Texas Living

Three Motor Maintenance Mainstays

By Jessica Jones 12.18.13

The same way we start to feel sluggish and run down when we don’t take care of ourselves, our cars require routine maintenance in order to perform at their best. But with so many complex parts and components to your ride (not to mention deceptive mechanics looking to make a buck), it can be difficult to know what’s truly essential and how often it should be repaired or replaced. Aside from the standard oil change and tire rotation (which you should be doing every 3,000-5,000 miles and every 5,000-10,000 miles, respectively), here are three of the most important upkeep items for good motor maintenance:

1. Air filter

Why it’s important: Your engine can’t “breathe” when the air filter is clogged with dust and debris. And when your engine’s performance is compromised, it can affect your gas mileage, horsepower, and the life of the engine itself.

How often should you change it: Every 12 months or 7,500-10,000 miles, depending on the air condition where you drive.

 2. Brake pad

Why it’s important: Brake pads have the tough job of getting your brake rotors, which spin with your tires, to stop by pressing against them when you depress the brake pedal. As such, they tend to wear out over time, which can cause compromised stopping distance and further damage to your brakes.

How often should you change it: How fast your pads wear out depends on how far and how hard you drive your car, so rely on your brake wear indicators to let you know when it’s time for a new set. Many newer cars have electronic indicators, and all brake pads have a mechanism that will create a screeching sound when the pads are too low.

 3. Tire tread/pressure

Why it’s important: The tread and pressure of your tires can impact your braking power, stability, and maneuverability. Low tread can lead to skidding, whereas incorrect tire pressure (either too low or too high) can result in an unsteady ride or even a blowout.

How often should you change it: Using an air-pressure gauge, monitor the pressure of your tires monthly, or more often when the temperature changes severely, as that can cause a drop in pressure. Fill tires to the level specified in your manual. Tread should be similarly monitored; when the tread indicators —ridges between the grooves of your tires — become even with the tread, it’s time to replace. Can’t find your tread indicators? Stick an upside-down penny in the tread. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, you need new tires.