If you are a driver from the United States, you are probably insured, since in almost all states car insurance is mandatory. If you are a person who is responsible for not having unnecessary expenses, surely you have made an effort to obtain a good coverage plan such as a no down payment car insurance. However, in the blink of an eye, you could lose this privilege after having an accident. Something as simple as taking proper care of your car's oil change could end up tarnishing your driving record.
Inspect and Clean Battery Terminals
Inspecting and servicing the terminals on a regular basis can save you a lot of problems down the road, and may save you the cost of a battery or terminals later on. Plus, this is a good opportunity to inspect the battery itself. Check the battery hold-down clamps for tightness, and the battery for cracks and acid leaks. The most basic check is a visual one; look for a bunch of crystalline white stuff around the terminals. This is the corrosion that will degrade your electrical connection and eventually destroy the battery terminals. Removing and cleaning the terminals is a fairly straightforward affair.
Removing the terminals
Start by loosening the nuts on the negative battery terminal; always remove the negative terminal first and reconnect it last, or you risk creating a spark that will ignite the hydrogen that seeps from your battery. Loosen the terminal bolts with a pair of wrenches. Don't use a crescent wrench or a pair of pliers, or you run the risk of stripping your terminal bolts. Once you've got the negative terminal off, remove the positive.
Once you have the terminal bolts loosened, you'll likely find the terminal stuck to your battery post. DO NOT smack the terminal with a hammer to twist it or attack it with a pair of locking pliers or other implement of interrogation. Doing so may break the terminal post inside the battery. Once that happens, you've ruined the battery, and an internal short could cause an explosion. Instead, slide a large screwdriver into the terminal bolt slot, and twist the screwdriver handle to pry the terminal open.
Cleaning the terminals
Prepare a 50/50 slurry of water and baking soda, and paint it onto the battery terminals and battery top with a toothbrush. The baking soda will neutralize any acid on the battery, and serve as an abrasive to help you clean it. Clean the terminal posts, the inside of the terminals, and the top of the battery with a terminal brush, then lightly rinse and dry them with a towel.
Battery terminal brushes are specialized wire bushes with a female end that slides over the battery post, and a male end that slides up into the battery terminal. While buying special tools just to clean battery connections might seem a little silly, that $5 investment will last a lifetime and make immediate sense the first time you use it.
Side-mount battery terminals
If you've got side-mount battery terminals, you're in for some good news. Side-mount terminals bolt right to the battery, and interface using flat, metal discs. These types of terminals are well-known for their ability to resist corrosion, and they're easier to clean. In this case, you need only unbolt the terminal, clean the terminal and battery side metal discs with a regular wire brush, and put them back together.
Eliminating future corrosion from external sources
Speaking of sparing yourself aggravation, you might consider coating the terminals with a thick layer of petroleum jelly after you put everything back together. Petroleum jelly will practically eliminate the possibility of corrosion from outside sources because it forms a seal around the terminal and post. A number of companies make specialized, spray-on terminal coatings that go on like a coat of thick, sticky grease, and these work even better. But, don't use either if you don't have some kind of terminal cover, or the sticky sealants will collect all the dirt, grime and nastiness floating around under your hood.
Tighten Lug Nuts
Consider lug nuts a regular service item, to be inspected daily and re-tightened regularly. Look for rust streaks on the wheel around the lug nuts, as these are strong indicators of loose lugs. After your oil change, torque the lug nuts to your manufacturer’s specification. If you can't find it online or through your local parts retailer, the general rule for passenger cars is 100 foot-pounds for steel wheels and 80 foot-pounds for aluminum alloy wheels. And this is as good a place as any to mention that tire experts recommend re-torquing lug nuts 150 miles after installing a wheel; lug nuts will generally loosen the most right after installation, so a little preventative maintenance here can save you some grief later.
Adjust Drum Brakes
Accidents are often not as unpredictable and unavoidable as claimed. When it comes to traffic accidents, they can often be prevented just with regular car maintenance checks like adjusting the drum brakes. Always keep in mind that any type of accident may affect your monthly budget due to the increase in your auto insurance premiums, or you may lose the possibility of getting a first month free car insurance plan.
Cars use one or both of two brake system types: disc brakes, which clamp the spinning disc brake between a pair of friction pads, and drum brakes, which press outward on the inside of a spinning drum.
Most modern passenger cars use four-wheel discs or discs on the front and drums on the rear. Those with drums use a self-adjusting mechanism to take up slack between worn brake shoes and the inside of the drum. But these adjusters don't always work as designed, especially when they get a few years on them.
Three ways to adjust the drums yourself
- The first way is to put your car in reverse, back up at idle speed and give the brake pedal a few hard taps. This will put reverse pressure on the brake shoes, triggering the self-adjuster if it's slightly seized up or has weakened a bit over time.
- The second approach involves pulling and releasing the parking brake a few times. The parking brake adjustment method is favored by certain manufacturers who assume that people actually use the parking brake when they park. Or when they need to make a quick U-turn on a dirt road – whatever.
- The above approach doesn't always work, though, especially if it's been a while since the last adjustment or the adjuster is weak. In that case, you'll need to crawl under the car and adjust the brakes manually.
Remember that your life is in your hands and depends on you to be a responsible driver.