Mechanics

Maintenance Procedures - NOT LIVE

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Maintenance

Taking care of the outside of your vehicle is just as important as maintaining the rest of it. The paint on your vehicle is a barrier against all of the harmful pollutants in the air and rain, keeping it clean and properly waxed is vital to making it last the life of the vehicle (looks nice too). Always use cleaners designed for automotive applications, the soaps tend to not be as harsh, thus not damaging your paint. Your local parts store will have a large selection of all the cleaners and waxes you will need to keep your vehicle looking new and protected from the elements. While you are out there washing and waxing your vehicle, don’t forget to inspect the entire thing for broken or faded lenses, inoperative lights and other exterior damage. The exterior lights on your vehicle are safety devices, having them in proper working order benefits everyone.

Paint Touch Up

Touching up little spots in your paint is an easy and inexpensive way to keep your vehicle looking new. Auto parts stores usually have a great selection of colors for touching up your paint, however the dealer can get you a closer match using the color code off your vehicle. Touch up paint is ideal for small rock chips or minor scratches; any area of size should be done by a body shop for the best result. Always clean the area to be painted completely of all waxes or foreign coatings. Let the paint dry completely before attempting any waxing or polishing.

Wax and Polish

Waxing or polishing your vehicle is an important step to keeping it looking new and protected from the elements. There are several different kinds of waxes and polishes out there, each with a designed purpose. New vehicles or ones that have been professionally “cut” or rubbed out, would benefit more from a more from a pure wax or a straight polish, the cleaner waxes will leave very minute scratches that would only be visible on a “cut” or new finish. Cleaner waxes have a very fine abrasive that helps it clean off the grime that attaches to your paint, restoring its original shine. No matter what kind you use always be sure to get a product that is safe for “clear coat” paints, as most of today’s vehicles have a clear coat/ base coat paint. When cleaning and waxing your vehicles surface always follow the instructions carefully, and use the proper applicators and cleaning towels. Whether you use a paste wax or a liquid, it will all be personal preference. Everyone’s eye is a little different, so try a few different ones, ask a few friends what they like and don’t be afraid to ask questions at your local parts store.

Oil Change Service Schedule

Factory service schedules should always be followed when it comes to maintaining your vehicle. Your vehicles engine oil doesn’t just lubricate the internal engine parts; it also helps to cool them. Over time the oil will break down, thus reducing its ability to lubricate and dissipate heat. Factory engineers take many variables into account when designing a service schedule, so they should be followed closely. Always use the recommended engine oil for your vehicle.

Check Engine Light - Service Engine Soon

Your vehicles instrument cluster contains many warning indicators; the “check engine” or the MIL (malfunction indicator light) is one of them. The check engine light is an indicator that one of the monitoring systems has detected a problem. These range from simple fixes to complex diagnostic journeys. A code reader or scanner is needed to retrieve the codes from your vehicles computer. The diagnostic code will give you a place to start troubleshooting the problem. The code is not always the exact problem, but it gives you someplace to begin diagnosing the problem. Whenever the MIL light comes on your vehicle is not working at its peak efficiency, the problem should be taken care of promptly.

The “Change engine oil” light is not diagnostic related, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. It is simply a reminder that it is time to service your vehicle. Servicing your vehicle according to manufacturer specifications will do nothing but make your vehicle perform better and last longer. Always follow your schedule and use the recommended fluids. Resetting the light varies for each manufacturer, GM vehicles turn the key to “on” position and push the gas pedal to the floor 6 times within 4 seconds. Most Hondas holding down the “trip/reset” button while you turn ignition on will reset it. Saturn have a small button in the under hood power center, “oil-r” hold button down for approx. 10 seconds with ignition on and light will reset.

Alarm/Radio Reset Procedures

Most new vehicles have factory alarm and anti-theft systems integrated into the vehicles computer system. They tend to be much more reliable than aftermarket alarm systems, but they do have problems. Resetting them is usually a simple operation. Most vehicles the alarm can be reset by unlocking the drivers side door. Some vehicles require that the ignition be cycled (turned on then off) at least once. Chryslers and some Jeeps have you lock and unlock either the trunk or the rear door depending on which the vehicle has. If you are curious if your vehicle has an anti-theft system, there should be a light that flashes or in the instrument cluster there will be a warning light such as “security”.

