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How Dan maintains his cars:
Light Bulbs -
Lightbulbs in cars are one of those items that tend to be forgotten about until one finally dies. First tip here is to make sure you check all of the lights on your car from time to time, by simply turning them on, turning on the hazards and taking a walk around the car to make sure everything lights up. So what if you have a dead bulb, how do you know which type you need to buy as a replacement? Osram Sylvania has a nice website that makes finding the right type bulb easy, and also happens to be the brand I prefer to buy for my cars.
You have a dead bulb and a replacement, now what? That all depends on if you replacing a headlight bulb or any of the other bulbs like brakes, signals or auxiliary lighting. If its not a headlight bulb, then the process is pretty simple. You'll likely have to pull back a panel, or some carpet in the trunk, then either pull or twist out the old bulb and install the new in reverse.
What about the headlight bulbs? Tip #2: Do not buy a bulb that doesn't have clear glass. You see them everywhere advertising "brighter-whiter" light, "better range" and "clearer vision". All of which may be true, but what is also true is that you will spend more for these bulbs and they will have a much shorter lifespan than the oem style bulbs. Oh and since lightbulbs dim over their lifetime, your likely noticing an improvement not because the new bulbs are that much brighter, but because your accustomed to the dimmer output of the old bulbs. Want to learn more about this? Take a look at the Daniel Stern Lighting website for a lot of good information.
So what do you buy then? Its simple, get the OEM replacement or if you really want to try it a higher rated clear glass bulb like the Sylvania XtraVision or Phillips XtremeVision. Once you have a replacement bulb, check your owners manual for the information on how to replace them. There is one trick with headlight bulbs you should be aware of, DON'T TOUCH THE GLASS OF THE BULB! The oils from you hand are actually enough to cause the bulb to burn out prematurely and you will find yourself replacing headlight bulbs much more often. This little fact leads us to our final tip: If you accidentally touch the glass of the bulb use an alcohol wipe to clean off the glass and continue on with replacement.
Engine Air Filters -
The engine air filter in a car is probably the most over replaced part in most cars. Do yourself a favor and lookup the manufacturers recommended change rate and stick with it. If you live in dustier conditions pay attention to the severe service schedule (sometimes referred to a schedule B). But above all, do not fall for the dealerships "It looks dirty" gag, that has you replacing a $15-30 part way too often. If you are overly concerned about whether your air filter could get too dirty, a Filter Minder can be installed to help put your mind at ease.
While we are on the topic, if you are considering buying a "High-Performance" air filter for your vehicle... don't! Most "High-Performance" air filters let more dirt (referred to as silicon) into the engine contaminating the oil and causing additional wear on critical bearings and other components. In addition, the oil used in impregnated cotton-gauze filters can damage electronic components when applied incorrectly. Commonly the Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor is a victim to this oil, which can cost you upward of $300+ to replace. A clean conventional air filter should suffice for most daily driving and at its best any "High-Performance" air filter will add at the most 2-5 Horse Power (HP) which could be less than the correction values of the dynamometer used to measure engine power at the wheels. If you really are looking for more horsepower then the intake system as a whole should be evaluated for restrictions and a properly R&D'd system installed.
Oil Changes -
My rule with oil changes is easy! Follow the manufacturers maintenance schedule and make sure the follow the one appropriate to you. If your mostly driving highway then the "Normal" maintain schedule (Schedule A) is likely just fine for you. But if your driving consists mainly to stop-and-go or dusty conditions, then following the "Severe duty" maintanance schedule (Schedule B) is best. As far as oil type is concerned I will tell you that I personally only use Mobil 1 full synthetic in all of my vehicles, but if cost is a concern then here is my suggestion. For any "performance" vehicle turbocharged or not, use full synthetic. For everything else, if your oil change is every 3,000 miles or less a good conventional would suffice but I would suggest at least a semi-synthetic. For vehicles with oil changes 5,000 miles or less use at least semi-synthetic oil or full synthetic. Vehicles with oil changes at the 7,500 mile range I would use a full synthetic motor oil and for added protection you could go with "Extended Performance" oils. Lastly, if you have a hybrid just go full synthetic and as a tip; I use the extended performance in our hybrid.
Oil is only one part of an oil change. A good oil filter is always needed too. at the bottom of the page is a list of brands I have/do use. Generally because of their superior filtering capability and holding capacity. But also because other components such as the anti-drainback valve and bypass valves are quality components.
Lastly, make sure you always go over the car and inspect things such as the other fluid levels, windshield wiper condition, lights bulbs, any scratches that need some touch-up paint and lastly any leaks.
If you are at all interested in getting into the weeds with oil and filters, take a look a look at the Bobistheoilguy.com website and forums. It has a lot of good information and debates in the forums. Or if you like to get a little into the weeds of whats important to look at with any oil check out Ed Hackett's article on what those specifications really mean.
