Lack of Car-care Knowledge ('LOCK') - Your doctor won't diagnose it as a disease, but your mechanic may, because not understanding your car's needs can be a roadblock to its longevity. And - if an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure - then an owner's manual is a gold mine for keeping your vehicle in top form. Unfortunately, many motorists throw this wealth of information in their glove compartments and never look at it again after purchasing their cars.
Just like with your own health, there are three keys to keeping your vehicle healthy - maintenance, maintenance, maintenance! Not a mechanic? Not a problem! With its vehicle-specific maintenance schedule, your owner's manual can be your guide to maintaining your car's well-being. One thing that even the most technically challenged of us can do to optimize the life of a vehicle is to maintain proper fluid levels. Some car fluids, such as power steering, can be tricky to change. If you know nothing about cars, you may do better getting these topped off professionally. Maintaining the correct oil level, however, is so vital to the engine, that every motorist should learn how - and it's so simple, even car unthusiasts can do it!
The first step is to check your owner's manual to see what kind of oil you need. Next, get your vehicle on level ground. You may want to put on a pair of gloves and check to make sure the engine is cool before attempting to do anything inside the car. In fact, waiting until the engine is cool is best to get an accurate oil reading. Next, pop the hood and locate the oil dipstick (usually toward the front or side of the engine and labeled 'oil'). Remove the dipstick and wipe it with a clean cloth. Reinsert the dipstick and remove it again. Is the oil level at or below the 'add' mark? Then simply add one quart by locating the oil filler (usually marked with the word 'oil' or with a picture of an oil can), removing the cap, and using a funnel to pour in the oil. Give it a minute to flow into the pan and then recheck. Repeat the above steps until you've added just enough oil to bring the level to the 'full' mark. (Be sure to put the oil filler cap back on and secure tightly!) This operation can be performed in the time it takes to put gas in your car.
You paid a lot of money for your car, and you don't want to get locked into avoiding its much-needed maintenance schedule. Take a half hour to read your owner's manual. It may not be riveting reading, but it contains advice from the folks who made your car. Following their recommendations will save you money - and headaches - in the long run. Long live your car!