Can You Answer These Basic Car Maintenance Questions?

Steven Symes

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Do you wax your car with a diaper? Are you always listening for slightest strange noises that might indicate a problem as you're driving? Do you put your ride through an exhaustive 100-point inspection each year? You might be one of the rare people who know a lot about basic car maintenance. 

Even though basic maintenance should be something everyone who owns a car knows about and takes care of, most people are clueless on this topic. In the best-case scenario, they have a mechanic who stays on top of these essential items, many of which are quite easy to address. Far too many car owners just ignore these simple maintenance to-dos, then complain later when their car has a major problem that could have been avoided with proper maintenance. In other words, staying on top of basic maintenance will save you money and frustration down the road, literally. 

Maintenance items for your vehicle are spelled out in the owner's manual, but have you bothered to read over them? Are you one of those rare people who can answer the following basic maintenance questions? Take the quiz right now and find out! 

Should you check the oil level right after shutting the engine off?

The reason you don't check the oil level right after you shut off the engine is that plenty of the oil won't be in the pan, so you'll get an inaccurate reading. Either check it cold or wait several minutes after shutting off the engine.

What benefits do you get from giving your car that doesn't need premium fuel some premium fuel on occasion?

Some people think putting premium in their car that only needs regular gas will help with performance in some magical way. The fact is, it won't do anything for your car, so you're just wasting money.

When checking hoses for potential wear or problems, which of the following should you not do?

If you're concerned about cooling system hoses, or those that feed the radiator and transport coolant to the engine, etc., allow the car to cool down before you squeeze them to see if the hoses have become brittle or are splitting.

What causes the plastic headlight lenses to become foggy over time?

Thanks to UV rays from the sun, the plastic headlight lenses will oxidize over time. If you polish the lenses and remove the layer of plastic that oxidized, the result will be clear lenses once more.

What's the worst thing you can do with an overheating engine?

When your engine overheats, you need to stop driving and do anything you can to eliminate the heat as quickly as possible, like popping the hood, cranking the heater, and shutting down the engine. If you don't, you might be facing some big repairs.

What is one benefit of taking heavy items out of your car?

You should go through your car and take out anything you don't need in it, because that extra weight hurts fuel efficiency, lengthens the stopping distance, and even negatively impacts handling.

What is the color of transmission fluid?

Transmission fluid is dyed red so you can easily identify a leak, instead of mistaking it for oil, power steering fluid, coolant, or just water. As the transmission fluid ages, it becomes a darker red.

If your car has newer wiper blades but they're leaving streaks on the windshield, what's likely the cause?

Just because wiper blades are leaving streaks doesn't mean they need to be swapped for new ones. Use a soft cloth to clean the edge of the blades, which sit on the glass, removing dirt and other debris that build up over time.

What does a dirty air filter impact the most?

While a dirty air filter might have a slight impact on fuel efficiency, it will most definitely hurt horsepower and torque output. If you care how well your car accelerates, passes other cars on the highway, etc. you should check the air filter routinely.

Which of the following is a benefit of polishing your car?

Too many people think waxing and polishing a car are the same thing, failing to realizing that polishing will really bring out the shine from the paint, while getting rid of some scratches and swirls, as well as removing dirt that otherwise won't budge.

If you fail to tighten the gas cap all the way, what could happen?

This is probably the best case scenario for a check engine light, because either you didn't tighten the cap all the way, you threaded it incorrectly, or the gas cap is worn out and you need to buy a new one. Most other check engine light issues are more extensive.

What's an easy way to tell that the tires on your car are worn out?

Tire manufacturers design the wear bars to run the opposite way as the tread, so you can see them easily once they're exposed. With the wear bars visible, you know for sure it's time to get new tires on your car.

What's the best way to lubricate door hinges and tracks on sliding van doors?

White lithium grease does a better job than most other commercial lubricants most people can easily get their hands on, because it works in a wider range of temperatures, and so provides the best protection all year.

If the locks are feeling sticky in your car, what's good for correcting the problem?

While wet lubricants like WD-40 will make your lock work well enough, they're only temporary fixes since the lubricant will flow out of the lock again. Graphite, on the other hand, is dry and will stick around, making for a better long-term solution to the problem.

What's a good tool for cleaning window washer jets if they get clogged?

