When was the last time your car stranded you because you neglected an auto maintenance service? It could have been due to an electrical problem, a tire problem, or a lack of fuel to the engine. And with Murphy’s Law around, it probably happened at the worst possible time.
While it’s fortunate that many systems on today’s cars are designed to warn us before a major problem happens, some aren’t. That means there’s no guarantee that an unplanned breakdown will never leave you stranded. There are, however, things you can do to minimize the possibility. Many of those things involve planned auto maintenance services.
Auto maintenance service neglect can strand you
Below is a list of maintenance services you should be sure to have done on your vehicle:
- Fuel filter replacement
- Engine oil change
- Transmission service
- Timing belt replacement
- Spare tire pressure check
- Battery check
- Serpentine belt and v-belt replacement
Let’s take a look at these items one at a time to see how neglecting them can lead to an unexpected breakdown that strands you.
1. Fuel filter replacement is usually recommended by a manufacturer at specific mileage intervals. Over time, build-up of contaminants can restrict the flow of fuel, which can cause extended cranking times during start-up or a check engine light warning when the engine fails to get enough fuel.
The reason you can be stranded by skipping fuel filter replacement relates to the fuel pump. This component pushes fuel from the gas tank to the engine to keep it running. Restrictions in the filter make the fuel pump work harder than designed when pushing fuel to the engine. If required to do this for extended periods of time, the additional load causes additional wear and early fuel pump failure can leave you stranded.
2. Engine oil change is the most common service performed, and most of us know our vehicles need periodic oil changes. Many of today’s vehicles are even equipped with warning lights to remind us when its time for this service. Unfortunately, the hectic pace of life means we ignore the warning and put off having this service done on time.
While few of us are stranded by engine failure because we delay the timing of our vehicle’s engine oil change, it’s important to be aware that certain design elements on new vehicles makes them less able to tolerate service delays. Precision machining, finely meshed screens, or small passages cannot tolerate the restriction caused by thick, dirty oil making timely service critical. Restrictions can cause check engine lights to illuminate, while worst-case neglect can result in engine damage that requires major repair work or replacement.
3. Transmission service is the auto maintenance service that’s easy to forget because the recommended mileage interval range is generally between thirty to sixty thousand miles. Transmission failures are hard to attribute to lack of maintenance but any transmission technician, like Lyle at AutoTranz, will tell you the best way to extend transmission life is to get the old oil and filter replaced regularly.
Timing of this service becomes more critical with exposure to severe driving conditions such as heavy towing or hot temperatures. The extreme heat generated during these situations causes transmission fluid to rapidly deteriorate, lubricate less, and increase wear on transmission components. A worn transmission can fail fast when worked hard, which can leave you stranded.
4. Timing belt replacement can be one of the most expensive maintenance failures if neglected. Responsible to properly time the opening and closing of the engine’s valves, this belt allows the engine to operate smoothly. Over time, the belt ages and weakens becoming more likely to slip or break.
While some vehicle engines will simply run rough and perform poorly with a timing belt that is slipping, a majority of engines on the road today are interference engines. If the timing belt on this type engine slips before it can be replaced one or more valve will hit a piston and become damaged. When this happens, the engine can’t function and you’ll be stranded until a tow truck arrives.
5. Spare tire pressure checks are frequently neglected. A flat spare when you need it will definitely leave you stranded. Make sure your auto maintenance professional checks all your car’s tire pressures, including the hidden spare.
6. Battery checks should take place once they reach 4 years of age when used under normal conditions. A battery that has repeatedly been allowed to run down by lights left on overnight, prolonged cranking during starts, or exposure to corroded or dirty cables will likely fail before the average 4 to 5 year battery lifespan.
While a battery near the end of its life can fail without warning, a driver who listens attentively may notice slower cranking. When you notice this happening, it’s time to have your battery checked. Neglecting this can leave you stranded and in need of a jumpstart on your way to get a new battery.
7. Serpentine belt and v-belts replacement at the specified maintenance interval helps you avoid being stranded by an engine overheat or dead battery. There are no automatic warnings for broken belts. Your automotive repair professional should check belts regularly and keep you advised when replacement is required or recommended.
Unplanned breakdowns can often be avoided if you are willing to invest a modest amount of attention and a minimum amount of expense on the 7 auto maintenance services recommended above. Let your repair and maintenance professional know you want to stay on top of these maintenance services. Ask them to help you avoid neglecting the items that can leave you and your vehicle stranded. At AutoTranz Transmission we provide all needed maintenance services and we work hard to keep you informed of any work your vehicle may need. If we can help, give us a call at (208) 722-7429 or contact us on our website.