Car care tips for women

March 15, 2012 3:32:27 PM PDT
Gas prices nationally are up 31 cents a gallon from just a month ago and prices are expected to rise even more. On Wednesday, we helped you find some money saving gas apps on your smart phone and now we are helping you keep your car running well.

If you are looking for ways to save money on gas, having a well-maintained car will save you gas. And ladies, if you have no idea what to look for, then this story is for you.

"I've been around this my whole life so it's second nature," said Amy Milstead, owner of Milstead Automotive in Spring.

Milstead is one of seven kids and the only girl. Being around so many boys influenced her decision to help grow the family's automotive business her dad started 40 years ago.

"We were always kids here working in the business, I swept the floors, answered phones, a little bit of everything," Milstead said.

Now she gives back to ladies in the community by offering a car care clinic she calls Lipsticks and Dipsticks.

"We need to know we're not being taken advantage of. We need to know what we need to do so we're not coming in and spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars when frankly a lot of people don't have it these days to dump into their automobile," Milstead said.

So she is letting us in on one of her clinics. She says the first thing you want check when you open your hood is your oil.

"Ladies, this is your oil stick right here. This is your dipstick. You are going to want to check this; every car needs an oil change every 3,000 miles. This is going to be the maintenance of your car, this is going to be taking care of your baby. If you don't do a regular oil change, you will have to replace your engine soon enough," Milstead told the women at the clinic.

That's not cheap, so Milstead says check your oil frequently between changes and if your oil is low, add oil. No need to pay someone to do it for you.

"It tells you exactly what kind to add. Take the cap off and add some in," she explained.

Next, when you are checking your car, look at your belt.

"You've got one belt on most of your cars these days. You want to make sure your belt looks good because if it's frayed or broken, that's the heart of your engine; that runs your entire engine," Milstead said.

A shredded or broken belt means you need to replace it. If you don't know it needs to be replaced, that will eventually lead to more costly repairs.

If your car won't start, first check the battery and get your jumper cables.

"Positive on positive, negative on negative. Same for the other car. Red on red; black on black," she said. "If you put them on backwards, you're going to blow your battery out then you're going to have a whole lot more expense."

When it comes to tires, Milstead says grab a penny.

"Good way to tell if your tire needs to be replaced -- take a penny, put it upside down in there. If you can see Lincoln's head (on the penny), your tire needs to be replaced," she said.

Also, make sure those tires are rotated and balanced. That can also save you a lot of money.

"If your tires are not wearing right or it's got too much pressure in them, it's going to cause uneven wear to the tires and you're going to have to replace them more often," Milstead explained.

One last tip is that she recommends you find a reputable mechanic -- one that's ASC-certified or a AAA-approved repair shop.

As far as trying to diagnose your car problem yourself, she says you don't have to know exactly what is wrong with your car, but it helps to browse your owner's manual and do you research before you go in, even if it's just a quick Internet search.