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Yearly Car Care Checkup

Keep Your Car Reliable with Yearly Checkups

Now or never. It is once again the time of year for those basic car care maintenance checkups. According to the Car Care Council (CCC), basic annual maintenance, such as checking oil levels, can help improve vehicle safety and reliability. Additionally, these checkups can help you avoid costly repairs over the life of your vehicle.

The CCC recommends drivers perform 10 basic maintenance procedures throughout the year to help keep their vehicles opperating properly.

Check oil, filters and fluids. Check your oil whenever you fill-up. Also, for maximum engine life, your vehicle's oil should be changed according to the owner's manual recommendations, or every three months or 3,000 miles. Brake, transmission, power steering, coolant and windshield washer fluids should also be checked regularly. Your vehicle's filters — including those for the transmission, fuel system and interior ventilation — need regular inspection and replacement.

Inspect hoses. At each oil change, check your hoses and have them replaced if they are leaking, brittle, cracked, rusted, swollen or restricted. Also, check V-belts and serpentine belts for looseness and condition, replacing them when cracked, frayed, glazed or excessively worn.

Typically, vehicle timing belts are replaced between 60,000 and 90,000 miles, or at the intervals suggested in the owner's manual. Changing these belts helps you avoid causing serious engine damage, which could lead to a breakdown.

Check the engine brake system. Check this system every year, and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected during each oil change.

Check the battery connection. The battery should be securely mounted and corrosion-free. Every three years, the battery should be tested and replaced if not working properly.

Inspect the exhaust system. Check your vehicle's exhust system for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers. These problems may cause unusal noises while driving. Exhaust leaks can be dangerous, and should be corrected immediately if found.

Schedule a tune-up. Regular checkups ensure the car's engine is delivering the best balance of power and fuel economy, producing low level of emissions.

Check the car's HVAC system. Ensure the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system is properly heating and cooling the vehicle. This performance is critical for not only interior comfort, but also safety reasons such as defrosting your windows.

Inspect the steering and suspension system. Every year, check your vehicle's steering and suspension systems, including shock absorbers, struts and chassis parts such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.

Monitor tire pressure. Check your vehicle's tire pressure at least once a month. Make sure you also check the tire treads for uneven or irregular wear and cuts along the sidewalls. Additionally, check your car's alignment annually to reduce tire wear and improve fuel economy and handling.

Test exterior and interior lights. Replace any bulbs that are not working immediately. Also, replace windshield wiper blades every six months, or when they are cracked, cut, torn, streaking or chattering. This ensures optimum performance and safety.

Source — Car Care Council