Car care tips for beginners: a little is enough


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By Wendy Migdal

Having your car serviced should be added to the list of certainties in life, along with death and taxes. If you’re one of those rare people who still keeps a notebook in the glove box and faithfully records the mileage every time you fill up, you probably don’t need advice. The rest of us, though, could probably use a few reminders now and then.

Advice from the trenches

We all know the maintenance schedules, but to get some perspectiveve from the front lines, Prince William Living The magazine asked some locals to give us some of their top tips for keeping your car in good shape and avoiding problems. John Filippone of Piedmont Tire and Auto gave some tips.

The first thing he recommends is to walk around your car and examine it, every time, before getting in. “It’s something that nobody does, that everyone should do, especially new drivers. A lot of things could be avoided just by walking around the car,” says Filippone.

Some people may have gotten out of the habit of doing this important step now that rear-facing cameras eliminate the safety concern of accidentally driving over a child or animal, but it’s still important from a driver’s point of view. maintenance. Drivers can spot issues with a tire, a loose piece of trim, and any damage that has occurred.

Next, Filippone recommends checking your air pressure. Although newer cars have tire monitoring systems, older cars don’t, nor are they something people tend to replace when the sensors stop working. Filippone says they see a lot of blowouts from low pressure.

His third tip is to make sure you know how to properly check your oil level. “I can’t tell you how many times people come and say, ‘My oil light came on so I just put in three liters of oil’, which only makes the problem worse. You can cause all sorts of damage to your engine by putting too much oil on,” says Filippone.

Information Resources

Your car’s manual, of course, is the best place to look for maintenance schedules. If it is still under warranty, you will need to follow these times and keep good records to keep your warranty valid. But other than that, knowing when things need to be replaced can be tricky as individual usage varies widely. Several local auto repair shops, including Piedmont, G&C Tire and Auto Service, and Stan
Rollinson’s Automotive has detailed information on their websites that can help you decide if it’s time to replace something. So don’t overlook your favorite mechanic’s website as a source.

The Prince William Public Library offers two car care services through its digital library that patrons may not be aware of. is a digital resource accessible to everyone from home. Chilton published its first automotive journal in 1911, and for years they were the go-to guides for DIY auto mechanics. Now, of course, they’ve gone online.

If you don’t have a library card, you can register instantly online and then enter your card number. Then enter your year, make and model, and Chilton will provide you with a wealth of information about your vehicle – from maintenance schedules to bulletins and recalls and even diagrams of your vehicle’s specific parts. There is a video library with short videos that explain how parts of the car work, how to spot problems and
information on how to fix them. Some of them assume prior knowledge, so a total beginner may need some extra help.

The second service offered by the library is, which contains wiring diagrams, a parts guide, technical bulletins, and recalls. Due to licensing restrictions, you will need to visit a branch to use this one.

Sure, there’s always YouTube, but for a more beginner-approved online course, there are several on for under $20. These will go over the basics, such as checking fluids, changing oil, fixing a flat, and more.

Practical instruction

Some of us may need a little help distinguishing our windshield washer reservoir from our radiators. It is quite difficult to find practical instructions these days; that is, if you don’t want to become a mechanic. An overlooked option is your local auto parts store. No, they don’t offer Saturday morning demos like Home Depot unfortunately, but they will come to the car and help you with some basics, such as
replace wipers, bulbs and batteries. They are limited for liability reasons on what they can touch on your car, but they can tell you about it, which is the best way to learn. Learning a few basics like these can also save you money, like when a $5 light bulb you found out about during your annual inspection ends up costing $30 to fit in a store.

Learning some car maintenance basics will help you become a more caring car owner. It can also be a source of pride and satisfaction to feel a little mastery over the unknown.

Wendy Migdal is a freelance writer who has lived in the Northern and Central Virginia area since 2000. She has written extensively for The Free Lance-Star and also works for online education companies. Wendy enjoys traveling around the area to learn about parks, restaurants, attractions, and especially history.


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