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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Vehicle Owners

With the new year well underway, it’s safe to say that at least a few New Year’s Resolutions have already gone by the wayside. (Hey, we’re not here to judge!). The good news is that it’s never the wrong time to make a change or commit to a new habit.

Since we’re all about vehicles at Costa Oil, we have some suggestions for new year’s resolutions / new habits that will help you keep your vehicle in top condition, now and in the years to come. Below are five things you can do this year to maintain a reliable, well-performing car, SUV or truck in 2024.

Resolution #1 – Don’t Ignore Warning Signs

Our vehicles have ways of telling us when something is amiss. Whether it’s a warning light on the dashboard, or a new and strange sound, smell or behavior, these warning signs should not be ignored. A simple issue may turn into a more serious (and more expensive) issue if not addressed. Problems may also affect the vehicle’s performance, causing poor fuel efficiency, or in the worst-case scenario, causing the vehicle to be unsafe.

On newer vehicles, a warning is often delivered by a new light on the dashboard that suddenly appears and stays on when the vehicle is operating. The meaning of the light may not be immediately evident, but your vehicle manual will explain what each light indicates and provide recommendations for addressing the associated issue. It may be as simple as an underinflated tire, or it may be something more serious that a mechanic may need to check out.

Older vehicles have fewer distinctive illuminations, but the “Check Engine Light” is a universal symbol that can indicate a number of vehicle issues. There is no need to panic when you see the check engine symbol, but you should schedule an appointment with a qualified repair shop to determine the cause of the problem and resolve it.

Performing regular maintenance on your vehicle can also alert you to items that may need attention, such as worn tires, non-working lights, and more.

Resolution #2 – Perform Regular Vehicle Maintenance

While serious mechanical issues should be addressed by a qualified mechanic or repair shop, there are some simple vehicle maintenance tasks that don’t require extensive expertise. Performing these tasks monthly, or at least on a regular basis, helps drivers get to know their vehicles better and keep their vehicles running smoothly. Throughout the year, set aside an hour or so to check the following items.

Lights – Visually inspect that all vehicle lights are operational, including headlights / fog lights, taillights, turn signals, and brake lights.

Tires – Check and inflate to the recommended tire pressure, which can be found in your owner’s manual, on a label on the driver’s door panel or on the tires themselves. Also inspect tires for uneven wear and adequate tread depth. Remember to check the pressure level in your spare tire!

A tire depth gauge is the best way to check the amount of tread remaining on your tires. For winter driving, the experts at Consumer Reports recommend greater than 6/32 of an inch of tread depth for increased traction. During normal driving conditions, the recommended depth is 4/32. A depth of 2/32 is considered unsafe.

Wiper Blades – Inspect windshield wiper blades to ensure they operate effectively. Signs that wiper blades need to be replaced include streaking, skipping, squeaking or scraping noises, splitting and general wear.

Oil – Check oil level on the dipstick at least once a month and add oil as needed. Refer to your owner’s manual for recommended oil level and best practices for checking the oil level. Consumer Reports offers these general guidelines for checking your oil level, as well. Always check your oil before making a long trip.

Fresh oil is amber colored, but oil gets darker over time. Dark brown or black oil could mean it’s been a while since your last oil change or could indicate that the oil is contaminated. If in doubt, have the oil checked by a service professional.

Coolant – When the engine is completely cold, check the coolant level and add additional as needed. If coolant is regularly low, have the vehicle inspected to ensure there isn’t a leak or damage to the engine.

Wiper Fluid – Wiper fluid helps keep your windshield clean so you have an unobstructed view while driving. During winter, wiper fluid can be depleted quickly, so be sure the reservoir has an adequate supply.

Battery – Check the battery to make sure cables are connected tightly and that there is no corrosion on the battery terminals or leaking fluid. If the terminals are corroded with a white or greenish substance, refer to the vehicle owner manual for cleaning instructions. Be careful not to get any corrosive or leaking substance from the battery on your bare skin or in your eyes.

