, Auto Care and Diagnostics

It makes you aware if say an unscrupulous mechanic is attempting to stiff you on your repairs. And knowing that can save you money. It can also prevent you from making unnecessary repairs, and that will again save you lots of money. It can further help you find a problem and repair it early, thereby saving even more money. Oftentimes a whole lot of money. It makes you more independent in a time where people are completely too dependent on the help of others to survive.

So, first do a visual check of your car. The following will help you in where to look, and what to look for:

Inspect your tires: Do they look low at all? A tire pressure gauge (available at most car parts stores) will assist you and help make sure that your tire pressure stays constant. Look after it when necessary. Correct tire pressures gurantee a much safer vehicle. Plus, it will be more fuel efficient. Also, there are a variety of inexpensive air pumps you can buy cheaply at most car parts stores. This is a worthy buy because it gives you a way to pump up your tires when needed.

Typically, motorcyclists (including moped riders) need to be really concerned about their tire pressures and to stay on top of it. Inspect closely at your tires and look for severely worn edges, areas which are missing chunks of rubber, and objects that may be sticking into the tire itself. Maintain and/or replace if necessary.

If you’re running on relatively new tires (and they appear to be wearing unevenly) then it’s a good idea to take you vehicle into the shop for a wheel alignment. Sometimes this may even require tire rotation. These two items are usually combinded in so-called “less costly” car service “specials.”

Look under the vehicle for liquids: One drop usually means nothing. Look for consistent drip marks. Remember that during summer months your vehicle’s air conditioning will steadily drip water when in use – no worries. Your coolant system may also spew an occasional bit of water and/or anti-freeze, and that’s okay too. If you find a stain indicating long-term or consistent leaking, trace the leak to its source: engine oil, transmission fluid, rear end oil, etc. Maintain or repair as necessary.

Sometimes, just getting under the vehicle and using the pressure of a hose (at a car wash) will clean off years of old oil and debris that can cause ‘driveway’ leaks thus fixing the faux leak.

Visually check your engine oil: It’s a good idea to check it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Feel it with your fingers especially for consistency. Just keep in mind that engine oil is the life blood of your vehicle’s power plant. Does the oil feel too thick, like sludge or does it feel watery. Thick is good, but watery is something that usually spells traouble! Change watery oil (and be sure to use an Engine Sentry when you do change oil and filter). Add the appropriate oil if the level registers low.

But NEVER overfill your oil!

Check the coolant level: Be sure to use much caution, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid any possible injury from hot, pressurized liquids. Maintain as necessary. If you haven’t had your coolant/anti-freeze checked for some time, then now’s the time to DO it!. Also, be sure to never add coolant or anti-freeze that is not recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Some of the cheaper brands can erode or corrode radiators. So be careful here.

Visually check your engine compartment: Tighten caps, inspect all hose connections, look for worn items, things that may have blown and/or worked there way up into the engine compartment, etc. Maintain or repair as necessary. This is also a good time to some light cleaning of the engine. But nothing too heavy, just use a few old rags and some engine degreaser.

Side point: Ammonia and water make a cheap, great degreaser, but it shouldn’t be used on aluminum. And it certainly shouldn’t be left on it. An old used toothbrush also works best and is a handy cleaning tool. It really does make quick work of much engine debris.

Visually check your automotive battery and connections: It’s also a good idea to make sure the connections feel tight on your car battery. If there’s a green or white build-up on the battery terminals, go ahead and mix some baking soda with tepid water (say 1/4-cup of baking soda to one quart of water) and stir it thoroughly. Slowly pour it directly over the affected areas. Don’t worry about all the fizzing and crackling because it’s actually just cleaning.

Make sure you do this where the runoff won’t stain or harm anything. Again use an old toothbrush because it will make this go a lot faster for you. After the battery terminals are clean and dry, apply a thin coating of vaseline or automotive grease onto each battery terminal, and connection post. You can purcahse automotive grease in small plastic tubs that weigh around a pound each. They’re cheap to buy, so it pays to get a good brand name. Make sure you spread it on evenly. Grease is also good to have around because it’s handy for other automotive repairs.