How to maintain your engine

December 26, 2013

1. Break in your new engine

Mazda MZR 2.3L DISI turbo engine

Despite all the advancements in the automotive technology, a new engine still needs to be broken in. When the engine is assembled at the plant, the new engine parts are pretty tight. The idea is to let the moving parts wear gently against each other, without overheating or scoring. Generally, it means not to overload your engine for the first 500-1000 miles; check your owner's manual for break-in recommendations.

2. Have your oil changes done regularly

Well maintained vs sludged-up engine

Your engine will last longer if you change your oil regularly. All moving parts inside your engine are lubricated by oil. With mileage, engine oil gradually deteriorates, contaminates and loses its lubricating qualities. Without regular oil changes, your engine will eventually sludge up and wear faster. By changing your oil before it degrades, your engine remains clean and well lubricated.

3. Know how to check your oil level and condition

Checking engine oil

As you drive, some amount of oil is normally consumed by your engine and the oil level gradually drops. Your engine wears faster if it's low on oil. When you have a spare minute, check your oil level.

4. Your owner's manual has all the information you need

Owners manual: map of the engine compartment

Your owner's manual has the map of the engine compartment with simple instructions how to check the oil level in your car.

5. Top up if it's low, change if it's dirty

Oil dipstick

These are the example how your car's engine oil dipstick may look like. If the oil level is low, top it up using the same oil type as you already have in your engine. If your oil looks too dirty, see when your next oil change is due.

6. Keep your engine from overheating

Engine temperature

Overheating the engine could cause many expensive problems. A severely-overheated engine might even need to be replaced. If you notice the engine temperature creeping up higher than normal, have your cooling system checked out. In most cars, the normal engine operating temperature is somewhere around the middle between 'Cold' and 'Hot'.

7. Keep engine coolant (antifreeze) level topped up

Engine coolant level

Your engine cooling system is filled with special liquid antifreeze or coolant. Over time, some coolant may leak or evaporate. Low coolant level is one of the most common reasons for your engine to overheat. Have your coolant level checked at every oil change. Typically the coolant level can be checked by looking at the overflow tank. If it's low, have it topped up; your dealer always have the recommended coolant type. If you planning to do it yourself, be careful, as the cooling system is under pressure when the engine is hot! Check your owner's manual for the proper procedure to check or add coolant and for safety precautions.

8. If your "Check Engine" light stays on, have your car checked

Check engine symbol

If the "CHECK ENGINE" or engine symbol stays on or flashes with the engine running, have your car checked out. This warning lights comes on when your car computer system detects a fault with the emission control system. Sometimes it could be something simple like a loose gas tank cap, but it also could be caused by some engine problem that can get worse over time. Read more: What can cause the "CHECK ENGINE" light to come on.