Fuel price makes maintenance that much more important

Monday, April 18, 2011

The average price of gasoline in Nebraska was $3.82 on Sunday, according to GasBuddy.com, 94.7 cents per gallon higher than a year ago and 26.3 percent higher than a month ago.

Nebraska's gasoline price is two cents higher than the national average, which has gone up 27.4 cents in the past month and 93.5 cents over the year.

Prices upward of $4 are only a matter of time.

The numbers on the fuel pump can make us look longingly at a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle, perhaps a hybrid or even, someday, an electric.

But we're not always in position to buy a new vehicle, and once payments are figured in, almost no vehicle is as economical as the one you already own.

There are a lot of things we can do to make it more economical, however, all of them inexpensive compared to the the major repairs they help prevent.

April's National Car Care Month is a good time to resolve to pay attention to the health of your vehicle, according to the National Car Care Council.

Some reminders:

* Check the oil, filters and fluids regularly, change oil according to the owner's manual and don't forget to inspect and replace filters.

* Inspect hoses at each oil change and have them replaced when leaking, brittle, cracked, rusted, swollen or restricted.

* Check the brake system every year and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change.

* Check that the battery connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free. If it is three years old or more, the battery should be tested and replaced if necessary. When cold weather arrives next fall, you'll be glad you did.

* Inspect the exhaust system for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if there is an unusual noise. Exhaust leaks can be dangerous and must be corrected without delay.

* Schedule a tune-up that will help the engine deliver the best balance of power and fuel economy and produce the lowest level of emissions.

* Check the car's heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system as proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons, such as defrosting.

* Inspect the steering and suspension system annually, including shock absorbers and struts, and chassis parts, such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.

* Check the pressure of all tires, including the spare, at least once a month. Check the tread for uneven or irregular wear and cuts and bruises along the sidewalls. Have your car's alignment checked at least annually to reduce tire wear and improve fuel economy and handling.

* Test exterior and interior lights and have bulbs that are not working checked immediately. Replace windshield wiper blades every six months or when cracked, cut, torn, streaking or chattering for optimum wiping performance and safety.

Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council, offers a free digital Car Care Guide to help you drive smart and save money, visit www.carcare.org

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