by Lori Straus
If the first General Lee can be restored and driven after spending over three decades in a junkyard, then with a little care and disciplined maintenance, you should be able to enjoy your own vehicle for a long time, too.
You’ll find loads of tips online about how to extend the life of your vehicle. However, nothing beats your own eyes when it comes to noticing damage that could shorten your vehicle’s life. On the YouTube channel Engineering Explained, this video demonstrates how to check over your car once or twice a year to look for damage that needs to be repaired. Below is a quick summary of the different checks you should do, but watch the video for full demonstrations.
Inspect Your Wheels
When the foundation of your vehicle is wearing down, the effects can travel all the way up, resulting in damage from an uneven drive.
- Tires: Ensure that wear on the tires is even and hasn’t gone too far. If your tires seem almost smooth across, then it’s time to replace them. In addition, uneven wear means that your tire pressure is off. Pump the tires to the pressure level indicated on them.
- Brakes: Turn your car’s wheels all the way to the side and examine each brake pad. New brake pads come with about 12 mm of material on them. Once they wear down to 3 mm or even less, have them replaced.
- Shock absorbers: With your wheels still turned, ensure that no fluids are leaking out from the damper and that there’s no visual damage.
Look Under the Hood
Nothing keeps your vehicle more reliable in the long run than checking your fluids and engine air filter.
- Oil: Once you’ve cleaned off the dipstick and placed it back, the oil should reach somewhere between the stick’s two holes. If the oil doesn’t even reach the first whole, refill it according to your owner’s manual.
- Brake fluid: Look for the maximum and minimum lines on the tank and ensure that your brake fluid is between those two marks.
- Coolant fluid: Also make sure that this fluid is between the maximum and minimum lines.
- Windshield washer fluid: Top off with an appropriate product if needed. If you’re switching from a summer windshield washer fluid to a winter one, empty the tank first by continuously spraying your windshield.
- Engine air filter: If your engine air filter looks too dirty, replace it. If you see a little bit of debris on it, you may be able to just tap it off and re-use that filter.
Examine These Often-Forgotten Areas
Inspecting these areas has less to do with overall car maintenance and more to do with safety. Having properly functioning wipers so you can see and lights that turn on so others can see you can help keep you out of accidents.
- Cabin air filter: This is usually located behind the glove box. As with the engine air filter, remove whatever dirt you can or replace the filter if it’s too dirty.
- Wiper blades: They should have a smooth surface without any cracks. In addition, the rubber should still be flexible.
- Lights: Check all your lights, including your brake lights. (You may need a friend to help you with those, or place your phone somewhere where you can record your lights turning on and off as you activate your brakes.)
In addition, keep an eye out for rust and get it treated immediately. As beautiful as the restored General Lee was, much of the exterior had to be replaced because of extensive rust. You’re obviously not going to let that happen to your car, but one unnoticed stone chip or exposure to lots of winter salt can open your car’s exterior to metal-eating rust.
Inspections come part and parcel with buying and owning a car. Along with regular cleanings (including in the winter), performing this self-inspection once or twice a year will help you detect any damage before it becomes too costly to repair. Just remember to schedule the repair as soon as you find the damage.