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
vehicle. Your vehicles engine
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
” 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
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
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
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
Engine Tune Up
Your vehicles engine is a constantly monitored and controlled complex system,
but the computer
adjust for normal wear on certain items. Keeping your vehicles
engine tuned up
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
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.
is a mechanical pump that circulates the engine coolant/anti-freeze through the
radiator and back to the engine.
- 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
- 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
- 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
will help to maintain the performance of your vehicles braking system,
ABS equipped or not. Always follow the manufacturers guidelines when servicing your
If further assistance is needed, our certified car repair technicians are ready
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Article first published 2009-09-01 (Updated 2015-05-12)