Regular maintenance key to long vehicle life

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 14, 2005

When the month of April rolls around people usually think of warm air, baseball and Easter, maybe not in that particular order. But, one thing about April that usually gets overlooked is the fact that it’s National Car-Care Month.

Most people who aren’t car folks consider maintaining their car as washing it on sunny days. But, there is more to the life of a car than what is on the exterior. According to, &uot;the key to keeping a vehicle dependable and aesthetically pleasing is a normal maintenance regimen.&uot;

&uot;You need to keep check on the oil and make sure that there is plenty of fluids in the car’s radiator,&uot; said Andrew Brooks from the Advance Auto Parts store located on Fort Dale Road. &uot;People need to make sure they have good spark plugs and wires and that everything is up to do. Basically, they just need a good tune-up.&uot;

Brooks also said that car owners should have their vehicle tune up at least once a year and should have an oil change every 3,000 miles.

Car owners should also keep a check on what’s going on under their vehicles hood. says that if a person is planning on making a trip they should check all the belts and hoses connected to the vehicles engine and look for any signs of wear or weak spots in them.

&uot;Many cars are equipped with a serpentine belt that runs all of the accessories, so if that belt breaks, you can lose your power steering, water pump and charging system immediately. Inspect the engine and look at the belt (or belts) to see if there is visible damage, abnormal wear or small hairline cracks. Replace any belt that shows signs of wear. Even if a belt appears to be in good condition, it should be replaced every 50,000 miles as preventative maintenance,&uot; the website reported. The website also advices that radiator and heater hoses should be checked periodically.

&uot;One of the things that’s recommended by us,&uot; said Paul McKinley of McKinley Tires located on the Greenville By-Pass, &uot;is that a person bring their car in to the garage of their choice on a regular basis and the best thing to go by is that car-care guide that comes with the vehicle. There is a list of scheduled maintenance tips to prolong the life of the car. Owners should use that checklist every 5,000 miles. Normally, one of the main things that will help the life of a care is having a regular oil change, checking belts and hoses and looking for cuts and nails in your car’s tires. If they have a good shop to have their oil changed, then they will go far. If they are not regulars in a garage, then they need to get regular with one, especially, those with good technicians that know what they are doing, such as the ones at McKinley tire.&uot;

But, as important as the hoses and radiator are, the brakes are more so. Beyond that, the next most important part of the car is the Master Cylinder. According to, &uot;In late-model vehicles, the master cylinders are often made of semi-opaque plastic that allows inspecting the fluid level without taking off the cover, as is the case with cast-iron master cylinders.

In addition to checking fluid level, look for leaks where the brake lines attach to the master cylinder and where the master cylinder bolts to the power booster. If you see signs of brake fluid, tighten the fittings using a line wrench on brake-line nuts to prevent against rounding off their shoulders. If the master cylinder is leaking at the rear, replace it.

In the interest of safety, periodically get under the vehicle and inspect the rubber hoses that go to the wheels for excessive wear or cracks; replace these hoses as necessary.&uot;

From there car owners should also take care to check the brakes themselves. If the brake shoes and or caliper pads are worn or damaged, they can cause further damage to the vehicle’s brake drum. For vehicles with disc brakes, car owners should take the recommendation of a dealer or manufacturer to reduce risk of brake failure or damage.

Another important part in maintaining the life of a vehicle, is the ability to maintain the life of the vehicles tires.

&uot;Check the pressure in the tires,&uot; said Brooks. &uot;That’s a good way to save gas mileage.&uot;

Advance Auto Parts recommends that the pressure in the tires be checked at every gas stop. It also advises that people should do a visible check of the tires for bulges or for wear before every trip.

&uot;Proper inflation pressure makes tires last longer, and it also improves the vehicle’s fuel economy. Assuming that the wheels are properly aligned, under-inflation causes the tires’ shoulders to wear faster than the centers, and over-inflation makes the center strips go bald earlier than the shoulders. Your owner’s manual will recommend the correct pressure for your vehicle.

Assuming that the vehicle is aligned properly, inexpensive tires should last in excess of 30,000 miles; expensive brands often go over 50,000. Conversely, worn tires may work okay in dry weather, but they can become downright dangerous in the rain. Periodically inspect the sidewalls for cracking or splitting. Old tires, even with low mileage, can be dangerous because the rubber cracks and hardens over time. Any tire over five years old should be changed. Bottom line: Blowouts can be fatal,&uot; said

&uot;Basically, people need to keep their tires rotated on regular basis and to keep their front end aligned, every six months,&uot; said Gil Ellis from Tire Pros in Greenville.

The way society is going now, car owners are leaning more to the oversized tires in their vehicles. Both bigger tires and smaller rims for some trucks and bigger rims and smaller tires for some vehicles.

&uot;Generally as a rule of thumb, cars come with a tire size that is set to accommodate the car’s geometry,&uot; said Ellis. &uot;When you put oversized tires on a car that’s not designed for them, then you change the ride geometry of the car. A lot of factors can be affected as far as performance of the vehicle and the wear of the tires. It’s something that’s not recommended by the manufacturers. Putting the big rims on the cars is just like some of these guys that go and jack their trucks up. When they do that are changing the geometry of their vehicle. When they move the truck from factory height and ride height that can put stress on the vehicles front-end parts.&uot;

Now that car owners have made sure the key points of their car are maintained, the exterior should be maintained as well.

&uot;Wax and wash your car,&uot; said Brooks. &uot;But don’t use regular washing detergent to wash it. The detergent can eat away at the enamel of the paint and cause it to weaken and chip.&uot; advises car owners to carefully read the label prior to buying the wax or other surface treatment to assure paint compatibility.

Car owners should also make sure that their windshield is clean.

&uot;People need to keep fluid in their windshield washers,&uot; said Brooks. &uot;That’s so they can keep their windshield clean when they hit bugs and things like that.&uot; says: Dirty glass deflects the light and can make visibility dangerous at best, impossible at worst.

Many products do an excellent job of washing your windshield, and it’s always advisable to wipe the product off with a paper towel that doesn’t leave lint or streaks.&uot;

People should also be aware of the wiper-blades themselves. Due to all the rain that’s been in the area these past few weeks, it is very important for a car to have a working set of wipers and blades.

&uot;Right now with all the rain and stuff,&uot; said Brooks, &uot;more and more people are beginning to come into the store to get their wiper blades and get their wipers fixed.&uot;

Car lights should be checked periodically to make sure they are both burning with the same intensity.

The one thing that all three locations agree on, is that the best way to maintain the life of a car is to have a regular service.

The most important thing for the life of a car is to have a proper oil change and to maintain proper lubrication,&uot; said McKinley. &uot;The cheapest things you will purchase for your car is a quart of oil and a grease gun. If you have that done regularly, you won’t have to worry about replacing ball joints or things like that. The most important thing is to have a regular maintenance schedule. Following that little electrostatic sticker in the corner of the windshield that has the schedule of each service is of the utmost importance.&uot;

But, as the weather warms up, more and more people will begin to hit the open roads en rout to different locations.

&uot;People are getting ready for trips on spring holidays,&uot; said McKinley. &uot;A lot of the things they are doing more of is checking tires. And on days when it warmed up, people began to realize their air conditioner is not working as good as it did this time last summer due to a leak in the Freon, it’s a real common thing.&uot;