Automobiles have functional metal parts that undergo a diverse range of forces, shears, pressures, frictions and temperatures. In addition to this, most of these parts are lubricated, greased, waxed, powder-coated, etc. and some of them involve hot moving fluids, and high electric voltage. This part of maintenance requires a little more caution and understanding of the automobile. One should not be careless with machines and this is something to be learnt as a part of basic common-sense. However, with appropriate safety-gear and knowledge of these processes, one can take care of quite a few important parameters of automotive maintenance.
Lubricant and Fluid Check
Engine and Transmission lubes
Speaking of, it is vital to keep track of the engine-oil, transmission-oil, power-steering fluid, and engine coolant. For engine fluids, read through the service-manual provided with the car and with the hood open, visually identify the engine-oil dip-stick, the coolant bottle and the radiator cap. Do not touch them or try to open them with the engine hot, or running. The oil-chamber dip-stick can be pulled out by a small ring attached to its head. At the end of this stick are two dots, a little over an inch apart. The dot further from the end indicates the maximum oil limit of the chamber, and the one closest to it is for the minimum oil limit. The vehicle should be parked at a flat solid surface to be able to measure this correctly. One should always make sure that the oil level in the chamber should be closer to the maximum limit, before heading out in the car for long durations. In case the oil needs topping up, consult the manual or an experienced technician for the specified grade. The oil-filler cap is right on top of the engine body and has either the word “oil” or a symbol of an oil-dispenser on top. Keep checking the oil level with the dip-stick, after every hundred-millilitre addition. In most modern IC engine cars, the engine unit has a “snap-on” plastic-tray cover with the manufacturer’s monogram on it. This needs to be carefully pulled off before accessing the top section of the engine.
Coolant bottles are generally translucent and pale-white containers with yellow screw-caps rubber-lined on the inside. Radiator-caps are found in almost all IC engines and are directly on the top of their respective radiator units. They have a spring and rubber-washer locking mechanism and are pressed and twist-turned counter-clockwise to open and clockwise to close.
Never open either the coolant-bottle or the radiator-cap when they’re hot, for risk of high-intensity burns on the skin caused by hot coolant or water being squirted outward with great pressure. Always wait for the engine to be cool, before accessing any of its fluids.
When opened, please check the coolant level in the bottle, regarding the marked maximum and minimum limits. As in the case of engine-oils, different automobiles use different grades of coolant and they all have different colour codes. Make sure to pour the same colour coolant in the bottle. If the bottle is found to be empty, top it off with water, and approach your nearest mechanic for a complete drain of the cooling system, and replacement with fresh, manufacturer-spec coolant.
For wet batteries, it is important to keep checking the battery-water level in all their ports and top-off when required. This helps prolong battery life. Dry batteries do not need any checkups except the occasional cleaning of their terminals with a dedicated spray or cleaning agent. They are also a little more expensive than wet batteries.
Periodical consultation of the owner’s manual provided by the manufacturer is very beneficial. Whatever doubts one might have while carrying out basic maintenance, are already provided-for in these booklets. They come with detailed descriptions of all vital operations of their respective automobile, and though some of this information might appear to be complete technical jargon to the lay-man or woman, the manuals can prove to be extremely handy. In the worst-case scenario or complete confusion, feel free to consult your nearest technical professional.
Warning lights and indicators
On the inside, there are several indicator lights on the instrument cluster and each one of them has its dedicated function. It is important to know them for what they are, and at the very least, know what to do when one of them lights up. Again, the owner’s manual would be one’s quickest and most efficient guide. The most important one is the “Check-engine” light, represented by a two-dimensional drawing of an IC engine. This light comes on in the event of an engine-component, or electronic malfunction. The check-engine light informs that an error has been detected by one of the sensors attached to various mechanical and electrical components of the car’s entire system. To reset this light once, disconnect the battery terminals, wait for a few minutes and reconnect them. Start the car and if the check-engine comes back on, take it to your nearest car-care professional. It can prove to be a very costly or even dangerous affair, to ignore any of the warning indicator lights on the instrument cluster.