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Maintenance

Routine maintenance can prolong the life of your vehicle, help you avoid costly repairs down the line and keep you safer on the road.

Following are some important procedures and checks to follow:

Read your Owner's Manual

Your owner's manual indicates the recommended frequency for oil changes and other maintenance services, as well as the specifications of vehicle parts and products you should use. If you no longer have the owner's manual, you can refer to the manufacturer's website for recommended maintenance. You can also look up recommended maintenance schedules on Edmunds' website. Keep a record and receipts of all your repairs and service so that you know when the next maintenance is due.

Change the oil

Getting regular oil changes is probably the single most important thing you can do to keep your engine running well. Doing so will also improve your fuel economy. "Car Talk" hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi recommend changing your oil and oil filter every 5,000 miles.

Air filter

The air filter traps dirt and particles which can damage your engine. Air filters should be replaced about every 12,000 miles. Have the air filter checked when you get your oil changed. (Source: www.bankrate.com – "Extending your car's life and your investment")

Check tires

Inflation - Once a month, when the tires are cold (before car has been driven or after driving only a couple of miles), check the inflation pressure of each tire. Note that the tire pressure printed on the tires is the maximum allowable tire pressure, not the recommended amount. Consult your owner's manual for the recommended pressure. (Source: Consumer Reports)

Replacement - Check tires monthly for cuts, sidewall bulges and low tire tread and replace them accordingly. If your tread is worn too thin, your tires will have less traction on wet or icy roads. Consumer Reports recommends replacing tires when the tread is worn down to 1/8 of an inch. How much is that? If you can stick a quarter (Washington's head first) into the tire's grooves and see the top of Washington's head, the tire should be replaced. If you notice that your tires are wearing unevenly, this may be an indication that you need a front-end alignment. Have your mechanic check it out.

Rotation - The effects of steering and braking tend to make the front tires wear out before the rear ones. To maintain balanced handling and guard against blow-outs, it is recommended that you rotate your tires every 6,000 miles. (Source: www.bankrate.com – "Extending your car's life and your investment")

Read more on tire maintenance...

Brakes

Making sure your brakes are in good working order is essential to vehicle safety. Some indications that brakes may need replacing are: brakes are less responsive, brakes make a squealing noise, car pulls sharply to one side when braking, brake pedal feels spongy. AAA recommends having brakes inspected every 6,000-9,000 miles.

Check fluid levels

When you get your oil changed, have the mechanic check the levels of transmission fluid, brake fluid, coolant and power steering fluid.

Wash car frequently

Keeping your car clean and waxed not only improves its appearance, it also protects the finish from damage that comes from acid rain, air pollution, UV rays, salt and dirt. Wash your car weekly, if possible, and have it waxed about every 6 months. (Source: www.CarCare.org)

Every 30,000 miles

Have your mechanic check your spark plugs, change the automatic transmission fluid, and drain and flush the cooling system. Brakes, tires, oil and fluid levels should also be checked, if you haven't recently done so. (See above for suggested intervals.) (Source: www.bankrate.com – "Extending your car's life and your investment")

Drive belts and hoses

Consumer Reports suggests replacing drive belts and hoses every two to three years, even if they don't show wear.

Timing Belt

If your vehicle has a timing belt, check the owner's manual for the recommended interval at which to change it – usually every 60,000 to 80,000 miles. Failure to change the timing belt can result in a very expensive engine repair, should the belt break. (Source: Consumer Reports)