Here, we review some tips for maintaining your car engine. Proper maintenance helps to keep the motor reliable and the car ready for daily use.
Though clearly important all year round, extreme summer and winter temperatures both place extra stress on the cooling and antifreeze system. Overheating can be avoided by maintaining an adequate liquid level in the system reservoir, usually a medium-sized white plastic structure that is fitted with a black cap. The system is pressurised when hot, so the cap should be removed with care – and only when the system is cool. Checking that the level of antifreeze is correct (as observed between the limit marks) is straightforward and reduces the incidence of defects.
To prolong engine life and prevent problems, good lubrication is essential. Regular oil checks are advisable with tank fill ups – or at least once a month. The owner’s manual will explain where the dipstick is located; first, it must be removed and wiped clean, then reinserted and removed again to confirm the current level correctly.
The choice of mineral (i.e. standard) or synthetic oil has a marked effect on engine performance and service life. Advisable in newer cars, turbocharged engines or in cold countries, synthetic oil lasts longer and does not thicken at freezing temperatures. It also withstands higher temperatures. Conversely, in high mileage engines and older vehicles, mineral oil may be better as it tends to ward off oil leaks which might result from less viscous synthetic oil.
Regular oil changes ensure that the internal parts are kept well lubricated. In particular, the recommended service and oil change intervals should not be exceeded; as oil deteriorates, it can build up unseen sludge and cause excessive mechanical wear.
The secret of successful maintenance is not to spend as little money as possible, but to spend it wisely and when due. Modern cars require an engine tune up which includes air filter, spark plug and lead changes. To maintain performance, older cars may also require distributor cap and rotor changes, as well as fuel filter replacement and cleaning of the engine throttle body. If fitted, fuel injectors require flushing at high mileage intervals.
It is a false economy not to have the timing belt (or chain) changed at recommended intervals. If a belt fails while the engine is running, considerable damage is likely. The typical recommended interval for cam belt changes is every 60,000 to 100, 000 miles (or 100,000 to 160,000 kilometres) – or before if a belt is excessively worn or soaked in oil.
Most vehicle owners are well aware that it is essential to monitor warning lights and take prompt action, should they illuminate. Red lights such as the low oil pressure warning indicator require immediate attention.
In summary, making time for a regular user maintenance routine will help to keep an engine in best condition and extend its service life. In conjunction with vehicle servicing at regular intervals, reliability will be maximised and costs reduced over the long term.