Things Every Driver Should Know About Their Vehicle

Things Every Driver Should Know About Their Vehicle

When it comes to vehicle safety and maintenance, some things can make every step along the way a lot easier to manage. Whether newly licensed or a seasoned driver, there are bits of knowledge every driver should know about their vehicles. Knowing these fundamentals can help you keep your car or truck, future service appointments, and unforeseen roadside events running smoothly. 

Engine Oil

Engine oil cools, lubricates, and cleans the engine. Each vehicle requires a specific type of oil, and without enough of it lubricating and cleaning the engine, the vehicle is at risk of severe damage. Since oil becomes dirty after it continuously circulates the engine, it must be replaced with clean oil at regular intervals every 3000 miles, unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer’s manual. Always keep an eye out for signs of low or dirty oil. Those signs can include leaks under the vehicle, illuminated oil light on the dashboard, a scent of burning oil, clunking sounds, lowered performance, and an overheating engine. Given its nature of importance, regular oil changes are crucial for a vehicle’s health. 

Spare Tire

Familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s spare tire. Some spares are full-sized tires, and others are temporary donuts. Ensure that your vehicle carries all of the necessary tools for changing your tire in the event of a blowout, and make sure you know where it is located within the vehicle. Changing a tire on your own can be a pain, but having a decent jack and knowing where to place it under your vehicle can help you get it done safely and properly. If you do find yourself on the side of the road having to change your tire, make sure to bring it into Casey’s Automotive immediately for professional adjustments. 

Windshield Wiper Blades

Windshield wiper blades are an often-overlooked element. Because of their tendency to slowly lose their ability to function correctly, it might appear as though they are working just fine. Well, that is until you turn them on and see them skipping across the glass, making an annoying sound as it sticks. The rubber on wiper blades stays in one direction while moving up, then changes direction while heading back down. When the rubber sits for extended periods, it loses its elasticity. Unfortunately, it usually takes being stuck in a heavy storm to realize they aren’t correctly working at optimal levels. Blades should be replaced somewhere between every 6-8 months depending on wear. As always, refer to your manual when in doubt.

Vehicle Fluids

Another fundamental component that every car owner should take in mind is car fluid. If you want to keep your car running smoothly, make sure to have them checked regularly. The five important ones include engine oil, coolant/refrigerant, power steering fluid, brake/hydraulic fluid, and windshield washer fluid. Some of these fluids require changing more often than others, but they can also become low over time.

Tire Pressure 

First of all, keep a tire gauge in your vehicle. You might think tire pressure is not a big deal, but you’d be mistaken. It’s one of the most critical safety features. Most modern vehicles have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), which includes a dashboard warning light. If you see the TPMS light engage, it is time to check the pressure. When tire pressure is low, its surface touches most of the ground and can cause friction between the road and the tire. When this happens, the tires wear out fast. It can also overheat and may lead to tread separation, which is a blowout waiting to happen.

Conversely, too much air is not good either. It causes less of the tire’s surface to touch the ground, making it a bumpier ride for everyone. It also creates less traction and makes stopping as short distances more difficult. Another issue with uneven tire pressure is wheel misalignment meaning you’ll have to have your vehicle aligned. The bottom line, if you want your tires to perform correctly and last, use the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. That information can be found online, in your user manual, or the door well of your vehicle.

Headlights and Taillights

Over time, headlights and taillights dim and will need to be inspected. Not only is a safety measure, but having working lights will also keep you from getting pulled over by the police. The general recommendation is to change the headlights every year.

Regular Maintenance

Regularly scheduled maintenance is one of the best ways to avoid spending more money in the future. When maintenance takes a back seat, it can cause issues that lead to costly repairs. Know your maintenance schedule, and stick to it. Every vehicle has a specific maintenance schedule that keeps it in optimal condition. 

Shocks and Struts

Have you ever hit a curb and later noticed your car rocking back and forth while in motion? Can you hear rattling when you go over bumps? Theses are typical signs for shocks, and struts are damaged or worn out. It is also one of the most common problems in older vehicles and can be costly to replace. If you feel anything of the sort, get your vehicle into Casey’s for inspection.

Air Filter

There are two filters in your vehicle. One is the cabin air filter, which filters the air you breathe, and the other is in the engine. The air filter in the engine is responsible for catching dirt, debris, insects, and other contaminants to keep them from reaching the engine. It also allows for enough air to get through to the engine. An inexpensive maintenance item, changing the air filters every six months, is crucial for engine health. 

Emergency Roadside Kit

You never know when you might be stuck on the side of the road. If that does happen, it always best to be prepared. The following list is of the suggested item for when you are dealing with roadside emergencies.

-First Aid Kit
-Fire Extinguisher
-Reflective Warning Triangles or road flares (for nighttime safety)
-Foam Tire Sealant (e.x. Fix A Flat)
-Jumper Cables
-Flashlight
-Gloves
-Rags for wiping grease
-Duct Tape
-Tow Rope
-Utility Tool (such as the Swiss Army Knife)
-Rain Poncho
-Water (in case of overheated engine)
-Warm Blanket
-Cat litter or a Bag of Sand (used underneath tires for traction when stuck)

Brakes

Brakes are another vital safety feature that you should never overlook. When you drive, observe. Is your steering wheel shaking while you are stepping on the brake pedal? If that’s the case, then this might affect your car’s stability control system and ABS (anti-lock braking system). Regular brake system inspections help these issues big time. After all, the brakes are arguably the most crucial safety component of your car or truck. Having healthy brakes pads, brake fluid, and rotors/discs make all the difference in the world. There are a lot of elements to the brake system, so take a look at this for info.

Year, Make, and Model, and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

We know this sounds silly to even bring up since because who DOESN’T know this info. But, just in case. It is crucial to know when your vehicle was manufactured, who produced it, and the model. This is because fluids, parts, and accessories are all based on this information. The more you know, the better prepared you will be!

Your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is essentially your vehicle’s fingerprint. It is a 17-digit number that identifies its manufacture date, place, make, model, engine size, etc. You won’t need to memorize this, but you’ll need to know where to find it. The VIN can typically be found on the outside of the driver’s side windshield, where it meets the dashboard. 

Trustworthy Automobile Repairs at Casey’s Automotive in Chantilly, Virginia

Knowing the fundamentals of vehicle ownership makes it easier to identify your needs in the future. If you are unsure of the specifics of your car, truck, SUV, or van, our highly trained technicians can assist you. We will help you identify a maintenance schedule, issues, and answer any other questions or concerns to provide you with a solution. Our technicians have gained recognition in providing premier auto maintenance services, and we offer fast and affordable services to our Northern Virginia customers. Contact us for assistance anytime; we’ve got your back!