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Practice These Healthy Car Habits to Prevent a Breakdown

Everyone can use a “me day” now and again, whether that entails a relaxing massage or an overdue check up. But what about a “me day” for your car? A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and one worn or dirty part of your vehicle could easily mean an embarrassing break down on the side of the road. While your body has 206 bones, your vehicle can have several thousand moving parts, so give it a little TLC by following these healthy car habits:

Poorly maintained tires are more than a safety concern.

Worn or deflated tires can make it difficult to control your vehicle safely, but neglected tires can also decrease fuel efficiency. For every ten degree drop in temperature, tire pressure drops about 2 percent. Heavy deflation causes rolling resistance which in turn wears the tire’s treads and increases fuel consumption, taking money from your pocket. Check pressure weekly in winter.

But don’t stop there! Check tire alignment annually and have your tires rotated every six months to balance wear on all four tires and prevent fuel-consuming drag—after all, changing tires is expensive.

Check for leaks.

Engine oil, transmission fluid, brake cleaner, and coolant should be checked regularly for quality. Your vehicle’s manual will give guidelines on how and when to replace these fluids (and their filters), but it’s easy to overlook the probability of a leak. After topping up, drive a relatively short distance and check levels to make sure volume hasn’t dropped more than usual. For visual reference, engine oil is generally an amber color (or darker), transmission fluid is red, brake and steering fluid is mostly clear, and coolant is often green, pink, blue, and even orange depending on the brand.

Check your vision.

No, we’re not talking about your eyeglasses. The best way to see the road in volatile weather is to change windshield wipersbrake p once a year, clean your mirrors and windows, and check your headlights, tail lights, and brake lights BEFORE leaving the driveway. If a headlight is out, change both at the same time to match their luminance.

Give your car a fresh start. 

Literally. Having trouble starting your car or accelerating? Have your spark plugs checked by a professional annually to determine if they are worn or damaged. Worn spark plugs can use up extra fuel and drain the battery, another key player for your vehicle to start. It is also helpful to check your battery connections for crusty corrosion, which you can clean using this guide. This is essential in the winter when a bad battery can mean getting stuck out in the cold.

Keep the air clean. 

This goes for both you and those around you. Start by replacing the air filter to keep the air clean inside the car. Then, pay attention to stalling or black smoke, which are indicators of a problem with your exhaust. Leaks in this system can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which is dangerous when windows are down in winter, and poor exhaust will pollute the environment and violate emissions regulations.

Stay in control with smoother brakes and shock absorbers. 

According to many manufacturers, replace your brake pads and brake cleaner roughly every 25,000 miles. While bad brakes are a bit more obvious—you’ve heard the strange noises or pushed the pedal to the floor—many vehicle owners forget the equally important shock absorbers. If your ride is bumpier than usual, or it has been more than a few years, it may be time to inspect your shocks.

And don’t forget your belts. 

Belts are not cheap, and an annual serpentine and timing belt check can keep you from dishing out hundreds of dollars on repairs to engine parts and other parts of the car that suffer due to a damaged belt. You can do a visual check for cracks and wear or have a professional take a look at your next oil change.

Every once in a while, a car needs a spa day too. Practicing preventive car care will keep your car healthy, put money back into your pocket, and save you from a frustrating breakdown.
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