Master your car, Part 1 |Twenty-some years ago when Dustin Lansing got his first car, he was able to essentially maintain it himself. Today, that would be a lot less likely.
Even once-basic tasks like oil changes are increasingly difficult for the home mechanic to perform. In fact, many newer cars no longer have dipsticks to check oil levels, says Dustin Lansing, an ASE master-certified technician at Columbus-based Byers Imports.
“A lot of people have maintained their own cars for a long time,” says Dustin. “But then they eventually get a new car and find that things are not quite what they used to be—that it may be time to hang up the wrench.”
Today’s modern vehicles require specialized tools and technology that connect to each car’s advanced computer system. This can make even the most basic car repair and maintenance tasks, like an oil change, particularly difficult to perform for the home mechanic.
The good news? There are several key auto maintenance tasks a motivated DIY’er can still perform on their own vehicle, without going to an auto repair shop.
Check your tire pressure.
Your vehicle’s tires are one of its most essential parts, particularly in inclement conditions. Yet Dustin says nine times out of 10, the vehicles he sees at his shop haven’t had their tire pressure adjusted since their last service.
“That can become a very difficult and dangerous situation, because you could possibly have a blowout at a high speed and with no warning,” Dustin says.
A good, inexpensive way to check your tires’ air pressure is with a tire pressure gauge. More specifically, Dustin recommends to make sure your tires, including the spare, have at least 35 psi.
Check your tire wear.
Another way to monitor the safety of your tires is to regularly check the wear bar on the rubber. A wear bar is a series of rubber bumps that intersect the tread of the tire. When the wear bar and the tread are at the same depth and height, it’s time to get new tires.
It’s also simple to check your tire’s wear by following the coin test.
Check your oil.
Due to advancements in synthetic oils, the majority of vehicles made in the last 10 years can last much longer than the age-old 3,000-mile threshold once recommended for oil changes.
But just because your newer vehicle can go up to 7,500 or even 10,000 miles before needing an oil change, you still may need to add oil between changes. In the drive for fuel economy, some technological advancements have resulted in increased oil consumption.
“While it’s not something we see every day, running a car out of oil is fairly common,” Dustin says.
Check your other fluids.
In addition to your oil, it’s also important to regularly check antifreeze levels. In fact, Dustin says it’s almost more critical to keep a close eye on your antifreeze than it is your oil.
“While we do see a fair amount of cars that have low or lacking oil, the real killer is usually a lack of antifreeze,” Dustin explains. “In fact, the power-train technology today is advanced to such a degree the only things that can really kill your car are a lack of antifreeze or a lack of oil.”
Maintaining your vehicle might not be as easy and inexpensive as it was in years past. But there are still things you can do at home to keep your vehicle operating smoothly.
Safe driving, which includes regular auto maintenance, is important to us at Root. In fact, we don’t even offer car insurance to bad drivers. And that saves good drivers a lot of money (up to 52%). If you’re a safe driver, check us out.
See more from the Master Your Car Series.
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