We may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of our links. The LA Times editorial staff was not involved in the creation of this content. Learn more

How to Keep Your Car Running Consistently

keep your car running smooth

Owning a car is like being a parent to a child that will never grow up and take care of itself – a never-ending liability you will just have to learn to live with. And while the excitement of a new car may get you through the first few weeks, you will soon be hit with the reality of all it takes to maintain one – from fuel costs and required regular checks to tax payments and compulsory tests.

But owning a car is not all bad. A car is an absolute necessity if you work away from home or make frequent trips. With your own car, you are in control of your movement and your safety, you are afforded privacy, and won’t have to rely on others or public transport to get around.

However, cars are complex machines that comprise of numerous components working together. And like with all machines, your car must be maintained frequently so that it works properly and reliably, and for as long as possible.

A well-maintained car will save you costs on repair, fuel, and will stay as eco-friendly as possible. A car in optimum working condition will also ensure your safety and is unlikely to develop faults that may pose a potential hazard if they occur suddenly.

Every car comes with a number of key component systems that are very important to its overall performance. Each of these systems must be properly maintained as faults developed in one can quickly affect the others. We will now take a look at these key component systems, their functions, how to maintain them, troubleshooting possible faults, and how to go about fixing potential faults.

The Engine

At the heart of every car is its engine. This where all the power that moves your vehicle comes from. The engine of a car is comprised of a host of complex systems but there are some basic systems you can do routine checks on without the need for a professional mechanic.

The Oil System

The oil in the system is like the heart that pumps blood (oil) through the veins of your engine. If your engine is low on oil, it can develop a mechanical breakdown and require expensive repairs. Too much oil in an engine can ironically cause internal wear and malfunctioning of different components.

To prevent this, you should check the vehicle’s engine motor oil level regularly. Doing this is easy and quick. Most cars have a graduated dipstick where the oil stains the dipstick up to the indicated level. If your vehicle doesn’t have this, you should refer to the vehicle handbook on how to check the oil.

The oil in your engine must also be kept clean and this falls down to the oil filters. These are replaced during an oil change. You can check out our best oil filters for your car to save yourself the shopping hassle.

The Ignition System

The ignition system must be in optimum working condition for your vehicle to start and run reliably. The ignition system won’t require checks are frequent as the oil system, but one part to check are the spark plugs. They should be replaced if they're old or fouled. And with our best spark plugs, replacing the old ones on your vehicle is as easy as it gets. Clean, new spark plugs make for an efficient, reliable engine that won’t waste fuel or release as much harmful exhaust gases. Worn spark plugs will also place extra strain on the ignition coils, resulting in premature wear that can only be fixed by replacement.

The Electrical System (Battery)

The electrical system on your vehicle controls most of its actions. Any checks or repairs with the electrical system should be done by a professional only. However, you would do well to check your vehicle’s battery often. The battery powers the ignition process and other accessories when the engine is not on. Over time, the battery may need to be replaced and disposed of.

If you have an acid-filled battery on your vehicle, it will likely be fitted with a filler cap or caps. If so, check the level of the fluid, and if it is low, only top it up with distilled water if necessary. The plates in each battery cell should be completely submerged when refilling it.

Most modern batteries, however, are maintenance-free and sealed and should never be opened but disposed of if faulty. We have compiled a list of the best batteries for a quick upgrade to your old batteries.

Other Systems

Car engines are composed of other systems like the exhaust system and fuel system. To keep fuel flowing through smoothly to your engine, using a fuel injector cleaner will help get rid of clogs in fuel pipes and valves. And on the car in general, systems like the suspension system and the transmission are best left to a qualified mechanic.

The Brakes and Tires

The brakes and tires on your vehicle pull major weight in its control. Nearly all brakes on modern cars work with hydraulic systems that use brake fluid. Low or worn brake fluid can lead to loss in braking power and even complete brake failure. Always check that the brake system has enough brake fluid and top it up if necessary before you move.

Your vehicle’s tires should always be properly inflated to ensure the most safety. If your tires are underinflated or overinflated, this can affect the vehicle’s handling and steering, increase fuel consumption, and make for an uncomfortable ride. It is good practice to check your car tire’s pressure early in the morning when it’s cool as the heat of noon will cause the air to expand and give a false reading.

Detecting Faults (Your Vehicle’s Lights)

Detecting and troubleshooting potential faults that may be developing in your car is important to prevent them from getting worse and keep your vehicle working properly.

This will usually entail merging different approaches.

Modern cars come with an array of dashboard lights that serve as indicators for its working systems. Faults in key systems in your vehicle like the brakes (ABS). ESC system, fuel system, and other engine malfunction lights will be signaled by the appropriate dashboard light coming on. It is important that you familiarize yourself with the different lights and what they indicate so that you can take the right actions in time.

Frequent Trips to Your Mechanic

Prevention they say, is better than cure. You should take your vehicle to a certified car mechanic workshop for frequent checks, tweaks, and minor repairs it may need. This will help prevent faults from worsening and getting more costly, and will also allow you to keep an eye on key systems you can’t access at home.

In all, a car is great to have but also comes with the responsibility of maintaining it. With these basic steps, you can ensure your car stays in the best possible working condition and ultimately, maximize your safety and minimize maintenance costs.

bestcovery team.jpg
Our research team searches out the best of everything so that you can confidently pick the perfect products and services for your needs.
Related Content
Go to top