As the weather starts to improve, and we think about taking some longer road trips between now and fall, it is a good time to make sure your car or truck is ready for those longer drives. The last thing you want to do is have a breakdown on the road a long way from home, where your trusted local mechanic can’t help. So before you make a trip out of the DFW area, check out your vehicle first. If you want to do it yourself, here are some key safety maintenance checks you can make to maintain your vehicle.
From a safety point of view, tires are one of the most important things to inspect. Having your tires in good condition and inflated correctly is very important. Having a tire failure can be very dangerous especially at speed. Have a good look at all four tires, and make sure they are inflated to the recommended pressure, and that the tread is even across the tire, and does not show any sign of excessive wear. If the tread is worn in the center part of the tread, it is an indication of tires being over inflated, whereas a worn area to one side of the tire indicates a problem such as poor alignment or a worn tie rod. Check for damage to the wheel rims, and inspect for any bulges in the tire wall, which can indicate a possible failure point. On most cars the drive wheels wear out faster than the other wheels, so it is a good idea to have your mechanic rotate the wheels occasionally.
If you have had trouble starting your car recently, then it would be a good idea to have the battery checked out. Some batteries need topping up with distilled water if levels drop, but many newer batteries are maintenance-free. A flat battery may not be the battery itself, it may be a problem with the alternator or charging circuit.
Lubricants and Fluids
Most owners should do regular checks on their car’s fluid levels (although most don’t), from a safety point of view. Always check fluids when the engine is cold and the vehicle has been standing for a few minutes, so levels have settled down. Check the engine oil level using the dipstick, and also look at the color of the oil to make sure that is it a light brown color, and has no drops of coolant on it. Black engine oil should be changed as soon as possible, as worn oil will increase the wear on the metal surfaces of the engine. Any drops of coolant on the engine oil is an indication of a more serious problem such as a leaking cylinder head, and a mechanic can perform a compression test to diagnose that.
Next fluids to check is the level of the coolant expansion chamber, making sure the level is in between the minimum and maximum levels. If it needs topping of regularly, it is an indication of a leak, most likely at the junction of one of the hoses, which may need replacing. At the same time check the levels of the brake fluid, and the power steering reservoir, which are usually translucent to make checking easier. Any loss of brake fluid should mean an immediate trip your auto technician for safety reasons. Finally if the vehicle has an automatic transmission check the transmission dipstick as well, the fluid should be between the indicator levels, and should be a red color to indicate a healthy transmission. Following these safety maintenance tips will help you make a safe journey whether inside or outside the DFW area. Happy Driving!