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Auto: When to Replace These Seven Car Parts

Wouldn’t it be something if you could anticipate when your car is in need of repair? While there’s no blueprint out there that can provide you answers, one surefire way to stay on top of car maintenance is to keep track of your mileage and the age of your car parts.

With this knowledge, you can predict when you need to replace each part based on its life expectancy. You can even use smartphone apps like Road Trip or Car Minder Plus (or a good, old-fashioned spreadsheet) to keep track of maintenance and repair history, mileage and more. Here’s a rundown of how and when you should replace these seven car parts.

1. Tires

The replacement time for tires depends on a host of factors, including your annual mileage, style of driving and the alignment of your car. Still, in general, you’ll typically need to replace your tires every five to seven years. If you’re unsure about the age of your tires, locate the longtail code on one of your tires that begins with the letters “DOT,” followed by a series of 10-12 characters. This code, which is required by the U.S. Department of Transportation, will tell you several things, including:

· The week, year and place of manufacture

· Tire size

· Manufacturer’s unique code

2. Oil Filters

Depending on whom you ask, you may get five different answers to this seemingly straightforward question: How often should I replace my car’s oil filters? Experts suggest changing them out every other time you have your oil changed, although the industry standard is every 3,000 miles or three months (whichever comes first). Additionally, the frequency with which you change out your oil filter will depend on your vehicle type, so check your owner’s manual for maintenance recommendations.

3. Belts

If your engine has a timing belt, you can expect it to last between 60,000 and 100,000 miles, or roughly eight years. The serpentine belt delivers power to many parts of your car, such as the alternator, AC unit and power steering, and generally lasts up to 150,000 miles. Serpentine belts are easy to replace yourself. Simply rotate the tensioner, remove the old belt and replace it with a new one, and then release the tensioner.

4. Battery

A car battery will usually last between four and five years, but you can ensure it maintains a solid lifespan by examining it regularly for frayed or damaged cables, dirty terminals and other defects. If you live in a hot climate, your battery will most likely need to be replaced every three years. You’ll know it’s time to replace the battery when the car is slow to start or the battery light is on.

5. Air Filter

Although some mechanics will tell you your air filter needs to be replaced with every oil change, most manufacturers recommend replacing it every 15,000 to 30,000 miles. And this isn’t something you want to put off.

Case in point: If your filter gets overloaded, it could allow debris into your engine and cause extensive damage. You should inspect your air filter regularly to determine whether it needs to be replaced.

6. Brake Pads

How often you replace your brake pads will depend on the type of vehicle you drive, the brake type and the type of driving you do. A general rule of thumb is that you’ll need to replace brake pads every 30,000 to 70,000 miles, or every three to five years. Signs your car is due for new brake pads include hearing a squealing noise or clicking noise, your car pulling to one side and brake pedal vibration.

7. Lights

The usual lifespan for headlights is five to seven years unless you drive often on rough roads, in which case your lights may not last as long. Brake lights, turn signals and tail lights usually need to be replaced more frequently than headlights.

To ensure the headlights on your car are working, make sure to examine them on a regular basis. If multiple headlights go out at once, check the relay, fuse, wiring and switches, which may be the problem, rather than a faulty bulb.

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