A healthy, functional car requires a healthy engine, and for your engine to remain in good working order it must be well-maintained. Let’s have a look at some basic engine maintenance, what’s required to keep your vehicle’s engine operating at peak performance. Use these tips to reduce later repair expenses, improve your car’s performance, and extend its lifespan.

1. Check the oil regularly

Oil is the lifeblood of your car engine. Because there are so many moving, rotating parts in there, your engine has to be well lubricated. As you drive around, though, your oil starts to degrade, whilst some gets burnt off in the engine – this is why you should check and change your oil regularly. Otherwise, the friction will slowly increase resulting in mechanical wear, whilst the engine will suffer a build-up of carbon deposits and sludge.This in turn will affect performance and driveability in various ways. How often should you change your oil? A useful rule of thumb is that you should change it every 3 months or after travelling 3,000 miles. However, if you regularly make only short trips in which your engine doesn’t have time to warm up, you drive a lot in stop-start traffic, you tow a truck, OR you drive on dusty roads – then you may need to change your oil more regularly. To check your oil, use the dipstick – if it looks dirty (brown/black), then it needs changing. The markers on the dipstick will also tell you how much oil is left in the engine, and whether it needs to be topped up.

2. Keep your engine from overheating

The fuel that is burned inside your engine generates lots of heat. Keeping the temperature of the engine within proper limits – that’s the job of the cooling system. When the cooling system malfunctions – due, say, to lack of coolant because of a leak – this can cause the engine to overheat, leading to serious complications. This is why it’s important to regularly check the coolant levels in your engine – your car’s manual will give you instructions how. Look under your car for any signs of a coolant leak. If you can’t find any problems with the cooling system, yet your engine temperature is still excessive, get your car checked as soon as possible.

3. Get a regular tune up

If for whatever reason the engine of your car feels lacking in power, sluggish etc, then it might just need a good tune-up. A tune-up may involve changing the spark plugs, the air filter, or cleaning out the engine throttle body. PCV valves, and/or the fuel injection system, may also need to be cleaned or replaced. In the older cars, it may include replacing the fuel filter, ignition wires, and distributor system. A tune up should be one every 60,000 to 90,000 miles.

4. Check the timing belt

The timing belt ensures the valves worked by your engine’s camshaft open and close in time with the pistons. If your timing belt is old or damaged, and as a result snaps while the engine is running, this can cause severe damage to your engine. Thus you should regularly check your timing belt for signs of wear and tear, and if it is soaked in oil from the engine. A timing belt should be replaced in event at intervals recommended by the manufacturer; generally from 60,000 to 105,000 miles.

5. Change the air filter at regular intervals

The air filter in your engine prevents dust and debris from clogging your engine. A dirty air filter restricts the amount of air supplied to your engine, resulting in lack of power and sluggish performance. An old air filter can also tear, allowing debris and dust into your engine, causing wear and tear. So remember to replace your air filter at the intervals recommended by the manufacturer, you can find this information in the user manual supplied with your car. (But it’s generally every 15,000 to 20,000 miles – more if you drive on dusty, unpaved roads).

6. Replace worn out drive belts

The drive belt connected to your engine runs the alternator, the air-con compressor plus any additional accessories connected to your engine. Some cars possess one drive belt only, whereas others have several. Over time, the drive belts wear out; if very worn or even cracked, the drive belt can break, which will disable your engine. A squeaking noise is often the first sign that your drive belt needs checking. Usually, the drive belt is examined when you get your oil changed.

Billy Miller
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