In this post we will talk about car maintenance as regards coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, windshield washer fluid and filter maintenance
Check the coolant level, strength and condition. The coolant reservoir should be maintained at the full level, otherwise air pockets may form inside the radiator, which can cause cooling problems and overheating. If the level is low, the system should be inspected for possible leaks (hoses, radiator, freeze plugs, etc.). If there are no visible leaks, do a pressure test to check for internal leaks (leaky head gasket, cracked head or block).
The strength of the coolant should be adequate to provide freezing protection to the lowest anticipated temperatures for your area. A 50/50 mix of water and ethylene glycol antifreeze will normally protect down to -34 degrees . If greater freezing protection is required, the mix can be increased up to 70 percent antifreeze, but no higher since straight antifreeze does not cool as efficiently as does a mixture of water and antifreeze.
The condition of the coolant is also important and should be checked yearly. If the coolant is discolored, contains sediment or is worn out (chemical test strips can reveal the level of corrosion inhibitor left in the coolant), it needs to be changed.
With traditional antifreeze, the recommended change interval is every two to three years or 30,000 miles. With extended life products, the interval may be 5 years or 100,000 miles (which ever comes first). For most vehicles, that means changing the coolant every five years – and not waiting until the coolant has 100,000 or more miles on it.
If the cooling system is dirty, use a cleaner to remove the harmful deposits and sediment. Then flush the system and refill with fresh or recycled coolant. Use the type of coolant recommended in your owners manual.
POWER STEERING FLUID MAINTENANCE
A low fluid level in the power steering pump reservoir almost always indicates a leak. Inspect the hoses, pump and steering gear, and repair or replace as needed to fix the leak.
Under normal conditions, power steering fluid does not need to be changed. But it should be replaced if the pump or steering rack has failed to protect the new parts.
When adding fluid, use the type specified by the vehicle manufacturer. Do not use ATF unless it is approved for the steering system by the vehicle manufacturer.
BRAKE FLUID MAINTENANCE
The brake fluid level usually can be checked without having to open the fluid reservoir if the reservoir is transparent. But the condition of the fluid also needs to be determined because brake fluid absorbs moisture over time. Moisture contamination lowers the fluid’s boiling temperature and breaks down its corrosion inhibitors.
You can use chemical test strips that react to contaminants in the fluid or its moisture content. Many brake experts recommend changing brake fluid every four to five years for preventive maintenance, and every time the brakes are relined or repaired. Use the type of brake fluid (DOT 3 or DOT 4) as required by the vehicle manufacturer (see your owners manual for details, or look at the markings on the master cylinder reservoir).
WINDSHIELD WASHER FLUID
Though not a vital fluid in terms of vehicle operation, this fluid is vital for good driving visibility when bug splatter, dirt and road grime obscure the windshield. For cold-weather driving, a fluid that also includes deicer is a good choice to help melt ice on the glass.
The oil filter should always be changed when the oil is changed. The same thing applies to the filter inside the automatic transmission when the ATF is changed. But air and fuel filters are typically “replace as needed” items. A visual inspection of the air filter will reveal its condition.
On older vehicles, rust and other crud inside the fuel tank may cause the filter to plug. Replacing the filter may temporarily solve the immediate problem (no fuel), but cleaning or replacing the fuel tank may be necessary to keep the new filter from becoming plugged again.
On newer vehicles, cabin air filters also need to be regularly inspected and replaced. Cabin air filters keep odors and microscopic airborne particles out of the passenger compartment, so they are more of a comfort item than a performance item. Even so, a plugged filter can reduce air flow into the HVAC system, which may affect the performance of the air conditioner or heater.
Cabin air filters have been used on some import vehicles as far back as 1994, and are currently installed on about 40% of all new vehicles (mostly luxury models). The filters use activated carbon so they have a limited life. Replacement recommendations vary, but are typically 12,000 to 15,000 miles or once a year.
The cabin air filter is typically located under the dash or behind the glove box, but some are under the hood at the base of the windshield.