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Golden tips on how best to take care of your car

Last updated on: May 8, 2012 08:42 IST

Golden tips on how best to take care of your car

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Mansi Malhotra


F
or most of us, cars are a symbol of pride and honour, a prized possession and a treasure.

We'll hang lemon on our new vehicles, we'll cover the floor mats with plastic, we'll race and zoom across the city to reach home early so that we get a parking spot away from that tree and birds and the list of such things go on and on and on.

But these alone are not enough to keep your car in prime condition.

So without much ado, let's list out all the important car care tips that you must be aware of.

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Let's first deal with what matters the most -- that which lies under the bonnet and powers your car.

The engine

Proper functioning of the engine is obviously very important for the overall health of the car.

What to do:

Always remain alert to the warning signs and keep a sharp eye on the temperature gauge and warning lights.

If any of these lights start glowing, just pull over and let the engine cool down.

An importance advice:

If you are travelling a short distabce, say something that will take about 10 minutes or so, it's best that you exercise your legs, rather than taking your car out. No it's not a health tip, this will catually save the engine from wear and tear.

How?

In case of these short trips the car does not get a chance to reach its full operating temperature. One of the by-products of engine combustion is water and when the temperature is at its full then this water gets converted to vapour and it leaves the engine through the exhaust pipe or the ventilation system.

In case of a short distance, this water is left in its liquid form and therefore with the presence of water and oxygen the metallic engine parts can rust. And as we learnt during at high school, rust is never good for metals.

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Engine oil

It is one of the most essential components that helps the running of the car.

The engine oil needs to be replaced well in time. Each engine oil and car has a set time within which the oil should be replaced. It always makes sense to change the oil within 3 months or 3,000 km, whichever comes first.

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Transmission

Transmission of the car is important to keep repair bills in control.

What to remember:

While downshifting to the lower gear one must ensure that the speed is not faster than the maximum speed that is allowed for the level of the gear. Otherwise, this can cause severe damage.

The other important thing to keep in mind is that one should completely stop the car before switching between drive and reverse.

When you take your car for servicing always remember to ask the mechanic about the status of transmission oil. If you drive 15,000 miles a year then you must change the oil annually.

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Brakes and clutch

For a perfect clutch and brake system one needs to keep a check on them every now and then to ensure that they are well maintained.

Don't kill the poor brakes by slamming them to the floor abruptly. Sudden braking results in dissipation of power generated by the engine.

Drive at a normal, steady pace so that you can successfully negotiate speed-breaks etc, and avoid emegency braking.

Never drive using the clutch and brake pedal as foot rest. It would firstly, result in more fuel consumption and secondly, cause pre-mature damage to the clutch circuit system.

When to get the brakes checked?

The brakes need to be checked at least once every 6 months. We might not notice that the brakes are wearing out therefore make it a habit. And when you are getting these checked it would be advisable to get the brake fluids checked as well.

The other scenario where one must see the mechanic is, if the pedals begin to sink. Maintaining the clutch in prime condition is a must for one's own health and wealth.

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The battery

The ground rule for the battery maintenance also remains the same, which is to see a mechanic at regular intervals. The road conditions that cars in India have to endure, they deserve to be treated well.

Though the battery manufacturers' claim that the new age batteries are more or less maintenance free, still, replacing the water and getting a little check-up done to see if the battery is charged properly is not going to take much time or money.

An important way of maintaining the longevity of a battery is by avoiding the use of inexpensive washers. Battery should be replaced every four years to avoid unexpected breakdowns.

Battery needs special care in the winters so that it doesn't freeze. Though winters in most of India is not so harsh.

We can do a little good to the environment and exchange the old batteries for environmental disposals.

While purchasing a new battery, again, read the manual and talk to the mechanic to know the battery that is suitable for your car.

Before battery shopping do remember to read about the CCA (cold cranking amps) mentioned on the battery.
CCA is a unit of measurement which states the number of amps that a battery would deliver at 0 degree Fahrenheit for 30 seconds without dropping below 7.2 volts. High CCA battery ratings would help in a cold weather.

And, finally, do fill out that warranty card.

Note: This image is used for representation purpose.

