Checking Under the Hood, and Under the Vehicle

By: Kraig Johanssen

Summer spring maintenance for the components under the hood and the vehicle makes your Mazda car ready for warmer weather as well as vacation travel.

It is good to consult first your before starting any car work so that you are assured that you are doing the right repair or maintenance. And then go under the hood.

The first to be inspected is the engine oil. On a flat surface, park your Mazda car and wait for a minute for the oil to settle in the oil pan. Pull the oil dipstick out; wipe it with a clean cloth; and then insert it back fully. Check the oil level by pulling the dipstick out again. It should be at least close to the "FULL" mark on the stick. If it is low, top it up using the same type of oil as you already have in the engine. The oil needs replacement if it appears too black. Change of season means change of oil which is necessary every three months or 3,000 miles. This will assure you that your car will be fuel efficient and run smoothly.

If needed, have you Mazda car tuned-up. If your car is brand new, the battery, charging and starting, engine mechanical, power train control - including onboard diagnostic check, - fuel, ignition and emission systems must all be included in the tune-up.

The transmission fluid also needs to be changes before a summer vacation. Warm up your car and park it on a level surface for you to check the fluid levels. Leave the engine idle by setting the hand brake in the Park Position. Remove the automatic transmission fluid dipstick. Wipe it and insert it again fully. To finally check the fluid level and condition, pull the stick out again. Take note that common transmission fluid is color red or pink-red when it is new. It becomes brownish with usage as it oxidizes. But if it appears too dark, better change it.

To unscrew the radiator cap, make sure that the engine is not hot. It is wise to change the cap if you see cracked or brittle rubber gasket inside the cap.

It is also important to check the level of coolant in the clear plastic overflow tank. It should be in between "Min" and "Max" marks. Check for possible leaks if the antifreeze level is far below the "Min" mark. You can top up the overflow reservoir using anti-freeze mixed 50/50 with water if the coolant level is just a bit lower. They need to be refreshed every two years.

The belts and hoses need to be checked for cracks, wear, glazing and proper tension. The electrical system, air conditioning and power steering, cooling system, fuel injection valves can be affected by a damaged belt. Any old hoses and those that feel spongy or hard should be replaced immediately. Belt problems are indicated by squeals as the engine accelerates or slows down, and rhythmic slapping sounds when the car is idle. Warm weather can induce breakage and leaks in weak hoses and belts so make sure to they are properly maintained.

The batteries also need inspection. If you see a white crust, remove it through scrubbing with an old toothbrush a combination of baking soda and water. Distilled water can top up any low battery cells. It is also important to ensure the tightness of the battery terminals and hold-downs. For the last part of inspection, test the battery.

The cabin air filter needs to be changed after the rain or if there are any dusts. As a sign of a filter that is overdue for a change, rotten odors are coming out of the air conditioning vents.

Now, it is the turn of those car components under the vehicle.

This season is the right timing for the check ups of the entire brake system.

The shocks or struts should also be checked for signs of physical damage, such as leaking, rusting, or dents. Signs that they need immediate replacements are: rolling or swaying of vehicle on turns; diving of the front ends; squatting of the rear end when accelerating; lowering of the vehicle in the front or rear; loss of directional control on sudden stops; bouncing or sliding away of the vehicle on winding or rough roads.

While the car is parked, you can do a quick check on these parts. Just push down each corner and then release. A serious car problem is implied by a bouncing for a while, instead of immediately returning to a resting position. You can also look inside the wheel to check if all four struts (shock absorbers) leak oil. If they do, they need a replacement.

If any fluid puddles or stains under your Mazda car is noticeable, have it professionally inspected. The antifreeze/coolant, battery acid, brake fluid, clear water, diesel fuel, engine oil, gasoline, gear oil, power steering fluid, shock and strut fluid, transmission fluid and windshield washer fluid are the fluids that can leak from your car that will eventually lead to severe car problem.

The key point here is checking your vehicle to endure the obstacles of summer driving.

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