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By Don Patten

Don Patten is a leading expert in automotive education. His text book Automotive Service Basics published by Prentice Hall is used in automotive instruction courses world wide.

The vehicle maintenance council has posted a list of twelve maintenance items that are most often found when repairs are needed. Most of these items would be covered in any carefully thought out and applied preventive maintenance program. Many of the items are the result of neglect and repairs started when they can be no longer be ignored. Ignoring problems until they become bigger problems or not using a good maintenance and inspection plan can result in damage to your vehicle and reduced vehicle reliability and safety. Here is the list:

== 1. Worn Brake Parts. Leaking wheel cylinders, worn out caliper pads and rear lining, and faulty master cylinders head the list of items under this problem category.

== 2. Tired Windshield Wiper Blades. Usually when the rain starts and the wipers are turned on is when the driver is reminded the blades are worn out. If not changed, worn out blades can damage the windshield surface. This is a severe penalty to pay for not doing something so simple.

== 3. Burned out lights. Some lights are more important than others such as a headlight. All lights are placed on a vehicle for a purpose. This purpose can not be fulfilled unless they work.

== 4. Clogged Filters. Air, oil, gas, and transmission filters are used to extend the life of the vehicle. A dirty filter, that is not changed, defeats the purpose of the filter and may allow damage to the parts the filter is supposed to protect.

== 5. Worn Spark Plugs. The spark plug has to work in a very hostile environment. Over time the gap burns wider and requires more voltage to fire. Poor gasoline mileage, hard starting, and engine misfire all point to spark plugs left in place too long.

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== 6. Corroded Battery Cables. Corroded cables require more battery amperage to start the engine. Periodic battery cable cleanings are required to make sure the cables are not a cause of starting problems.

== 7. Glazed Belts, Rotten Hoses. A broken belt can leave you stranded beside the road. Leaking hoses can cause over heating and coolant loss. Vacuum hoses are a major cause of rough idle. Hoses and belts should be changed about every four years.

== 8. Neglected Cooling System. Dirty coolant, cracked hoses, leaks, and clogged radiator fins are some examples of cooling system service items that should be part of a regular preventive maintenance plan.

== 9. Leaking Shock Absorbers. This problem can be discovered by an inspection or observing how the vehicle reacts after going over a large bump. A vehicle that continues to dip and dive without coming immediately to a stop after going over a bump should have the shock absorbers checked.

== 10. Damaged CV Joint Boots. The rubber boot keeps water and dirt out of the CV joints. If a crack is detected soon enough, the CV joint can be cleaned up and saved. If not, the CV joint will deteriorate and result in a very costly replacement.

== 11. Leaking Muffler. Increased noise is the usual result of leaks in the muffler system. A muffler leak can be dangerous as carbon monoxide gas can enter the passenger compartment and overcome the driver.

== 12. Tired Tires. Wear, proper inflation, alignment, and balance all are a part of proper tire care. It is amazing how fast new tires will wear if subjected to bad conditions. Routine alignments and attention to tire problems will increase tire life and vehicle safety.

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