How To Tell If You’re Due For Maintenance

Tis-the-Season-for-Service

Alexander G. Forrester

Our vehicles are, at the very least, a large investment of capital, but for many of us, the relationship with our cars, trucks, and vans goes beyond that. They represent our freedom, whether you’re a sixteen-year-old behind your first steering wheel or a retiree living out your Corvette dreams. However you approach the vehicles in your life, keeping them on the road and out of the shop is important. Blame it on a blend of our increasingly on-the-go-convenience society and the increasingly technical nature of the automobiles we drive, but basic maintenance is too often neglected.

Here are some common scenarios that may mean it’s time to get your vehicle serviced before you end up on the side of the road:

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The Easy Call – There are a few instances that are fairly common knowledge. If your “Check Engine” light comes on, it may signal a need for service. A change in gauge or dash indicator readings from what you normally see can also signal a problem. You may be able to identify the reported issue yourself, for instance, the “Check Engine” light could indicate a loose gas cap or low tire pressure, but if you aren’t sure, it is better to be safe than sorry.

On late model vehicles, most manufacturers recommend a service visit every year or 7500 miles, while older vehicles should be seen every 3000 miles or 3 months. During this regular checkup, expect and oil and oil filter change. The mechanic will check your air filter, grease fittings, and may give your vehicles a safety check, ensuring your lights, wipers, and other safety systems appear to be functioning correctly. Check your owner’s manual, because the recommended time and mileage can vary, but if it is not available, the above is a good guideline.

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Where The Rubber Meets The RoadWarning signs on our tires are easily missed. Let’s face it, we get flashy cars and dull black tires. Tire failure, however, can be dangerous to you and your vehicle, especially at highway speeds. Even with the best performance wheels and tires, daily wear and incorrect use can lead to problems..

There are a few conditions to look for that can help you minimize risk and hit the tire shop before you hit the asphalt. Regularly check the condition of your tires. Keep an eye out for bulges, road debris, or significant splits, especially if you can see steel belting. Place a penny into the tire tread, Abe’s head against the tire. If you can see the crown of his head, you need new tires. While you’re looking at the tread, check for evenness. Overwear on one side or a “wavy” pattern to the wear could indicate a wheel alignment issue that you will want to get taken care of.

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Something Just Isn’t The Same If you’re like me, you spend hours in your car every week (or day). The best judge of normal for your vehicle is you. If you begin to experience a loss of performance, you’ll be the first to notice. It could be harder shifting, slower to start on cold mornings, or the occasional engine cut out. Some people take it as a given that, over the years, a vehicle will begin to slow down, losing horsepower as wear takes over. That may be true to a point, but that doesn’t mean nothing can be done.

Many of your vehicle’s replaceable parts will be checked at some point during a regular maintenance schedule, but sometimes we switch mechanics, do it ourselves, or opt for a cheaper “Econo-lube” service without all the bells and whistles. Checks get missed. Often, a slight dip in horsepower or fuel efficiency is the result of one of these parts reaching the end of its lifespan. You will want to replace them with universal performance parts from a known and trusted source. This ensures you are getting premium parts that will give you the same performance or better than you had previously.

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Did You Hear That – There was a funny commercial a few years ago where a customer tried in vain to reproduce the correct noise for a mechanic to diagnose. The truth is, odd noises can be a big signal for maintenance needs. If you notice a new noise coming from your car, pay attention.

Knocks and pings can point to engine trouble, as can backfires. Squealing belts could mean a replacement is needed. A grinding squeal from your breaks indicates brake pads needed to be replaced a week ago. Just as with a change in performance, a change in sound can be telling for your vehicle’s health. A service professional should be consulted.


I hope this helps you have many more years of motoring in your beloved vehicle. Remember, though, that any relationship, even ones with “inanimate objects” require frequent communication and education about the other party. Read your owner’s manual, visit car blogs, and spend some time under the hood getting to know your ride. You’ll find a much more rewarding and trouble-free time awaits with a little thought and care.

Happy driving.

Author biography: Alexander G. Forrester is a freelance content writer. He is also a professional speaker, trainer and business coach from New Orleans. He started writing professionally in his early 30s. He acquired his first computer before he was 35. When he has nothing else to do at home, he can be found on the beach with his black lab, Louie.

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