Regular car maintenance will not only keep your family and others safe on the road, but also save you money over the long run. If you are on a tight budget, you may be hesitant to bring your vehicle in for regular tune-ups. But don’t fear, because we’ve listed a few of the most commonly overlooked car maintenance issues and simple ways that you can address them at home. If this seems a little advanced for you, check out this blog for car maintenance 101.
Flushing The Power Steering System
Power steering works by utilizing a hydraulic pump to lubricate the steering mechanism with fluid. If it is not maintained, the system can get clogged with dirt and moisture. If the system fails, you may hear stuttering noises, which could indicate a broken power steering pump, and you will have to forcefully turn the wheel to steer.
Taking care of the power steering system is a very important aspect of car maintenance. It must be flushed out at regular intervals. Here’s how you do it:
1. Check your owner’s manual to locate the power steering fluid reservoir, then find the pressure hose that connects to the reservoir. Drain the fluid by disconnecting the low-pressure hose from the steering pump at its lowest point, and then reconnect it.
2. Add the manufacturer-recommended amount of fluid to the power steering reservoir.
3. Start the engine and rotate the wheel for a few minutes while listening for any buzzing noises. This may indicate there is air trapped in the system. Turn the wheel until the fluid is properly circulated and all air is released.
Replacing A Timing Belt
The crankshaft and camshaft work together to control the movement of the pistons in your car’s engine. The crankshaft (which moves the pistons) and camshaft (which opens the intake and exhaust valves in the piston chamber) must be synchronized for the engine to work correctly, and this is done with a timing belt (which gets its name because it synchronizes the timing of both shafts). If the timing belt slips or breaks, it can cause your valves and pistons to collide, which can damage your engine. There are no outward signs of wear on the timing belt, so it’s important to check your owner’s manual for your specific car maintenance schedule. You can replace a timing belt yourself by following these steps:
1. To replace the timing belt, you will need to work around a number of parts in your engine. It’s a good idea to check your owner’s manual to familiarize yourself with the parts before you even open the hood of your car. You will need to be able to identify the negative battery cable and alternator belt, and possibly the power steering pump (see the previous section), alternator, distributor cap, and air conditioning compressor.
2. Once you are familiar with the parts you will be working around, disconnect the negative battery cable and then remove the alternator belt and to gain access to the timing belt cover. Depending on your vehicle, you may also need to disconnect other parts; be sure to check your owner’s manual.
3. The distributor rotor must be aligned with the distributor housing index line. This indicates that the rotor is positioned for the first cylinder to be fired.
4. Look for the largest pulley on the timing belt; this is the crankshaft pulley. There will be a set of marks, called the timing mark, next to this pulley. The timing mark will have a series of numbers, including a “0” or TDC (“top dead center”). The mark on the pulley needs to line up with the “0”/”TDC” mark before the belt can be removed. If they are not lined up, use a wrench to turn the crankshaft pulley until they are.
5. Loosen the bolt that holds the belt tensioner by pivoting the tensioner away from the belt and retightening the mounting bolt to hold the tensioner loosely.
6. Gently slide the old belt off the sprockets, and replace it with the new belt. Then reassemble the cover and reattach the alternator belt and negative battery cable.
Changing Transmission Fluid
Your transmission is responsible for switching gears while your vehicle is in motion. Transmission fluid acts as a lubricant for all of the moving parts within the transmission. If you don’t follow your manufacturer’s car maintenance guidelines for changing the transmission fluid, you can potentially delay or impede gear shifts or cause erratic shifting, which can lead to engine failure.
Using your dipstick, check your transmission fluid level. If it is low, top off the fluid. However, if the fluid is burnt, dark-colored, or sludgy, it must be changed. Here’s how you change it:
1. Remove the drain plug in the center of your transmission fluid pan and drain the fluid into a receptacle, and then replace the plug and pan assembly.
2. Check your manual for the appropriate fluid type, and then fill your transmission fluid reservoir.
3. Start your engine and turn it off. Check to see if the fluid level is low. If it is, add more fluid.
If you follow these guidelines, your power steering, timing belt, and transmission should run smoothly. While regular car maintenance can’t prevent every vehicle issue, it can certainly reduce the likelihood of expensive repairs. If any of these car maintenance tips seem daunting or difficult the experts at Evans Tire are here to help!