Car basics and maintanence for beginners

Like they say ‘prevention is better than cure’, good maintenance goes a long way to keep the vehicle far away from a repair shop.  Your car’s original user manual is your best friend here. If your car did not come with one, I would highly suggest to get on eBay or amazon and buy a used manual. You can also ask a friend if he has the same model car, or even ask the random friendly guy in the parking lot, if you think he has the same model car.

          In most cases basic maintenance is mostly visual inspection to make sure the fluids are at recommended level and there are no unusual leaks or noise from the car. Regular maintenance involves oil and oil filter change, air filter, tire rotation, cabin filter, changing out wiper blades and topping fluids. It is really important to keep an eye for anything that is unusual – For example if the steering shakes or wobbles , it could be am inexpensive thing such as tire pressure loss or a major thing like an axle on its way to going bad. So keep a look out for anything abnormal.


Car Basics:-

To explain the basics in one line, a car has an engine(or motor) , transmission and  wheels. Engine produces the rotational power that is eventually sent to the wheels. You can find thousands of website that describe all these things in extreme detail. Here I give the big picture so that if you are more curious you can dig further on your own.

1.) For the engine to rotate – it needs supplies: - Fuel and Oxygen (Air). Ofcourse the fuel does not drop from a pipe into the engine. The Fuel Intake system does the job. Older ones are called carburetors. Newer ones are called EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection or simply Injectors).  Here is a picture that summarizes the fuel system -

2.) The engine has moving parts – so it needs oil that is circulated by a pump. This oil lubricates, cools and collect debris in the oil filter. The picture below summarizes the lubrication system. The bottom of the engine is used as a reservior for oil. So when you drain oil you are most likely removing a drain nut at the bottom of the engine. The picture on the right shows different types of filters - both cannister and cartridge types used for the filtration.

3.) The engine burns fuel and produces lot of heat – so it has a cooling system that circulates a coolant by a  pump called as the ‘water pump'. Thank fully the heat is also used to heat the interior of the car during cold weather. Picture below shows the main parts of the cooling system.

4.) The burned air after combustion is send out on the exhaust system. The catalytic converter makes sure the waste gases are environmetally safe and meets emission norms. The O2 Sensor send readouts to the engine  computer (ECU) to make this happen. A muffler makes sure the engine sound is muffled.

5.) The engine needs sparks to fire its cylinders after the fuel is injected into it. This has to be timed accurately so that maximum power is generated. For this it has a ignition system. The sparks are made inside the engine by spark plugs.

6.) Because the ignition systems and lights and needs electricity, there is a battery inside the car to supply the current.

7.) The battery needs to be charged, so there is an electric generator (alternator)  connected to rotating part of the engine by a belt that rotates alternator and other things. In the picture below, the part with the smallest pulley and with air fins around it is the alternator.

8.) The 'other things' that the belt drives  may include power steering pump, water pump, alternator, a fan, AC compressor etc. This belt often called the 'serpentine' belt is made of rubber and can break, leading to the failure of cooling, charging, power steering and other functions.  So you see , how important this rubber belt is!


9.) The hydraulic system provides the assistance to your power steering to make your turns effortless. A power steering pump generates the necessary hydraulic power using “power steering fluid”. This hydraulic power is send to the steering rack(or gearbox)  to help you with the turns

10.)  Braking system provides the necessary braking to stop the car. They do this by forcing Brake pads to rub on a disk or drum attached to the wheels from the inside. The system uses the brake fluid as its choice of fluid to spread the braking power to all the wheels.

11.) To start the engine, it needs to be spinned by a little but powerful motor called as the “starter motor”.  The starter motor needs a lot of amperes of battery juice (CCA- Cold cranking amperes).  See example below of a starter motor and a battery rated at 900 CCA.

A bit of knowledge on cars , you will realize that the words highlighted are the most things that need to be taken care during maintanence and repair.