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Suspension system

The suspension system helps maintain the stability and balance of the vehicle on irregular roads. Therefore it is important to keep a note on the condition of the suspension system.

Since the suspension system is directly related to the alignment of the car, simple steps like watching the vehicle bounce, the sway while turning can help keep a check on the condition of the suspension.

Alignment determines the position of the steering wheel and how the tyres touch the road. Excessive bounce and poor control of the steering, off centre steering wheel, sudden stops, excessive swerving, vehicle sagging while stopping suddenly are a few vital signs of bad struts and shocks.

Avoid loading the car with extra weight and adding stress to its critical systems because this will cause early wear and tear.

Bad suspension can cause costly collisions. Thus getting regular alignment checks can help keep the suspension in a good condition longer.

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The tyre

Whether a layman or a car freak, all know that it is very important to maintain the condition of the tyres.

Wear and tear of the tyres affect the suspension system, alignment, and also fuel efficiency.

Research states that tyres can add up to 10 per cent to the fuel bill if they are over inflated and in case of lower tyre pressure more power is exerted for less travelled distance.

Check the lower end of the driver side door, the right pressure that is required for the car is written there.

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Interiors

People often find it very hard to clean the interior of their cars and thus skip it. With this they end up with cars that are shiny from the outside but messy and foul smelling interior.

Invest in a good vacuum cleaner

There are special vaccum cleaners for cars, which are very light, making it easy to carry, and include long and flexible necks which help clean even the most unreachable corners of car.

Brush cleaning

Most Indians usually use the dry cloth method to clean their car dashboards, consoles and AC panels.

We would strongly suggest using a brush instead of a simple cloth, because cloth would not be able to reach and clean the inside gaps of AC window panels, corners of dashboards and console.

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Use washable seat covers

Cleaning your car's fancy seat covers made of non washable fabric could be annoying at times. It's okay if they are to be cleaned dry but what if some liquid -- like coffee or soft drink - is spilled on it?

This will leave a dark stain on the seat covers and you will have no option but to have it replaced. Thus seat covers made of washable fabrics makes utmost sense.

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Buy a good air freshener

A good quality perfume or a freshener will not only freshen up the car but also pleasantly affect one's mind and mood.

Use a polish or shiner for dashboard and leather: There are many companies in market which make good quality shiner and polish to keep the dashboards and leather consoles glittering.

However, do remember not to overuse the polish or shiner, as it would make the dashboard sticky and would also affect the quality of the leather.  If the car has a wooden console, try using a dry cloth first followed by a tiny amount of shiner.

Avoid eating in the car:  Try not to eat in the car especially while driving. And at any cost avoid drinking liquids, especially any fizzy drinks, coffee or tea, as with sudden braking you will not only end up spilling the drink, but also will have to deal with a stubborn stain.

Note: This image is used for representation purpose. Rediff is not recommending this product.

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Exterior

The body of the car can make people fall in love with it. Even a tiny scratch or mud particles sticking on the body can make it look very ugly.  We have seen many car lovers keeping their 10-15 years old cars as good as new.

So what are their hidden secrets?

Wash your car regularly

Wash your prized possession at least twice a week and give it a pressure type cleaning at least once a month, which any service station would be able to provide.

Cleaning it with a dry cloth daily is a must. The alloy wheels, too, will get rusty if they are not washed regularly.

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Take care of windshield wipers

You must have heard the famous quote, "big things come in small packages".

It is perfectly true in case of windshield wipers. Most people do not give much attention to cleaning the wipers and thus they end up buying a new windshield long before it's actually due. Dirty, mud filled wipers leave permanent scratches on the windshield.

Hence, pay close attention to the wipers, clean them with a dry cloth almost every day.

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Use a good wax for the body

A wax gives an extra shine to a car. It always makes sense to invest in a good quality wax.

Cheap waxes can damage the body. Also do not fall for the myth that using more wax will give their cars an extra shine.

The truth is, however, quite the opposite, as applying more wax can damage and spoil the look of the car. While applying wax, avoid using cloth, instead opt for foam.

Keep in mind these simple tips, and be proud of your car.

Note: This image is used for representation purpose. Rediff is not recommending this product.

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