Auto maintenance is critical to protecting the investment you have made in vehicle ownership.  Regular maintenance is absolutely essential to ensuring the safety, reliability, drivability, comfort and longevity of a vehicle.  During preventative maintenance, a number of checkpoints are thoroughly inspected by a professional to keep everything functioning at an optimal level.  The actual schedule of car maintenance varies depending on many different aspects such as the year, make and model of the car, its driving conditions and its driver’s behavior; so it is important to have your vehicle regularly evaluated.

Darcie-DingmanRegarding maintenance that is essential to have scheduled and completed regularly, Darcie Dingman of Dingman’s Collision Center emphasizes, “The most important and basic thing to take care of on your vehicle is to have your engine oil changed regularly.  Depending on the age and type of vehicle and what type of oil is used it is recommended to change your oil every 3000 to 5000 miles, which for most of us is approximately every 3 months or four times a year.  Reference your owner’s manual to find out what type of oil to use and how many miles to drive between changes.  Many manufacturers also recommend getting your tires rotated every 5000 miles.  This is something that can be done during oil changes and increases the longevity of your tires.  During the winter months this is especially important in order to ensure that your tires are in good condition; meaning they have good tread and are properly inflated.  Having worn, bald tires can make slippery winter driving even more dangerous.  Finally make sure that you have good wiper blades and washer fluid–you can’t avoid what you can’t see.”  She adds, “Accidents happen and seem to happen even more frequently during the winter months.  If you find yourself dealing with damage this winter it is important to get it taken care of.  You do not want to wait too long to get the repairs done.  If you wait too long the salt and snow combination can start to take a toll on your vehicle.  Given enough time, it begins to rust the damaged metal.  If you find yourself with damage to your vehicle this winter it is crucial to take it to a trusted repair shop for an estimate as soon as possible.  Make sure to ask them if you need to be concerned about further damage resulting from waiting to do repairs.”

Rick-Quistad-Jones-AutomotiveRick Quistad of Jones Automotive completely agrees that regular oil changes are vital to the proper functioning and longevity of your vehicle, as well as checking all of the fluid levels.  This time of year, it is also a good idea to have your antifreeze tested to make sure it will withstand low temperatures.  Quistad also offers several basic tips about vehicle maintenance, both in general and in winter weather:

• Read your owner’s manual (or go online!).  Everything you need to know about scheduling your vehicle’s maintenance is detailed here, and being aware of the manufacturer’s guidelines provides a great amount of general knowledge for you as well as a baseline for general maintenance.

• Cold weather tends to bring out the worst in your car’s electric system.  Connections that are gradually working their way loose or getting corroded, or batteries that aren’t the best quality or are going bad, are the most likely factors we check for when we get a call saying “my car won’t start.”  Get these little things checked out regularly so they don’t create bigger problems.

• Believe it or not, you should make sure your air conditioner is properly functioning year-round.  In the winter, your air conditioning system directly affects your defroster and your entire climate control system.  Also, many times I see people driving with fogged up windows and want to tell them “you are only one button away from being able to see!” Make sure your blowers are set to recirculate and this will take care of the problem.

In addition to regular maintenance, Quistad also highly recommends remote car starters for a number of reasons.  In the colder months, it is very important for the performance of the vehicle as well as your safety and comfort to warm your car up before you begin driving.  Also, it is technically illegal to leave your car started and unattended.  With a car starter, you benefit from security features as well as the obvious added convenience.  If someone were to get in your vehicle while it was running, which is improbably as it remains locked until you are ready to get in, as soon as they hit the brake to take it out of park the system kills the engine.  For those who already have remote starters, it is also important to remember to keep your blower fans on a higher setting when you shut your car off so when you turn on your car with the starter in the morning your system will already be working!

If you have been slacking on your vehicle’s maintenance, there is no better time than now to have even something as simple as an oil change performed and the vital systems, fluid levels, and important aspects checked.  This way, you will have a good starting point for scheduling maintenance in the future and you can feel more secure with your safety and avoid the havoc that car repairs create in your schedule and your bank account.  If you are in doubt, make sure to get it checked out—proper vehicle maintenance IS that important!