Car care counsel for concerned collegiate cubs

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Classes have begun. School is in full swing, and the journey to class and back is a necessary daily route. Some are able to walk, some take the bus, but most students probably make the drive to school and home again in their cars, those wonderful machines that get one from point A to B and back again.

In order to make sure your vehicle remains reliable, there are a few basic checks all students should perform on a regular basis. The most important things to check are some of the simplest tasks, which take very little skill and are quick enough to do on a regular basis. It’s easy to let them slide until there is an issue, but with a little bit of care and regular maintenance, most cars should be able to run for quite some time without any major issues.

The first thing that should be checked on a regular basis is the oil level. All cars should have a dipstick next to or in the engine block. The oil dipstick is usually yellow, and easy to spot at a glance. On some cars it’s black, but it will say “ENGINE OIL” somewhere on it. If you don’t have a dipstick, get one. Running your car without one can allow dirt to get into the oil, which could damage your engine and may hurt the suction your engine creates causing a loss in power.

It’s easy to check your oil level. Turn the car off, pop the hood and pull the dipstick. It’s that easy. Wipe the stick after the first pull, and check again for the actual level of the oil. Some cars will still have oil draining into the oil pan after you shut them off and may take a minute or two for the best read, so check it a few times to be safe.

The dipstick will usually have a few markings: a full mark and low mark with a space in between that is a safe area. From the low to full mark is usually a quart of oil, so if it’s low add a quart or more until it’s full.

The next check should be your transmission fluid. This dipstick is usually red or black and will say “TRANS FLUID,” or something similar. On all makes but Honda you need to check this with the car running and in Park or Neutral. The dipstick will have a couple of extra markings for how warm the car is, a low and high mark for cold and hot. Make sure it falls in the safe zone based on whatever the temperature of your car is.

Be sure to go to an auto parts store and ask for help when purchasing your oil and transmission fluid to be sure you are adding the proper fluid for each. There are a lot of choices, and some cars require specific weights of oil, and specific transmission fluids. Adding the wrong oil or transmission fluid can have catastrophic effects on your car, so always be sure to double check before you add it.

Checking other basic car fluids will be covered in the next article in the series. Just remember that taking care of your car will help you make it to your classes without any unexpected vehicular surprises.