Transmission Fluid -
Transmission fluid is a good one to also change regularly. If its a manual transmission, then a simple drain and fill will suffice and check the fluid specifications to see if you can use a synthetic. If you have an automatic transmission, then a "Flush" at you manufacturers recommended timeframe would work, just remember to do it on milage its supposed to be done. It doesn't help 20,000 miles later, so make the time to get it done.
Power Steering Fluid -
Its also a good idea to change your power steering fluid every 30,000 miles (I find this really does help in the long run) and when possible if you vehicle calls for "Mercon" (transmission fluid) then use a synthetic ATF for better lubrication. Lastly, ALWAYS check the recommended specifications for any fluid! Most foreign cars have different fluids recommended and if you use the wrong type it WILL cause damage that can be costly.
First piece of advice when it comes to brakes, DO NOT CHEAP OUT! Seriously, do you want to trust your safety to the cheapest brakes pads? No! Quality parts do not cost that much and its well worth the money to be safe. The other issue with cheap brake pads is that they usually are poor compounds and because of that they tend to squeal a lot and/or create a lot of dust that usually turns your front wheels black.
Now, if your feel up to the task, go out and buy a brake pad gauge. When ever you rotate the tires, check the pad thickness and make sure that they are in good condition. If you ever hear a constant high pitched whine be sure to check them out. Most brake pads have a built in low wear indicator that let off that high pitch whine and is nothing to ignore.
Your biggest choice is really whether you should do the work, or let a professional do it. If you don't know a reputable professional, then your likely better off heading to a dealer instead of "Quick Change this and that", otherwise ask around if anyone knows of a trustworthy place. If you do want to tackle the job yourself, then please make sure to wear all the appropriate protection. Also I've found that its best to use a high temp copper anti seize on the slide pins and make sure to clean off the old stuff good before applying the new. (oh and don't get the copper anti seize on those nice new rotors!)
Windshield Wiper Blades -
A big part of safety in any car is the drivers ability to see what is going on around them, most importantly in front of them. Wiper blades in that respect are one of the most often overlooked and easily fixed safety items in most peoples vehicles. But there comes one problem, with so many options available on the market which ones should you use? Some last longer, but sacrifice noise while other do a great job of cleaning when first installed but 6 months later leave streak marks. On top of that is the fact that every cars windshield is shaped differently making it even more difficult to find the perfect wiper blade. So here's the honest answer...there is no perfect "one size fits all" blade for every vehicle. But fortunately for you I'm a bit obsessive compulsive when it comes to things like wiper blades, and have tried just about every major brand/type.
Out of all the blades I have tried, the Bosch ICON series has performed extremely well and generally lasted about 2 years before needing replacement. While they do make a little more noise than other blades over time, their wiping ability lasts through about two Nebraska winters before needing replacement. I should mention, that my obsessive compulsive nature usually leads me to replacing wiper blades once I start to see the signs of streaking which is probably not normal for most people. Because of the ICON's beam design they do not get ice and snow stuck in the blade itself which is a big benefit for those rough winters. The other nice thing is that most blades are offered in two versions which means you more likely to get the right kind of blade based on the type of windshield you have. When you go to pick up a set make sure to check the in store manual or Bosch's website for the exact blade size and the "A" or "B" type recommended.
One last tip, replace those wiper blades in the fall before the rainy season hits so you get the best performance out of those new blades for the seasons that really need it and avoid the sun/heat of summer from taking their toll on your new wipers!
Waxing the paint of a car is probably one of the most forgotten about parts of maintaining a vehicle. That nice paint your car has at the beginning needs some upkeep to keep that mirror finish if its going to make it through the beat down of road grime, rock chips, road salt, acid rain and sea air. There are a lot of brand names out there fighting for your attention at the local Walmart, but if your willing to order it from the internet I would highly suggest using Klasse ALL-IN-ONE acrylic wax. As a cleaner wax it does a great job removing oxidation and swirl marks while applying a 6-9 months of protection to the surface of your automobile. If your not interested in constantly waxing your car, then take my advice and apply Klasse in the Fall before Winter rears around for maximum protection from the harshest elements.
Other Maintenance -
Most everything else that needs to be done in a car I would generally suggest to follow the manufacturers suggestions. But there are a few of the things I do earlier, one is to change the spark plugs every 50,000 miles which helps you to not fight seized plugs later on and does help to keep the car running smoth by keeping the plug gap in check.
Automotive Brands Dan buys:
- Mobil 1 Full Synthetic (I have used and continue to use this exclusively in all my vehicles)
- Motorcraft Semi-synthetic
- Castrol GTX Conventional
- Manufacturers recommended parts
- Manufacturers recommended parts
- Hawk HPS
Brake Rotors (Disc)
- Manufacturers recommended parts
- StopTech Sport (Slotted for street applications)