Most Overlooked Car Maintenance

We are all used to having the oil changed in our cars, but what about other important auto maintenance? Here's what top mechanics say are the most commonly overlooked car maintenance today and how you can make sure to keep your car safe and on the road.
Roadworthy Reminders
We all lead busy lives and your car's maintenance is probably not at the top of your "to do" list. Most of us are pretty good about getting our auto's oil changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. With that, your local service center probably rotates your tires as part of the service. Oil changes and tire rotations are important to the ongoing maintenance of your vehicle, but there are other items that need your attention as well that are often overlooked by car owners.
At Lithia Motors, we have hundreds of car dealerships across America, Canada, and the UK and we asked some of our factory-trained service professionals to reveal the most overlooked car maintenance issues that the average person should know about. Many of these service items can be found in your car's Owner's Manual which will tell you how frequently they should be checked, as some of these important services occur more frequently than others.
Your vehicle has been engineered and built to take you hundreds of thousands of miles if maintained properly. So, keep the following most overlooked car maintenance items in mind and let the service experts at your local Lithia Motors Service Center keep your car up to date and properly maintained for many worry-free miles to come.
Cooling System Service
Ever have your car overheat in stop-and-go traffic? It's no fun to be stranded by the side of the road, waiting for the car to cool off enough to add more coolant/antifreeze. Your car's coolant system should be checked every time you get the oil changed. At Lithia Motors, your service technician will check the coolant level and only use the automaker's recommended coolant for your vehicle.
The antifreeze in your radiator can become corrosive over time. A radiator coolant flush and engine coolant replacement once a year will get rid of rust and residue found in the system and keep it working properly. It is also important to inspect the radiator hoses and clamps for cracks and leaks. Maintaining the proper level of engine coolant is vital to make sure your vehicle is functioning properly. It will keep your car from overheating in summer and keep fluids from freezing in the winter months.
Cabin Air Filter Replacement
Here's one that no one ever thinks of. There's a cabin air filter, usually found behind or under your glovebox, that filters out dust, mold, and pollen in your car's ventilation system. It keeps the air that gets to you free of environmental contaminates and the multi-fiber pleated filter needs to be replaced every 15,000 to 20,000 miles.
Check your Owner's Manual for suggested replacement intervals and to find the location of the cabin air filter in your vehicle. Your Lithia Service Tech can replace this important filter the next time your car is in for an oil change.
Brake Fluid Service
The most important safety device on your car are the brakes. When you put your foot on the brake pedal, you want to be sure that the brakes will function properly. While most service centers check the wear on your brake pads and rotors, it is also important to check, and/or change the brake fluid. Over time, condensation can cause water to accumulate in the brake system and reduce its functionality.
This service is usually done every two years (check your Owner's Manual) and includes flushing and changing the brake fluid, checking brake pedal travel and freeplay, and checking the system for leaks, including checking all lines and hoses.
Transmission Service
Many vehicles today come with what is referred to as a "sealed transmission" meaning it can function perfectly for up to 100,000 miles or more before needing to change the transmission fluid. Over time, small metal particles from the gears end up in the fluid and can cause delayed engagement of gears such as when you put the car in reverse or when shifting under acceleration.
Once again, check your Owner's Manual for the suggested service interval for transmission service. Automatic transmission "drain and fill" is similar to an engine oil change. The transmission drain plug is removed and the old fluid is drained. Then a new transmission filter, gasket, and drain plug is fitted and new fluid is filled to the proper level.
Differential Service
Another important service regards your car's differential. It is the gearbox that supplies rotational force to the wheels and allows them to turn at different speeds when negotiating a turn. The outside wheel travels farther and faster than the inside wheel when you are turning the car. The differential makes sure all this happens seamlessly. These systems can come in limited-slip, open, locking, and torque-vectoring differentials, but they all need to be serviced.
Like every part on your car, the differential wears down with age and use. Be alert for noise or vibration from the driveline, grinding sounds when turning, or oil leaks. On average, your differential fluid should be changed every 40,000 to 60,000 miles as indicated by your Owner's Manual. Your Lithia service tech will remove the service cover and drain the differential fluid, clean the particle magnet, install a new gasket, and refill the differential with fresh gear oil.
Fuel System Check
How does gasoline get to your vehicle's engine? It starts with fuel from the gas tank being sucked through a fuel pump (some cars have more than one) that travels through metal fuel lines and a fuel filter to remove any impurities, debris, and particulate matter. While older cars had carburetors, modern autos use electronic fuel injection. A fuel pressure regulator keeps a steady vacuum of pressure to draw gas to the fuel injectors which spray a mist into the combustion chambers.
A clean fuel system makes sure gas is flowing properly to your engine for maximum fuel efficiency. Cleaning the system every 30,000 miles removes residue that builds up from the constant heating and cooling of the engine that can eventually clog injectors. A simple cleaning can be accomplished by pouring fuel system additive in the gas tank, while more aggressive problems may require flushing out the system and replacing the fuel hoses and lines. Injectors can be removed, cleaned, and reinstalled.
Power Steering Service
Power steering makes driving easy. Ever drive a car that doesn't have power steering? It can be rough. As with the various systems mentioned earlier, over time, your power steering system can accumulate dirt, debris, and gunk that can lead to corrosion and even cause the steering pump to fail.
A power steering system service includes draining the old fluid by removing the fluid return hose, you then fill the reservoir halfway to clean out the system, turn the steering wheel from side to side to pump out remaining fluid, reconnect the return hose, and fill the reservoir with new brake fluid. Check for any leaks in the hoses and then, with the engine running, turn the steering wheel from side to side to bleed the system. On average, vehicles need a power steering flush every 40,000 to 80,000 miles. Check your Owner's Manual for the automaker's recommendation on maintenance schedules.
Wheel Alignment
Take a look at your tires. Are they wearing unevenly, or do you notice that your car pulls to one side while you're driving at highway speed? Perhaps your steering wheel shakes or vibrates? If so, you might need a wheel alignment. Something as simple as hitting a pothole can throw your wheels out of true. It is suggested that you check your wheel alignment once every year.
A service technician checks your vehicle's suspension system to align the camber, toe, and caster of the wheels and tires. Camber involves the inward and outward angle of the tire when seen from the front of the vehicle. Toe involves how much your tires turn inward or outward when viewed from above. The caster angle helps to balance steering and cornering. Improper alignment can cause your tires to wear unevenly and prematurely. Make sure your service center uses a high-quality alignment machine.
Let Lithia Help
No matter what your vehicle service needs might be, there's a Lithia Motors service center near you with state-of-the-art equipment, factory-trained technicians, and friendly service writers to help save you money on all your maintenance needs. We'll get you back on the road for many more worry-free miles. At Lithia Motors, we've got your back.