts associated with automobile maintenance may give you a clearer understanding of that complexity.
Here are nine interesting statistics associated with car maintenance.
1. The biggest running cost for cars is depreciation.
The simple truth is that cars are not built to last. Cars depreciate very quickly, and this depreciation accounts for a larger portion of the total running cost than any other factor. However, regular maintenance can help slow a car’s inevitable descent into worthlessness. If you plan on reselling a car at any point in the future, the best thing that you can do is perform regular maintenance to help keep that car in pristine condition.
2. The average Australian household has two or more cars.
Aussie’s have come to depend more and more on their cars, going so far as to invest in multiple cars per family. However, a greater number of cars means a greater responsibility when it comes to maintenance. If you own more than one car, be sure to give yourself reminders so that you don’t neglect regular maintenance, otherwise your vehicles could end up costing you significantly more than they are worth.
3. The average Australian spends $792 on vehicle maintenance every year.
There is no way around it; vehicle maintenance isn’t cheap. However, money spent on regular maintenance (rather than repairs completed after car systems fail) should always be seen as an investment. The cost of maintaining vehicle systems is substantially less than the cost of repairing them.
4. Motorists spend the most on maintaining their cars in May and June, but the least in January.
We tend to be more aware of our vehicles’ vulnerabilities during the approach of winter. But the truth is that cars require regular care year-round. Wear and tear on vital components often has very little to do with the changing seasons, and instead is solely dependant upon factors more closely related to the number of kilometres driven. Don’t wait for the days to get shorter before you take your car in for a check-up; keep up with your regular maintenance throughout the year.
5. Older cars should be serviced at least once every six months, or every 10,000 km (whichever comes first).
Some service stations may suggest that you bring your vehicle in for servicing more often than necessary—and even claimthat oil-changes and other basic services need to occur roughly every 5,000 km.The truth is that most cars don’t need to be serviced quite that often. However, the older a car gets, the more service it needs. So, before you go neglecting service for your classic car, remember that biyearly care may mean the difference between keeping your car on the road, or having to leave it on the side of one.
6. For tyres, the law requires a minimum tread depth of 1.5 mm across the face of the tread normally in contact with the road.
The main purpose of the tread on tyres is to redirect any standing water so that the tyre can come into direct contact with the road. This helps prevent hydroplaning when a car encounters unfavourable weather conditions. Additionally, tyre tread provides added grip, which keeps your car where it’s supposed to be when you drive it. Without tread, your car would slide all over the road, and have much more difficulty starting and stopping. So, pay attention to how much tread your tyres have, and replace worn out tyres before they can create bigger problems.
7. Motor vehicles are the highest source of hydrocarbon emissions in Australia.
As much as we love our vehicles, it’s been proven that they have a strong negative impact on Australia’s air quality. This is exacerbated by the number of maintained automobiles that are nonetheless being regularly used. Put plainly, cars are harmful to the environment, so when we use them, we should do everything in our power to minimise the resultant carbon footprint.
8. Regular maintenance has been shown to significantly reduce harmful vehicle emissions.
With the potential damage that cars are capable of causing to Australia’s natural environment, it’s nice to know that by simply keeping up with our regularly scheduled maintenance, we can reduce the impact that our vehicles have on our ecosystem and our air quality.
9. Car batteries last longer in cold climates.
There is a prevalent myth that suggests that car batteries operate better when it’s warm outside. This is simply untrue. The reality is that electricity flows much more efficiently when the temperature begins to drop, resulting in longer battery lives overall. Unfortunately for many Aussies, cold weather isn’t really a natural part of most of Australia’s climate. It is therefore all the more important to regularly have your car battery tested, so that you can replace it before it decides to strand you out in the middle of nowhere under the hot summer sun.
So, the next time you’re out on the road, and you hear your vehicle begin to make a troubling sound, ask yourself if you’ve done everything in your power to prevent that sort of thing from happening. Car maintenance may feel like an unnecessary drain on your income, but the reality is that it’s anything but. Regular maintenance helps keep your car working the way it’s supposed to. Basically, if you treat your car right, it will treat you right.
Don’t wait for something to break before you decide to get your car up to scratch. In the long run, a properly maintained car is worth far more than the price of that maintenance.