Top priority items in car maintenance

What you need to know:

Drivers know that car maintenance is important. Nonetheless, it is tricky deciding which vehicle components should receive priority attention. While some car maintenance projects can be put off, the items discussed here should always receive immediate attention.

More than 90 percent of cars in Uganda are bought used, which makes them susceptible to a number of mechanical issues. I know a colleague who was planning to buy a used car and had to set aside a budget for repairs after the purchase.

Drivers know that car maintenance is important. Nonetheless, it is tricky deciding which vehicle components should receive priority attention. While some car maintenance projects can be put off, the engine, transmission, suspension and finally the body should always receive immediate attention.


The engine is the heart of a car. Without it, your car is just another metal box by the roadside. The purpose of a car engine is to convert fuel into motion so that your car can move. As a matter of fact, the engine is the most complex of systems, with many sub systems such as the cooling system, fuel system, electric system, exhaust system and lubrication system, among others.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the engine is one of the most robust parts, yet very sensitive and can go on for years abused but shall still do the job or in just one day have issues that shall keep you at the garage for a long time. It is imperative that any used car buyer makes sure that the engine is in good shape.

Things such as sound, fluid leaks, timing belt, exhaust smoke and mechanical inspection probably with a mechanic shall go a long way in determining whether an engine is sound.

Mileage should never be a determinant of engine condition, as very often you shall find a car with higher mileage having a much better engine.

Besides, mileage odometers are always tampered with so you are better off matching the general condition of the car to the odometer reading.


Although it is one area that many car buyers never seem to look at, transmission is important.  Furthermore, most of us drive automatic cars and these transmissions are some of the most complicated and thus some of the less reliable parts of the car.

The repair of an automatic transmission is complex and tends to be quite expensive. The transmission should be able to run smoothly and in relative silence. Any sort of whiny or grinding noise that seems to be coming from under the car is a severe cause for concern. Imagine having a car where you cannot engage the gear, or the gears simply do not change. Think about how it is universally true that gearbox problems, when they start, forever neverstop.


In third place is the suspension. Your car’s suspension system is an intricate network of liaising (usually, anyway) parts designed to give you a smooth, even, stable ride. The suspension is the part that keeps your car’s body connected to the wheels. Since the suspension is ground zero when it comes to poor roads, the parts wear out, and even break. If your car does not seem to ride like it used to, you may have a problem down below.

The above three are mechanical matters, which are usually coupled with distinct sounds and sensations that are key indicators that something is not functioning the way it was designed to. Long before their problems have reached the point of no return, they will show you signs that there is trouble


The body is the first thing we see when looking at a car. However, this should be your least concern when in the market for a used car. Naturally, because you have always wanted that car, all the other more important factors are ignored.

Just remember that however attractive your car looks, when the above three are not in sound working condition, sooner or later the car will become more of an aggravating and frustrating liability than an object of pride.    

Using technology

According to, performing basic car maintenance is now easier than ever before. There are now various technologies that can make it a lot easier for you. Here are some apps you can use to track vehicle maintenance.

aCar: A popular Android car maintenance tracker, aCar comes with easy-to-fill up records of your vehicle’s maintenance, repair, and mileage histories. Custom notifications are made available in addition to the preset notification settings.

AutoCare: This application available on Android and iOS gives you the ability to track your car’s repair and maintenance history, fuel mileage, and a whole lot more. It even has notifications for work that needs to be completed on your vehicle.

Car maintenance reminder: This free Android app tracks your fuel mileage as well as fuel cost and efficiency. It also has a tracker for all the repairs and maintenance that you have already done on your car as well as those that you still intend to perform.

Car Minder Plus: An iOS app, the Car Minder Plus is perfect for seamless monitoring of actions performed on your oil filters, drive belts, engine oils, and air filters as these already come as presets. You can also enter and manage your own maintenance records for a more customized touch.

Road Trip: Available on iOS, Road Trip tracks fuel mileage as well as maintenance history, maintenance costs, and reminders for future vehicle-related activities. There is a tyre log, too, giving you an idea of the tread wear on your tyres.

Oil change
A regular oil change is another vital part of car maintenance. 

The old rule of thumb of three months or 3,000 miles is outdated. 

More common guidelines for modern vehicles are 5,000 or perhaps even 10,000 miles. 

The best place to find data on oil change frequency is the owner’s manual.


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