Sunday, December 30, 2012

Under-the-bonnet maintenance

Studies in the USA have shown that 57% of all car accidents are caused by maintenance neglect. Conducting regular preventive maintenance checks can extend the life of your car and avoid inconveniences such as breakdowns at difficult hours and places. The following under-the-bonnet DIY maintenance checks are recommended, and can be done with simple tools like pliers and screwdrivers:

The air filter should be checked once every two months. It is ensconced in a housing (looks like a metal lid) in a carburetted engine or in a rectangular box at the forward end of the air duct hose assembly.

Remove the filter and hold it against sunlight; you can see how clean or dirty it is. Another test is to drop it on the floor. If you can see dirt on the floor, it is time to replace the filter. The air filter maintains a clean supply of air entering the combustion system when the engine is started. The filtering media will trap the small article and dust in the air before it is used in the combustion system. By supplying clean air, it will prolong engine life span and also reduce the air noise that occurs from the intake manifold.

Visually check the battery posts and cable terminals. Can you see white powdery stuff? If yes, remove it by washing the battery posts and cable terminals with a solution of baking soda and water. Then disconnect the cable terminals from the posts, starting with the negative. Dry the posts and cable ends with a dry cloth. Reinstall the cable terminals to the posts, beginning with the positive first. Next, check the battery water level. Top up with distilled water if necessary.

Either one of two types of belts is used in a car engine: a single piece of serpentine belt or a series of V-belts. A belt which snaps will disable your car immediately, causing valves to collide with pistons, and an expensive repair bill in store! Normally wider than a V-belt, a serpentine belt is grooved on one side and flat on the other. Check both sides of a serpentine belt for cracks. It needs to be replaced if there are more than 10 cracks over six centimetres. For a V-belt, its tension must also be checked: there should not be more than half inch (1.66 cm) of free play between the pulleys. Notwithstanding its visual condition, a belt must be replaced every 40,00 kilometres. Never try to replace a belt by yourself unless you are trained to do so.


Check the brake fluid level. This is easy as the brake fluid reservoir is always made of transparent material. Make sure you top up with the correct type of brakefluid. The owner's manual or markings on the reservoir cap will indicate the correct type. Usually it is DOT 3, DOT 4 or DOT 5. In emergency situations, you may mix DOT 3 with DOT 4 for a short period of use but the system must be flushed out as soon as possible. Caution: DOT 5 strictly cannot be mixed with DOT3 or DOT4.

Open the cap of the coolant overflow bottle. What is the condition of the coolant? A guide to its condition is its colour. Is it still green or has it turned brown? Discolouration means that it has to be replaced. Go to your technician to get the job down if necessary. Next, is the coolant level low? There is usually a "full" and "add" level. Add a new can of coolant if necessary. (Caution: do not add coolant when the engine is hot!)

Make sure the car is parked on level ground. Pull out the dipstick; wipe it with a piece of rag and put it back all the way in. Pull it out again. Look at both sides of the dipstick. The lower reading is the accurate one. If it falls between the "full" and "add" mark, the level of the engine oil is okay. Otherwise, top up with the same type of oil currently being used. Remember to replace
the dipstick when you are done.

The procedure to check the level of power steering fluid is similar to that of checking engine oil level. Add the approved type of fluid, if necessary.

If your car has an automatic transmission, check its fluid level. Start the engine and
have the shifter placed in "park". Remove the dipstick, wipe it with a rag and replace it. Remove it again and note the readings on both sides. The lower of the two is the correct reading.

Being caught with no windscreen washer fluid may mean having to put up with bird droppings and mud on your windscreen during a journey. It is advisable to check the level in washer fluid container once every two weeks. Top up if necessary. Make sure the formulation of your washer fluid suits your driving condition.


No comments: