1. Change the oil at regular intervals.
We can't overstate how important oil is to your engine. Oil lubricates and cools. Oil pressure and flow control many key engine operations. To do its many jobs well, oil needs to be clean. But over time oil gets dirty and degrades. That's why you need to change it regularly. Tiny particles of dirt and metal fragments build up, which can cause engine wear. How? Particles rub like sandpaper on engine parts. Also, oil travels through narrow passages inside the engine and these can clog up, starving the engine of needed lubrication.
Dirty oil can lead to
2. Change the oil filter at regular intervals along with the oil.
Oil is your engine's defense against heat and wear. The oil filter's job is to protect the oil. Conditions inside your engine are hot and dirty. Dirt from the air, byproducts of combustion and even tiny bits of metal as the engine wears work their way inside, accumulating in the oil over time. The oil filter sieves out this muck but it eventually clogs up. A clogged oil filter also impedes oil flow. If you keep driving with a clogged filter, the filter can actually rip apart and pieces of it can get in the engine, causing a whopper of a problem.
Oil filters aren't all the same and a generic filter likely isn't designed to meet your particular car's needs. At Andersen's, we always use the oil filter specified by the manufacturer.
Our advice: change the oil filter using the OEM filter every time you change the oil at intervals of 5,000 to 7,500 miles.
3. Pay attention to your Check Engine light.
Here's what your mechanic wants you to know about that pesky Check Engine light (aka Service Engine Soon): pay attention to it but don't freak out. Technically, that light is a message to you from your car's emissions control system. It's designed to alert you if the engine exceeds 1.5 times the emissions of the Federal tailpipe standards. There are hundreds of possible factors that will trigger it. If it turns on, more likely than not, you're fine to drive the car and it's not an emergency. But do get it checked out as soon as you can.
Our advice: If your Check Engine light comes on, it's trying to tell you something important. Pay attention to it and get your car in soon.
4. Learn how to read your Check Engine light.
Your 21st-century car is full of computers and computerized sensors. They make things happen and they monitor engine and other systems operations for problems. If your house had a "Check House" light, it might turn on if somebody left the refrigerator door open. You'd want to know if food was spoiling, right? Same with the Check Engine light. It's telling you that something needs attention. Here's how to read its messages:
1) The Check Engine light is flashing. Is the car also running poorly? This could be an "ignition misfire." You can drive your car gently but we recommend you get it in as soon as possible.
2) The Check Engine light came on but went off after a while. The engine computer monitors itself - if the computer gets a reading on an operating parameter it doesn't expect it will turn on the light. If the unusual reading doesn't persist, the computer may decide to turn the light off again. We can tell you what the computer found by reading "the code" for you the next time you're and advise you what to do about it.
3) The light stays on but the car seems to run fine. Again, your car is alerting you to a potential problem but it likely isn't an emergency. Get your car in within a few days when it's convenient and we'll check it out.
Our advice: if your Check Engine comes on, take note of what's happening. Get your car in as soon as you can and we'll get to the bottom of it.
5. Keep an eye on tire condition and tire wear.
It goes without saying that tires are what's between you, your passengers and the road. A flat tire can strand you. A worn tire or one that's too low can actually affect handling. A tire blow-out while you're driving can cause an accident. Avoid tire trouble with a quick walk around now and then. Here are some things to watch for:
6. Don't overlook the other liquids in your car.
Oil isn't the only liquid in your car that needs attention. There's also transmission oil, coolant (aka antifreeze), power-steering fluid, brake fluid and washer fluid. Unless you're mechanically inclined, the only one we'd recommend dealing with yourself is washer fluid. Stop by any time and we'll be happy to show you how. The other liquids should be checked regularly as part of periodic maintenance by professionals but here are a few things to know:
7. Going somewhere? Do the weekend trip walk-around.
Before you pack the car and head out for a getaway, do yourself and your passengers a favor and give your car a quick once-over: