Water Cooler: The Basics Every Car Owner Should Know

Owning a car is a privilege and a huge responsibility. To make sure your car is safe to operate and avoid problems down the road, there are some basic vehicle components and maintenance tips every car owner should know.

car engine oil

Also called motor oil, it provides lubrication to all the moving parts of a car’s engine. As the car moves, the by-products of combustion accumulate in the oil, which darkens its color and turns into a dirty texture. Knocking and rumbling in the engine, the smell of oil inside the vehicle and visible exhaust smoke can all be signs that an oil change is in the past.

The oil should have an amber color. Check the levels from time to time and top off as needed. This ensures that you are aware of leaks and that your car has enough oil to operate.

Traditional advice is to change the oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, and while this may in general be best, innovations in synthetic oil often allow a car to run just fine without an oil change for 5,000 to 10.000 miles.


A car’s suspension is combined with components to provide a mesh of strong parts that can absorb shock such as dampers and coil springs. This works to absorb energy from driving on uneven surfaces and increases tire friction on the road.

It’s common for various suspension components to wear out over time and when driving on uneven surfaces, often with one side you feel sore. A worn suspension can also look cranky or unsightly. These parts are expensive, but the investment in suspension is critical to the longevity of the car.

air filters

There are many filters in a vehicle. Cabin air filters help remove air pollutants from entering the cabin as it moves through the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Low air flow, whistling, loud operating or foul-smelling air are signs that it needs to be replaced.

Fuel filters are round filters placed in the fuel tank or in the fuel line to protect the fuel injector lines from dirt, debris and other contaminants. Signs that need to be replaced include erratic and poor engine performance and fuel efficiency, difficult starting, rough idle, stalling and other fuel system failures.

The engine air filter removes bugs, debris, dirt, air pollutants, water and other substances from the air that are inhaled by the engine. A clean filter improves overall performance and efficiency. Inspect it if you notice less than normal horsepower, black smoke from the exhaust pipe, or a detectable gas smell when starting the engine.

The oil filter protects the car’s oil from dirt and debris. It is generally recommended to change it every time you change the oil. Overheating, performance degradation, low oil pressure and nasty exhaust fumes can all be signs that it is overdue.

vehicle fluid

Cars typically use nine fluids. You are familiar with gas and oil. Coolant, also known as antifreeze, regulates engine temperature. Transmission fluid lubricates the transmission for smooth transfer. Power steering fluid is used to create hydraulic pressure to reduce the effort required to rotate the wheel. Differential fluid lubricates the gears, thereby transferring power from the transmission to the wheels. Brake fluid works to create hydraulic pressure and transfer and increase braking force. And as you know, windshield wiper fluid keeps those pesky insects and grime out of your sight.

As every manufacturer and mechanic will tell you, always refer to your owner’s manual and it will guide you through all the routine maintenance needed to make your car last as long as possible and as long as possible.

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