Overlooked car maintenance can put your vehicle on borrowed time. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in covering the basics — tires, engine oil, wiper fluid — that you can forget to take care of other equally crucial, but less obvious areas of automotive care. Sometimes, you may not even know you’ve been neglecting anything important until your mechanic presents you with a grim diagnosis at your next appointment.
Check out these three maintenance items you simply can’t ignore.
1. Automatic Transmission Fluid
Automatic transmissions are sometimes marketed as requiring little or no service. As with all automotive fluids, however, there comes a time when a flush and fill is required for your automatic transmission fluid. Even if your vehicle was sold to you with “lifetime” fluid, you should inspect it every 50,000 miles to ensure that it’s still capable of withstanding the heat and stress of driving. Keep in mind that modern vehicles may requires very specific procedures to service the transmission. Your local NAPA AutoCare is the place most qualified to perform this type of service, which may require a filter replacement, as well.
2. Engine Coolant
Sure, you keep your coolant topped off, but how long has it been since you completely drained and replaced the antifreeze in your engine’s cooling system? Over time, the additives in antifreeze can wear out, which reduces not only its ability to properly regulate your motor’s temperature, but also its ability to protect against corrosion and sludge build-up. If your engine coolant hasn’t been swapped in the past two years or 40,000 miles, then it’s time to do so before this overlooked car maintenance item starts to have a negative effect on the life of your vehicle.
3. Brake Fluid
Like transmission fluid and engine coolant, brake fluid is also negatively affected by heat. Over time, it can absorb moisture and lose its ability to properly transmit the force of the system’s master cylinder to all four wheels, leading to a spongy brake pedal and increased stopping distances. This situation can deteriorate components so gradually that it can be difficult to spot the problem before it becomes a safety issue.
Depending on what type of brake fluid you have in your car — DOT 3, DOT 4 or DOT 5 — you need to stick to a regular change interval to ensure confident stopping power. Speak to your mechanic to be sure, but plan on swapping in new fluid either at every brake pad and rotor change or once every two years, depending on the type of fluid used by your vehicle.
Paying attention to the condition of these hidden fluids will help you avoid any unneeded stress brought on by surprise maintenance issues and keep your car where it belongs: on the road, rather than in the shop.
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 overlooked car maintenance, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.