I’m not the best at car care. I read the car care tips, I just don’t follow them apparently. I killed my trusty Toyota Sienna van, and what I did was totally preventable with a little regularly scheduled maintenance. Read on for my big mistake and how you can avoid it.
When you have car care problems or notice something isn’t right with your car, get it checked out sooner rather than later. Be sure to check your owner’s manual so you know which services to schedule at which mileage intervals.
It was number one that did my vehicle in; here’s what you need to know so that it doesn’t happen to you.
Worst Case Scenario When You Don’t do Regular Car Care
As I waited for word from the mechanic, I thought about all we’d been through with the van, and the field trips she’d taken us on. Her inaugural adventure was a cross-country road trip from Atlanta to Breckenridge, CO where I resisted the urge to stop in Metropolis to see Superman. Marveled at the windmills in Kansas, and felt like John Wayne as we approached the Rockies.
For seven summers, she safely helped us travel from Atlanta to North Carolina, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania multiple times as we trans versed the mid-Atlantic and northeast for lacrosse tournaments. She took us to St. Simons for beach trips, to Orlando and Disney World. She was shelter when my son was sure there was a bear outside his tent while car camping.
The mechanic says the oil hadn’t been changed in a year and a half. I beg to differ. It wasn’t that long, but it had been a while. In the three months before her demise, she had been 950 miles to pick up my son from his freshman year in college; 632 miles for our annual 4th of July beach trip and another 632 to a family reunion. We drove her to Ithaca NY and back for a summer program at Cornell, another 1843 miles, twice. It was on the way to my son’s sophomore year in college that she finally couldn’t go anymore.
Our Sienna had over 190,000 miles on her when she passed. I really wanted to get her to 200,000. The mechanic said she would have made it……but apparently you have to change the oil.
Car Care Maintenance That Comes To You
I’ve recently discovered YourMechanic, which is a new way to take care of your car. The pricing is up front. You contact them online or via an app, tell them what you need done, or if it’s a maintenance issue, what’s wrong. They give you a price quote online, if you agree, schedule the service.
And the best part – they come to you! So while you are working, doing laundry, or just sipping wine with friends in the comfort of your own home, YourMechanic is taking care of the car. Since there is no overhead, prices are comparable to a garage, and all mechanics are certified and experienced.
7 Car Care Maintenance You Should Not Ignore
As I learned, it’s important to have your car regularly checked and serviced. Doing car maintenance on the front-end will save you a bundle (and maybe even your car as I discovered) on the backend.
Let’s go over the top seven things you can do today to ensure your car stays in good shape.
- Keep up with oil changes. When oil levels are low, or oil is old, added friction between moving parts can cause wear and tear to the engine. Follow your owner’s manual to determine the best intervals for changing oil. Check the brakes every time the oil is changed.
- Take care of your tires. Check and maintain proper tire pressure. Tires inflated within five pounds per square inch (PSI) of their recommended level improve gas mileage and general handling of your vehicle. Recommended PSI can be found in the owner’s manual. Rotate tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.
- Check vehicle fluids. Vehicles rely on transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid and properly mixed coolant to run. Have a mechanic check the fluid levels to make sure your car is running effectively. If levels are low, the mechanic will need to look into the cause. Gas and windshield wiper fluid are the only fluids that should be topped off.
- Change air filters regularly. Dust and grime accumulates over time and can negatively impact gas mileage and engine performance.
- Check windshield wipers. It’s scary when you are driving 60+ miles per hour on a crowded highway and you can see ahead a grey black line. You know up ahead is a torrential storm and windshield wipers don’t work as well as they should. Make sure before you hit the road your wipers are in good shape.
- Take care of minor repairs when they arise. New noises or changes in the drivability of a vehicle should be checked out promptly.
- Read the Manual. YourMechanic mechanics stand behind the importance of following the owner’s manual. OEMs Car makers, whether it be Ford, Toyota, BMW or any other manufacturer develop these guides to help car owners BEST maintain their cars. It is in their best interest to ensure that the guidance they provide keeps your car in the best shape as long as possible so you’ll become a lifelong customer. The owner’s manual is very important.
Top 10 Car Problems Serviced By YourMechanic
Let’s say you do a better job than I did at maintaining your vehicle, but you still run into an issue. It happens.
If there IS something amiss with your car, chances are it’s one of these top 10 issues seen by YourMechanic. Before your trip, become familiar with these services so you’ll be able to talk the language if anything does happen.
- Brake Pads. Brakes in working order is pretty much a must for any trip. If your brake pads are worn out, the braking distance increases and you risk damage to the brake rotors, which are a lot more expensive than brake pads. Do yourself a favor, get this car care issue taken care of before it becomes a major expense.
- Alternator Replacement. The alternator is what powers the battery in your car. No battery life, car doesn’t start. The car starting is kinda important.
- Starter Replacement. Again, car starting, kinda a big deal. If the starter is broken, the engine will never catch and the vehicle won’t turn on. You won’t be able to ignore this one.
- Car not starting. So we’ve already covered two reasons your car might not start. If your car starts momentarily, but then dies, that indicates you have a fuel delivery issue. But best to let the mechanic diagnose the problem.