Air Filter – Remove the engine air filter to check for extensive wear and debris. If the filter is dirty, you can remove some of the dirt and debris with a vacuum or blow it out with an air hose. Some air filters can also be washed with soap and water, but this depends on the type of air filter, and the filter must be completely dry before placing it back in the engine compartment. If in doubt, have the air filter cleaned and/or replaced by a professional.

Emergency Kit – Verify that your emergency flashlight works and replenish any perishable supplies such as snacks and drinking water.

Resolution #3 – Be Prepared with an Emergency Kit

Every driver should have supplies that remain in their vehicle to assist during times of emergency. The items that should be in your emergency kit will vary depending on the particulars of your driving habits, but the following lists are a good place to start.

AAA recommends the following items be part of a vehicle emergency kit:

– Cell phone and car charger
– First-aid kit
– Blanket
– Drinking water and snacks for everyone in the car, including pets
– Flashlight with extra fresh batteries
– Rags, paper towels or pre-moistened wipes
– Basic set of tools along with duct tape
– Car emergency warning devices such as road flares or reflectors
– Ice scraper/snow brush
– Jumper cables/jump pack
– Traction aid such as sand, salt or non-clumping cat litter
– Tarp, raincoat and gloves
– Shovel

The National Safety Council recommends a few additional items, including:

– Multipurpose utility tool
– Fire extinguisher
– Washer fluid
– Reflective vest
– Compass
– Emergency contact information

In any event, it is good to think ahead of time about what could go wrong during your daily commute, when running errands, or on longer road trips, and to prepare in advance in case your vehicle breaks down or you are stuck for an extended period of time due to a road closure or other emergency. Remember to replenish items after they are used, and periodically replace items such as flashlight batteries, water and snacks.

Resolution #4 – Keep Your Vehicle Clean

People who love their vehicle may enjoy spending a warm afternoon carefully washing the exterior and detailing the interior. For others, cleaning their vehicle is a chore and a drive-through car wash is the least tedious option. Whichever category you fall into, it’s important to commit to regular vehicle cleaning both inside and out.

A clean vehicle offers a nicer ride for you and your passengers. An unkempt vehicle may have a dirty windshield or windows, which can obstruct the driver’s view. Loose objects can move around and present a safety hazard. Exterior dirt and debris can cover up trim damage or areas that are starting to rust, which should be addressed. Long-term, a clean and well-maintained vehicle contributes positively to resale value.

Unfortunately, many automotive experts do not recommend automatic car washes, even the “brushless” kind. While a drive-through car wash is a convenient option, the vehicle finish can be damaged by the harsh chemicals, heat drying method, and dirt particles left behind in the recycled water which can leave very tiny scratches in the paint.

If you have the time and ability, it’s better to wash your vehicle by hand, using the proper tools designed for the job. Consumer Reports recommends this process for cleaning the exterior without damaging the finish. To clean the interior like a pro, Car and Driver offers these recommendations.

Resolution #5 – Change Your Oil as Recommended

Changing your vehicle’s oil regularly is one of the most important vehicle resolutions you should commit to if you care about the performance, reliability and longevity of your vehicle. Motor oil degrades over time, making it less effective at lubricating, cooling, and cleaning your vehicle’s engine. Ignoring or neglecting regular oil changes can also lead to decreased fuel efficiency, which will cost more in the long run. Because motor oil is the “lifeblood” of the engine, oil that is not performing well can lead to significant engine damage that can not only leave you stranded but is expensive to repair.

How often you have your oil changed depends on several factors including the age of your vehicle, the conditions you drive in, and the type of oil used. Your vehicle manual will specify the recommended oil change interval for both normal and severe driving conditions. For many newer vehicles, the normal driving interval is 5,000 – 10,000 miles. For older models, more frequent oil changes may be needed, as well as additives such as a high mileage oil treatment.

Remember that when it’s time to change your oil, you’ll want to change the oil filter as well. In addition, you or the oil change technician can also check the engine air filter and the cabin air filter to see if either is in need of replacement.

We’ve shared more information here about changing your vehicle’s oil. We’re always happy to answer questions you may have about the best type of oil for your car, how often you should change your oil, and more!

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