The washer jets for your windshield have an extremely small opening, but they can become clogged by road salt, dirt, or other tiny particles. A needle will clear whatever is in there out, so the jet starts flowing normally again.

Which of the following isn't a benefit of clean engine oil?

Most people know that engine oil will protect against parts rubbing against each other, but they aren't aware of the other benefits provided by clean oil, which is why doing regular oil changes is so important.

How do you clean the battery terminals?

Keeping the battery terminals free of corrosion and anything else that might get on them is crucial, otherwise you might find you car won't start, because the buildup will block the flow of electricity to an extent.

When is it necessary to gap spark plugs in modern engines?

While it's true that spark plugs already come gapped, they likely aren't gapped for your engine. Always double-check the gap before installing plugs, otherwise you risk performance issues.

When checking the belts in your car, which of the following items wouldn't be concerning?

If your engine has an interference design, checking the timing belt on a regular basis will help you avoid a disastrous situation and an engine rebuild.

How much air do you put in the tires?

Automakers know exactly how much air pressure should be in the tires for each vehicle. Information on the tire sidewall is the tire's threshold, not accounting for pressure exerted by the weight of the vehicle.

If your car's coolant system is pressurized and you notice the overfill reservoir is low, when should you refill it?

Non-pressurized coolant systems allow you to open the overflow reservoir at any time, even if the engine is at operating temperature. In pressurized systems, opening the overflow reservoir when everything is hot can likely end in you being sprayed by scalding-hot coolant.

Which of the following isn't a benefit of waxing your car?

Waxing your car might be a little time consuming and require some effort, but the long-term benefits pay off big time.

Where is the cabin air filter located in most cars?

More modern cars have a cabin air filter, which you should switch out periodically, since it can help your interior smell better and reduce dust, pollen, etc. in the air.

How often should you rotate and balance your car's tires?

Rotating and balancing tires will help ensure they wear more evenly, extending their life so you don't have to buy new tires as often, saving money as a result.

How often should you inspect the CV axle boots on a car?

Damage to the CV boot can allow grease to leak out, as well as let dirt and moisture in, which can ruin the CV joint, meaning you must install a new one.

What happens if you put two different oil weights in your motor?

Engine oil is actually formulated quite carefully by highly skilled and trained teams of chemists, who know how the different formulas will fare in a range of conditions. Mixing those formulas together could have all kinds of consequences nobody can predict.

What's a device you can use to read diagnostic trouble codes on your car?

The OBD2 port in newer cars is often located in the dash on the driver's side, but sometimes is in the center console or another easy-to-reach place. This reader will help you diagnose at least some problems with your car.

If you leave brake dust on your wheels, what damage can it do?

Brake dust is difficult to remove if you just try to scrub it off while washing your car. You need a brake dust cleaner to break up the stuff, or you'll be scrubbing for hours.

You should change your car's air intake filter more often if you do which of the following with your car?

The filter in your car's air intake is designed to remove even small particles of dust and pollutants, otherwise they'll enter the engine and create carbon deposits that can be harmful.

How often should you check the differential fluid on your vehicle?

If you have a rear-, all-, or four-wheel-drive vehicle, staying on top of the differential fluid is essential. This is especially important if you venture into rugged territory regularly, putting extra strain on the differential.

What's a sure indication you need to change your brake pads?

Brakes sometimes will squeal for reasons other than the warning strip in the pads being exposed, so that's not always a clear indication. A brake thickness gauge is the only accurate way to see when the pads need to be swapped out.

Which of the following isn't a sign that your car's fuel lines are going bad?

Problems with fuel lines should always be treated with urgency, because they can result in a car fire, so don't delay fixing them.

If your hood or trunk has shocks that hold it up, but they don't keep it all the way up anymore, what should you do?

The shocks on your trunk, hood, or chassis just don't last forever. Once they've started failing, the only solution is to swap them out for new ones, and you'll enjoy perfect performance again.

Before winter strikes, what should you do with your washer fluid?

Washer fluid that's designed for the cold of winter has alcohol mixed in, dropping the freezing point to well below zero, which is essential if you don't want to run into problems.

How can you tell if a car fuse is blown?

Seeing the broken wire is a sure sign. Or you can invest in a fuse tester, which is a simple device that will confirm if a fuse is blown or not.

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