Saturday, May 26, 2012

Car care: engine maintenance at its simplest

[Article copyright by Ewe Paik Leong]

The basic procedure of engine maintenance is to open the car bonnet and inspect what is under it. To do this, find out where the bonnet release catch is situated. Learn how to unhook the catch on the bonnet and prop the latter up with the metal support.

The first visual inspection should be on the overall cleanliness of the engine bay. If it is splattered with mud or road grime, it should be cleaned. Do not spray water all over the engine unless the engine’s electrical components are covered with plastic bags tied securely. Alternatively, send the car to a workshop for a “dry” engine wash that does not use water.

Secondly, look out for loose wires dangling about or loose connections. Check the fan belt as well as the radiator belt. Make sure they are in good condition and not frayed. Next check the radiator for any dents or leaks. Look out for oil leaks, especially in the engine block area. See if there are any leaks in the air-conditioner pipes or connections.

Next make a visual check of the battery water level, the water level in the windscreen washer reservoir, the coolant level and the brake and clutch levels. If the battery needs water, fill it up with distilled water. If the windscreen reservoir is low is low, fill it up with tap water and add windscreen detergent to give a more effective clean and also prevent wiper juddering.

Make sure the water in the reservoir is free from sediments so that the jets in the windscreen washer system flow freely. If the coolant needs topping up, it is best to top it up with the same type used by the manufacturer. The same applies to brake and clutch fluids.

Check the engine oil. Make sure the car is parked on level ground and the engine is turned off but after the car has warmed up. Pull out the dipstick and read the oil level. Be careful not to touch any hot engine parts when doing this as some dipsticks are placed in an awkward position. If the first reading is unclear, wipe the dipstick with a piece of cloth, put it back and try again.

If the engine oil is low, top it up with the same type of oil currently being used. Make sure you do not overfill as too much engine oil is also bad for the engine. Most dipsticks are marked with “Low” and “High” markings, and as long as the level is in between, it is acceptable. It is not necessary to have the level at the “High” marking.

Apart from the simple visual inspection of the engine, every motorist should learn to recognize the symptoms indicating that something is not quite right with the car.


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