Resetting your radios anti-theft code is a simple procedure, providing you have the anti-theft code to unlock it. When the vehicle is purchased new the radio is usually un-locked. That gives the new owner an opportunity to use a code that they can remember or write down somewhere. If you don’t have the original code then a trip to the dealer might be in order. Sometimes the radio has to be removed to gain access to the serial numbers so that they can look it up and retrieve the code. If this happens, have the dealer un-lock it so you can change the code. Write the code down somewhere safe.

Engine Tune Up

Your vehicles engine is a constantly monitored and controlled complex system, but the computer cannot adjust for normal wear on certain items. Keeping your vehicles engine tuned up properly is vital to maintaining optimum performance and fuel mileage. Most engine tune-ups consist of: fuel injection service, spark plugs, ignition wires, fuel filter, distributor cap and ignition rotor. Some new vehicles have a coil per cylinder arrangement that eliminates the distributor cap and ignition rotor, the ignition coil will mount directly on the spark plug via a small rubber boot. The use of fuel injection cleaners and additives can help keep varnish or other contaminants from hampering the performance of the vehicle. It is also a good idea to clean out the throttle bore. That is where the air inlet attaches to the engine. Have someone hold the throttle open for you and wipe it clean with a rag and a little carb cleaner. No matter what kind of vehicle you drive (or ride) always use factory replacement parts, they may cost a little more but they will outperform and outlast most all aftermarket parts.

Cooling System Service

Your vehicles cooling system is crucial to making the engine last longer and perform better. An improperly maintained cooling system can result in the overheating of the engine, which in turn can cause major component failures within. The cooling system is a pressurized circulation system that consists of 5 major pieces.

Water pump - Which is a mechanical pump that circulates the engine coolant/anti-freeze through the radiator and back to the engine.

Thermostat - the t-stat is a temperature sensitive orifice in the cooling system that opens and closes according to engine temperature to regulate the flow of coolant/anti-freeze through the radiator and back to the engine. This allows for the engine to be run at specific temperatures to optimize the performance and emissions levels of the vehicle.

Radiator - The radiator is basically a finned box mounted at the front of the vehicle that the coolant is forced through so that air may pass across it and cool the anti-freeze/coolant. They are covered in fins that act as heat syncs to help dissipate the heat.

Cooling Fan - The cooling fan is located directly behind the radiator, whether the vehicle is front or rear wheel drive. Its job is to pull air through the radiator at lower vehicle speeds to keep it from over-heating. Cooling fans can either be mechanical (belt driven on the engine) or electric (mounted on the radiator, temperature controlled)

Serpentine Belts-Hoses - All of the antifreeze/coolant in your vehicle is pumped through several hoses. Maintaining them is crucial to preventing serious engine damage from over-heating. Visually inspect the hoses for leakage, cracks or abrasions and the general integrity of the hose. Replace any that are questionable. The drive belt/belts should be inspected regularly as well.

Always follow the manufacturers recommendations on how often and which particular anti-freeze/coolant to use. For more extreme conditions it never hurts to shorten the service interval a few miles. Remember, take care of your car and it will take care of you.

Brake Fluid Service

The braking systems in today’s vehicles are far more efficient than ever before. With the introduction of anti-lock brakes (ABS), the brake fluid in your vehicle has never had to work so hard. The fluid is put through some of the most extreme heat found in a vehicle, the friction created at the contact point of brake pad/shoe and the brake rotor and or drum. Servicing your brake fluid will help to maintain the performance of your vehicles braking system, ABS equipped or not. Always follow the manufacturers guidelines when servicing your braking system.

If further assistance is needed, our certified car repair technicians are ready to answer your car questions.

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AUTHOR


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of 2CarPros.com
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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Article first published (Updated 2014-07-11)