Without exception every car engine needs to be properly maintained for it to run optimally and avoid failures. Ignoring your car’s engine maintenance is a mistake that can cost you a sizable amount of money, especially if you must rebuild a portion of your engine or install a new one as a result of your negligence. Not properly maintaining a car’s engine also negatively affects fuel mileage and the amount of pollution produced by the car. Because of the potential to save money and lessen frustration by maintaining your car’s engine, you should engage in the following activities regularly to ensure your engine is running smoothly.
Each time you fuel up, you should pop the hood and check all of the car’s fluids. This involves looking in each fluid reservoir to observe where the fluid level sits on the reservoir’s side markings, as well as checking the dipsticks for the engine oil and transmission fluid. With a dipstick you must wipe it off first, then reinsert it and take the dipstick back out to get an accurate reading of the fluid level. Letting the various fluids in your car sit at low levels can prematurely wear out different engine components, the transmission or the engine itself.
Every few weeks you should inspect your car engine’s belts and look for signs of aging. A squealing noise coming from the car’s engine bay while the engine is running usually indicates one or more belts is loose and needs to be replaced. Look for belts that are fraying, cracking, missing pieces or are covered in engine oil, all of which are signs that the belts need to be replaced. Pull on the belts to see if they are installed tightly since loose belts can cause engine problems. A belt that moves more than a few millimeters needs to be replaced. Timing belts are often hidden behind covers inside the car’s engine bay, requiring your mechanic to inspect the belt periodically. Neglecting a car’s belts can result in serious damage to the air conditioner, power steering pump, water pump and the engine itself.
At least once a year you should inspect your engine’s spark plugs. You must remove the spark plugs by pulling the spark plug wire boots from the plug wells in the engine, and then using a special spark plug wrench to unscrew the spark plugs from the bottom of the wells. The condition of the spark plugs can tell you a considerable amount about the engine. Spark plugs coated in oil can indicate the presence of oil deposits in the engine, which are the product of not performing oil changes as often as recommended, or they can indicate a blown head gasket that is allowing oil to leak into the car’s cylinders. Black dust coating the spark plugs indicates that you need to install plugs designed to operate at a higher temperature. Spark plugs that are partially melted or scorched tell you that the engine has experienced overheating, or that the spark plugs’ gap is out of adjustment. A gap tool helps you determine if the gap between the center and side diodes meets the car manufacturer’s recommendation. Worn spark plug electrodes indicate that the plugs are old and need to be replaced.
Strange noises and smells coming from your car’s engine should be taken seriously. Noises like knocking or pinging can indicate a problem with the spark plugs, deposit buildup inside the engine or that you used a fuel with too low of an octane rating. Strange smells can indicate that the engine is burning oil or coolant, both of which can be caused by the early stages of a large engine problem. When you hear strange engine noises or smell odd odors, it’s best to take your car to a qualified mechanic for inspection and any necessary repairs.