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Notes From the Road

New-Age Tune-Up
By Debbie Murphy/

Battery Check
Even if your car's battery is sealed, check the cables and terminals for corrosion. That hairy, green growth that accumulates around the terminals should be cleared out before it robs your battery of starting power. If it's not sealed, check to make sure the water level is adequate. If you have a question, check your owner's manual.

Fluids Check
Check fluids and top off whatever fluids are below a safe level. A good, old-fashioned oil change is one of the best gifts you can give your car. Other fluid-dependent systems include automatic transmissions and power steering systems. Don't forget the window washer fluid, best checked before you've got a windshield with thousands of dead bug bodies encrusted on it.

Filters Check
Check your air and fuel filters (the latter may not be readily accessible, however). What you want to see is a clean filter; what you may see is one clogged with particles. This is especially true of an air filter, since its job is to remove damaging particles before they get to the combustion chamber. The interval between changes of an air filter depends on your driving conditions: dirt roads or urban driving clogs filters much more quickly than more benign conditions. Oil filters should be changed with every, or every other, oil change. Fuel filters have a decent life span, but still warrant a quick check, if possible.

Tread Check
Inspect your tire tread condition and air pressure. Uneven tread wear is a red flag that your alignment needs checking. If you drive too long on a bad alignment, other suspension components could be damaged as a result. To make things easier, the ideal pressure for both fully loaded and minimal load conditions are in the driver's doorjamb.

Hoses & Belts Check
Visually check hoses and belts for cracks or other signs of wear. Replacement of frayed belts or decrepit hoses at your convenience, rather than when they break, is your reward. No matter how high-tech the engine, one automotive truism is that all hoses are to be attached at both ends and belts are to be taut. This sounds silly, but with complex emissions components, your vehicle can actually function with an errant hose, but shouldn't.

Lights Check
Your next task is to check all your lights: headlamps at both low and high beam, turn signals, and brakes. Now, the final job: mark your calendar, three months from today, for your next modern-day tune-up.

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