Maintaining your car engine isn't all that hard as long as you follow certain steps.

Check the oil periodically

Especially if your car is used, make sure to check your oil level and quality. If your oil drops too low, even a short drive will result in an expensive engine overhaul.

So make sure your dip stick doesn't come up:
  • Too low. Make sure your oil is at the "full" level.
  • Black. If it comes up black, change it.
  • Dark brown. Okay, but better to change it.
  • White. Have your car checked. There's probably an internal engine problem.
Other things to consider:
  • Check for leaks. Look around your parking spot for any oil spots. Leaks should be promptly checked.
  • Let your car warm up on a cold day. Your car will thank you for it.
  • Oil additives aren't necessary if your car has less then 250 000km (about 155 000 miles) on the odometer. They can be useful for well traveled cars.
  • If you can see any carbon buildup or if your car has overheated before, be careful about using engine flush. Flushing with carbon buildup may clog the oil sucking screen in the crankcase pan, and that will cause engine damage.

Periodically change the oil filter

Every 10000km (6000 miles) you should change the oil filter. While you're at it, you should change the oil. Make sure to use the right type of oil: look on the oil cap or the owner's manual.

Keep the engine cool

Check the coolant tank every so often: it should be above the minimum point. If it isn't, wait until the engine is cool, and fill with coolant fluid.

Check your radiator to see if it is clogged. This can significantly increase engine temperature.

If you notice that your engine temperature is higher then usual, and neither of the two previous points help, have your car checked professionally.

Tune-ups

The following may need to be checked or replaced occasionally. Look them up in your owner's manual.

Miscellaneous

If you notice anything strange, such as
  • Underpowered engine
  • Strange smells or noises
  • Leaks or smoke
Get your engine checked before it turns into a big problem.

Make sure that you know exactly what your paying for: don't get suckered into buying something you don't need. Usually if you talk to the mechanic with a reasonable amount of interest, two things will come to pass: he will realise that you aren't so stupid, and you will realise whether he is being coherent and making sense. In this way you can avoid most superfluous "repairs."

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