You change your car’s oil, replace the wiper blades, inspect the brake system and rotate your tires with near-religious zeal. As important as each of these tasks is, there may be a few overlooked maintenance items that you aren’t giving the care they’re due, which could possibly lead to hose failure, a broken belt or other problems. Fortunately, before most parts begin to fail, there are telltale signs to look for.
Here’s a look at five car maintenance tasks that often get ignored, starting with perhaps the worst one to neglect: coolant and hose inspection.
1. Pending Coolant System Hose Failure
Your car’s coolant system comprises upper and lower hoses, tasked with keeping the engine from overheating. Thus, it is important to regularly inspect each hose for signs of trouble, including cracking, swelling and separation. A hose in poor condition could lead to leaking or low coolant and even engine overheating. If any of your hoses look like they’ve seen better days, take the time to replace them. It’s worth the effort to avoid a breakdown.
2. Symptoms of a Failing Car Battery
If you’re fortunate, your car battery will not fail at the most inopportune time, possibly leaving you stranded. Batteries have a limited lifespan, typically three, four or five years. Swapping the battery out well before its expiration date should help avert trouble, but so will paying attention to related problems, such as a slow-cranking engine, failing electrical components and the most obvious: a dashboard warning light. Other signs include an odd smell or an enlarged battery case.
3. Signs of a Bad or Failing Drive Belt
Also known as the serpentine belt, the drive belt supplies power to the alternator, power steering, air conditioner and, in some cases, the water pump. Additionally, if the belt fails, the engine will not run. Clear signs that drive belt failure is possible include cracks or wear on the belt, such as missing chunks of rubber. Further, the belt may emit a squealing noise, while the power-steering system or air conditioner may not work. In some cases, the engine may overheat, particularly if the water pump stops working.
4. Stinky or Stale Cabin Air
If you crank up the air conditioner, the last thing you should notice is a smell, especially an unpleasant odor. Chances are the air conditioner filter is the culprit, particularly if it’s clogged, broken or simply missing. You’ll find the filter in one of three places: behind the glove box compartment, under the dashboard or under the hood. Cabin air filters are typically made of paper and require replacement as often as recommended in your owner’s manual. While you’re at it, service your air conditioner system.
5. Slipping Transmission
Rough shifts between gears, gear slippage and delayed engagement are all signs of automatic transmission trouble. In some cases, you’ll see signs, such as leaking fluid, a dashboard warning light, an unfamiliar odor or an odd sound. Dirty fluid may contribute to some of these problems. Have your transmission fluid flushed per your owner’s manual.
Your owner’s manual is the best place to find a checklist of maintenance items that are due for your vehicle. Follow this closely, and you’ll avoid complex repairs and breakdowns.
Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on hose failure and other overlooked maintenance tasks, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.