5 maintenance mistakes to avoid

February 12, 2015 10:03 AM

Whether you're an experienced driver or brand new to the roads, there's a good chance you already know that you need to care for your car. But that's likely where the knowledge ends. While no one is asking you to become an expert, you should have some basic know-how regarding how your vehicle operates and what needs to be done to keep it running smoothly. 

Here are five vehicle maintenance mistakes you should avoid if you want to ensure your car is safe and reliable. 

1. You forget about the schedule 
These days,new cars come equipped with so much technology and safety features that it's not necessary to bring a vehicle into a shop every few weeks. That doesn't give you an excuse to avoid all maintenance until something goes wrong, however. You should make an effort to follow a recommended schedule as closely as possible. 

"Vehicles are so sophisticated today that they'll often keep running even if something's going on, so people forget to keep up with required services," said Greg Brannon of AAA. 

While you may lose track of mileage and time, you won't forget the changing seasons. Use the transition between these times to address certain issues, many of which may be aggravated by alterations in the weather.

2. Fluids dry up 
There are many fluids needed to keep a car on the road. Brake fluid is necessary to the function of these gears, for instance, but few people remember that this needs to be checked regularly. Be sure to sign up for brake service every two years or so, depending on what your owner's manual says. 

Other liquids that need to be monitored include transmission fluid, engine coolant and windshield cleaner. Each of these may have different uses, but they all could come in handy in a pinch. 

3. You're unaware of costs
It may be nice to be blissfully unaware of expenses, but it's simply not realistic for most motorists. You should have an idea of what basic maintenance tasks cost. This can help you make informed decisions regarding what needs to be done and how much you should invest in your car. It also makes it easier to budget for scheduled maintenance, plan your appointments and ensure you aren't wasting money on failing fuel efficiency. 

"Years ago, you needed to take a car in every 3,000 miles for a tune up - but now, there's not even really a service that's known as a tune up any more," Brannon said. "The downside to that is that whenever you do have a breakdown because you failed to do the maintenance, the cost is much greater."

4. Only superficially checking tires 
During the winter, there's a good chance you're already checking tires to ensure they're inflated to the right level. Your car may even warn you when the air pressure gets a little too low. In addition to monitoring pressure, however, you need to make sure you're keeping an eye on tread, balding and possible punctures. 

5. Staying ignorant
Hearing suspicious noises or rumblings coming from under the hood is an ominous sign, but they're made even worse if you ignore the problem for too long. However, you shouldn't blindly take your car into an auto repair franchise without having an idea of what's wrong.

Use the Internet and other resources to diagnose what may be wrong with your vehicle, and be sure to have a clear list of symptoms before you go to a professional so you know they're considering all factors. Your owner's manual can also provide you with a lot of key information that specifically relates to your vehicle. Refer to this booklet first if you notice any issues. 

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