Taking care of your car can be tricky. Proper maintenance can help your vehicle last longer and result in saving money by not having to cough up big bucks for repairs or a new car altogether. Not everyone understands the inner workings of a car, though, and some of us can’t tell a piston from a pizza.
Audra Fordin, a fourth generation mechanic and owner of Great Bear Auto Repair in Queens, New York, created the nonprofit Women Auto Know to empower women when it comes to taking care of their cars. If you’re looking to find ways to help your ride last longer, Fordin has some, ahem, engine-ious ways to look after your car.
So before you bring your vehicle into a mechanic to check out the red light on your dashboard, make sure you heed the five things Fordin says you shouldn’t do with your car.
1. Don’t kick the tires
The rubber that was on car tires way back when were generally weak, so kicking them helped drivers see the quality of the wheel. Not anymore.
“The tires are like the shoes on your feet,” Fordin told TODAY. “They are your car’s first line of defense on the road, so I would never neglect a tire rotation because it’s so easy to do and it will maximize the lifespan of the tire.”
Fordin also recommends keeping an eye on the tire’s tread, since it grips the ground, as well as the sidewall. If the sidewall has any bulges, tears or cracks, you should address it before it leads to a blowout.
2. Don’t drive with bad wiper blades
If you can’t see, you can’t drive. Good wiper blades can make for a smooth experience behind the wheel.
“Wiper blades are easy to replace. They’re inexpensive and an important safety factor that I would never skip,” Fordin said.
3. Don’t put fluids in the wrong place
Don’t know exactly where you’re supposed to put antifreeze or the oil? There’s a simple way to figure it out.
“Take a look at the dashboard lights,” Fordin said. “There are fluid icons on the dashboard. Make sure you never make this mistake. Use your owner’s manual as a reference, and then you’ll see that on the dashboard that icon has a matching reservoir underneath the hood.”
Fordin also suggests double checking the fluid that you'll need before pouring it in.
4. Don’t ignore the red or yellow lights on the dashboard
The lights aren’t those colors just for decoration — they actually mean something.
“That red brake light is letting you know that there is a potential breakdown or mechanical failure that’s going to happen with your car, so I would never ignore those red lights,” Fordin said.
Yellow lights are generally for maintenance and don’t pose as imminent a problem, she said, but they should be addressed. Fordin also noted the lights don’t always mean something mechanical is wrong, pointing out, for example, that a seatbelt light could be red to let the driver know that “something dangerous could potentially happen.”
5. Don’t bring parts to the mechanic
Fordin says there are a few reasons not to bring parts to a mechanic.
“You actually lose the guarantee for the parts that you’re putting into that car, so you’re putting the liability on yourself,” Fordin said.
She also said it’s dangerous for people to buy their own parts based on what they think the problem is.
“Oftentimes people are self-diagnosing their car, going to the store, buying the parts themselves only to find out that it was misdiagnosed in the first place — by yourself — and then you wasted your time, you wasted your money,” she said.