Some Car-Care Advice From a Pro: Be Sure to Read the Directions

BELOW are some auto-maintenance recommendations from Pat Lazarro, spokesperson for Firestone Tire and Service Center's Women's Education Program:

* Use your car's owner's manual. Written in easy-to-understand language, this informative guide helps car owners with basic maintenance information like how to check the oil, tire pressure, engine coolant, washer fluid, power steering fluid, and more.

``Americans have a real bad tendency of not reading the directions, for whatever reason, and owners' manuals fall into that [category,]'' Ms. Lazzaro says.

* Do preventive maintenance on your car. All it takes is 10 minutes or so each month, says Lazzaro: ``You check all the fluids underneath the hood of your car. You check the air pressure in your tires, and perform good basic preventive maintenance,'' she says.

In fact, maintaining engine-fluid levels and making appropriate filter changes would avoid 80 percent of engine problems, Lazzaro notes.

* Stick to the maintenance schedule set out in the owner's manual. In every owner's manual is a schedule of maintenance items of what needs to be done and when.

``A lot of people don't realize,'' Lazzaro says, ``that if they are not adhering to that maintenance schedule and their car is under warranty, their warranty isn't valid anymore.''

* Change the oil every 3,000 miles or three months. Always change the oil filter along with the oil.

* Check your tire pressure at least once a month. Refer to your owner's manual for proper inflation levels. Rotate tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. Check wheel alignment every 10,000 miles or at least once a year.

* For Firestone's free guide on car maintenance and tire care, call 1-800-934-7378.

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