- Battery Replacement. A quick look under your hood can give you an idea if your battery needs some attention. If you see corrosion, white or bluish powdery looking substances on the batter and cables, the battery needs attention.
- Oil Change. We’ve already established the worst that could happen if you DON’T have your oil changed on a regular basis. Don’t make my mistake.
- Radiator Replacement. The radiator keeps the car from overheating. Replacing coolant at regular intervals is easy, inexpensive and can save your radiator from becoming cracked.
- Timing Belt. The timing belt is a biggie if it actually breaks. Major engine failure just sounds expensive.
- Check Engine Light is on. This check engine light always confuses me. Do I need to call a mechanic immediately, or is this more of a suggestion? If the light is blinking, chances are it’s serious. If it’s steady, probably best to get things checked out when you can.
- Pre-Trip Inspection. If you aren’t sure about your car, have it inspected by a certified mechanic before heading out on the road. At YourMechanic, the mechanic comes to your home or office and the service takes a little over an hour. They’ll give you a full report on your cars health. This is especially important for long car trips.
Car Care Means Being Ready for Roadside Emergencies Too
Since we are talking car care and road trips, here are some car care tips to make sure you are ready for roadside emergencies and stay safe on the road.
- Have an Emergency Kit ready. In your truck make sure you have an emergency car kit. It can include your first aid kit, electrical tape, great for fixing a broken hose, screwdrivers (for tightening clamps), and extra fuses, because many times something isn’t functioning on the car is a result of a blown fuse. Here’s 5 more essential items for your emergency kit.
- Keep Jumper Cables in Your Trunk. In addition to your emergency kit, make sure you have a set of jumper cables in the trunk just in case.
- Put a blanket and rubber boots in the truck during winter. You never know when you’ll need it. In 2014, Atlanta received just 2.6 inches of snow, however, the entire city was in gridlock with cars stranded on all three highways for up to a day. My son’s school had students spend the night because they couldn’t get home. Motorists spent hours upon hours in their car. A friend of mine walked home in the snow in just her work clothes and heels. Thank goodness it wasn’t far. She lamented, ‘we live in Georgia. I park my car in the deck and head into work, then park in front of my house and go inside. It never occurred to me that I might have to walk in the snow, or spend hours in my car in the cold.
- Stay focused. If you are the one driving, avoid distractions. Plug your destination into the GPS BEFORE you leave, not while on the road. Set your mirrors, seat and steering wheel. Set your phone for voice recognition so you can talk hands free, or better yet, turn it off until you have reached your destination.
- Know Your Car. This sounds a bit silly, but with all the bells, whistles and buttons on today’s cars, it’s sometimes hard to figure out where the lights are or how to turn them on. A policeman stopped me once because my lights weren’t on. The lights had been coming on automatically, but someone else had driven the car and changed the feature. Since I had never actually had to turn the lights on before, it took me a bit to find the right knob.
- Leave Enough Time. If you’re like me, you generally leave later than you should and then are trying to play catch up on the way. Leave enough time so you aren’t stressing over every little (or big) traffic jam.
- Timing is Everything. Time your trip so you’ll be awake and alert. I drive much better during day light hours. As soon as it gets dark, my eyelids start to get heavy. Also consider traffic patterns along the route. If you leave Atlanta at 3 pm going north on 85, you’re going to hit Charlotte, NC right at rush hour. Consider leaving a little earlier or later for a smoother ride.
More Tips to Maintain Your Sanity During a Road Trip
- Keep a few grocery bags for garbage. No matter how neat you are, if you have kids, you have garbage in your car. Hopefully the little ones don’t leave banana peels molding in the cup holders of the third seat like my little angels. If they do however, it’s nice to have a few plastic bags to gather all the junk to throw out at the next gas stop.
- Keep Wipes handy. You never know when things are going to get messy, or even down right gross, especially when kids are involved. An impromptu roadside potty break, the ketchup that made it all over the seat instead of the fry. Wet wipes can be a life-saver.
- Squirrel away some napkins at the next fast food stop, grab a few extra napkins and put them in the glove compartment. My son is always asking me for a tissue, and the napkins come in handy. Of course I could just have some tissues, but the kids always seem to step on the box or the slit in the travel size stays open and they get all yucky. Napkins are heartier and are easy to stuff in the glove compartment.
- Keep Everyone Fed and (somewhat) Hydrated. Pack lots of snacks and a few waters. Nothing makes kids crankier on a long trip than being hungry. And if your driver is like mine, when he’s got a long trip ahead, he doesn’t like to make stops, so although you want to keep everyone hydrated, back off a bit so you aren’t have to make potty stops every 15 minutes. I like to pack a few dum dum lollipops too. Because when all else fails, I’m not above bribery.
- Formulate some fun. Long car rides can be a bear for everyone but you can also look at it as an opportunity for some family time. Travel games help pass the time. Magnetic travel games, such as hangman or checkers, are perfect for every mode of travel – you can even keep a game in the car for play during everyday driving. The magnets keep pieces from getting lost and the convenient tin case lets you start and stop games without messing up the game board. Read our awesome post for even more road trip games.
- Duck and Run. Have a roll of duct tape in the trunk, because you know, duct tape can be used for just about anything.