By: Scott Siegel

You may not know that your car may not be running as efficiently as it should. If your car is not running at its optimum then you are loosing fuel economy and money. If you invest just a few minutes a month you can prevent that loss.

Many problems with your car can be corrected or identified with some simple things you can do on a regular basis. Not only will you be saving gas by keeping your car running at its optimum, you may also be heading off costly repair bills.

More important than either of these is that you will be keeping your car as safe as it can be. You may prevent a critical failure that could result in an accident.

Generally it is suggested that most maintenance should be left to the professionals. But once each month you can do the following to identify problems that can cost you money and gas down the road: (excuse the pun!)

1. Check tire pressure and look for signs of uneven wear or embedded objects that can cause air leaks. In winter, check tire pressure whenever there is a sharp change in temperature.

2. Check for leaks in any of the fluid systems. Observe the area around the car. Observe the area under the car around the engine. If you notice some fluid then you need to see where it is coming from. One way to identify the fluid is by its color. Transmission fluid is usually pink, fluid from the cooling system is a bright yellowish green color, and brake fluids and power steering fluids are almost clear, but have a slight tinge of brown. Oil is the easiest to identify as it is black. All of these fluids are all oily to the touch. In the summer you may see water from condensation from the air conditioning. This is normal and does not indicate a problem.

3. Check the level of your fluids. This would entail the engine oil, the engine coolant, the transmission fluid and the power steering fluid. Make sure you top off any that are low. Check with the owner's manual to make sure you are doing this properly.

4. Check under the hood for cracked or split spark plug wires, cracked radiator hoses or loose clamps and corrosion around the battery terminals.

5. Check the brakes. Identifying brake problems can be done with this procedure. Find a flat and straight road that is traffic-free. Put your hands very lightly on the steering wheel. At a slow speed, put on the brakes gradually. If the car swerves to either to the right or to the left, it is an indication that your brakes need work. It could indicate uneven wear or that your brakes simply need adjustment. Don't wait, get this taken care of as soon as possible.

6. A similar test as performed to test the brakes can be done to test your wheel alignment. Again this needs to be done on a straight, flat and traffic-free road. Rest your hands very lightly on the steering wheel and drive the car forward at a constant but slow speed. If you feel the vehicle pulling to the right or the left, it is a good indication of poor wheel alignment.

These are just a few basic checks you can perform on your car monthly. By doing this you will keep your car running at its peak performance. If your car is running at its best, it will save you gas, money and will keep you safe!

Scott Siegel is the author of a 143 page book of automotive industry insider information on saving gas and money at the pump (beatthegaspump.com). Visit us to discover how you can get better gas mileage. Find out how to increase gas mileage.