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    Breakdown Prevention

No time is the right time for vehicle failure.

Rich Diegle
Automotive Technical Editor

There is never a convenient time for a vehicle to breakdown. Many of us rely on our vehicles daily to deliver us safely to our destinations. Commuting to work, getting the kids to school, or taking that well-deserved vacation are just a few examples of how our lives revolve around our vehicles.

One of the best ways to keep your vehicle on the road and running strong is by performing regular inspections and preventative maintenance. You can accomplish many of the following vehicle inspection and maintenance items yourself. If there are items on the list you feel uncomfortable tackling, have a qualified repair shop complete them for you.


  • Inspect all lights and replace burned out bulbs.
  • Inspect the wiper blade material (it should be soft and pliable) for cracks or separation from the blade retainer and replace if necessary
  • Check the condition of tires, including the spare. Check the air pressure when the tires are cool. If you notice uneven wear, vibrations, or your vehicle pulling to one side, have the suspension components and alignment checked by a certified shop.
Under Hood
  • Check the engine drive belts for cracking, fraying and looseness. Replace or adjust the belts as necessary.
  • Inspect engine coolant hoses for swelling near the clamps, leaks, loose clamps, softness in the elbow areas and brittleness. Replace hoses if necessary.
  • Flush and refill the cooling system (radiator) every 24 months or as specified in your owner’s manual.
  • Air Conditioning (A/C) - Test the A/C system to see that it is working and cooling the vehicle down in a reasonable time. Remember, most late-model vehicles also utilize the A/C for more efficient defrosting and defogging.
  • Change the oil and oil filter as specified in your owner’s manual.
  • Inspect the automatic transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid and windshield washer fluid levels. Top up or replace if necessary.
  • Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, cabin, etc.) as recommended in your owner’s manual.
  • Check / clean battery posts and cable terminals. Corrosion or that white fuzz surrounding the cable terminal ends at the battery posts should be completely removed. Performing this small maintenance activity will ensure optimum performance from the vehicle’s electrical system. WARNING: Battery corrosion contains battery acid. Always wear protective eyewear, gloves and clothing to prevent contact with battery acid. Always remove the negative terminal first to avoid creating sparks.
Under Car
  • Examine the ground where you park your vehicle for leaks. Any fluid residue found should be examined for the type of fluid (gas, engine or transmission fluid, coolant, etc.) and the leak repaired immediately to avoid any problems.
  • Listen / look for leaks from the exhaust system, and if something seems marginal, have the system checked by a qualified repair or muffler shop.
  • Test-drive the vehicle for brake response and feel. Listen for noises (high-pitched squeal, grinding or clunking. If you feel your mechanical expertise is limited in this area, have a professional look at your brakes to advise you on the condition of the brake friction material, drums, rotors, and the hydraulic system.

Warnings and Precautions

  • When raising the vehicle off the ground, be sure to chock any wheel remaining on the ground. If a jack is used, be sure to use jack stands to safely support the vehicle.
  • Do not drain any fluids when hot. Contact with hot fluids can result in severe burns.
  • Make sure the engine has cooled down before removing the radiator cap.
  • Wear protective clothing, including impervious gloves to protect skin from contaminants.
  • Wear eye protection such as goggles or a face shield when performing any service procedure.
  • Never operate the engine in an enclosed area. Exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide, which is harmful to health and potentially lethal. Repair exhaust leaks immediately.
  • Used oil and filters must be disposed of properly and in accordance to local, state and federal laws.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal or professional advice.