Car Maintenance – What to Check and When to Check It

Routine maintenance is essential as a vehicle owner to ensure that a car continues to function correctly over the course of owning the vehicle. Maintenance can also lower the cost of future repair expenses, which over time can add up to a lot of savings.

Start with the vehicle owner’s manual

The recommended maintenance for the make and model of vehicle you own will be summarized in the owner’s manual. There may be recommendations unique to your car for changing the timing belts, filters, drive belts, or oil outlined in the manual. It could be hazardous to the long-term health of the vehicle if the wrong type of oil or fuel is used, and the warranty could even be voided. 

Perform a basic inspection

Routinely take time to look at your vehicle to ensure that nothing is out of place. Monitor the tire air pressure monthly and ensure there is adequate tread on your tires. A penny can be helpful for this, but be sure to be wary of any signs of wear on the treads of tires. Do not ignore a warning sign if anything seems unusual.  

Check the fluids

Vehicle owners should be aware of how to check levels of coolant, power steering, wiper fluid, and antifreeze. Also, it is critical to remember to never disregard a leak. If you find that your vehicle is low on any particular fluid, you can add more or have someone add it for you.

Inspect and have belts changed

Your owner’s manual will outline recommendations for how often the timing and serpentine belts will need replacing. Consult with your mechanic regarding how often to change your belts and use that information along with the recommendation in your owner’s manual.

Monitor and change the oil

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It is important as a vehicle owner to know how to check the level of the oil. This can be done manually with a dipstick or some vehicles may have an electronic gauge. Variations in oil color can be a key indicator if there are engine issues, for instance, there may be an issue if the oil is muddy or murky. The owner's manual will note the frequency for how often the oil should be changed, and this can differ from one vehicle to another.

Check and clean the area surrounding the battery

Fortunately, many modern batteries do not need a great deal of maintenance, but they should still be kept clean and inspected to ensure there is no leakage or buildup. An inexpensive brush can be used to clean the battery and can be found at an automotive supply store.

Invest in new windshield wipers

Visibility should be prioritized, and it is important to replace windshield wipers when the view becomes difficult to see out of. A clear view of the inside and out can contribute to safer driving; wipers are simple and inexpensive to install on your own, and the interior can be wiped with a cloth.

Install a new air filter

The simplest way to ensure that a vehicle stays comfortable is with a new air. Air filters are often straightforward to install. The cabin air filter is usually easy to reach, and a filter that fits your car can be purchased at any automotive shop. It is often a smart decision as a vehicle owner to perform the replacement and saving labor cost.

Change the engine air filter

It is also essential to regularly change the engine air filter, but based on your vehicle it could be more difficult to access the engine air filter. Consult your owner’s manual to find out the mileage estimation for how often the manufacturer recommends changing the engine air filter. If you can access it, check the condition and change it if has accumulated too much dirt. People who drive more often or for long distances (specifically in heavy traffic) may need to change their engine air filter more frequently than others who do not use their vehicles much.

Rotate, rebalance tires and check alignment

Different vehicles will have unique recommendations for rotating and rebalancing tires and checking the vehicle alignment as described in the owner’s manual. These checks can extend the life of your tires and can contribute to a smoother drive overall by causing the tires to wear in an even manner. Tires can last considerably longer if they are balanced and rotated, which can save expenses in the long run. Fortunately, poor alignment of any vehicle can be fixed somewhat easily.

Replace spark plugs

The vehicle engine cannot operate in an efficient manner if the spark plugs are dirty or worn out. This could result in higher costs on fuel and could even cause a breakdown. For some vehicles, it is simple to replace and check spark plugs on your own. However, your mechanic would also be happy to replace them for you, and you can find out how often they should be changed in your owner’s manual. Many average copper spark plugs should be changed at 30,000 miles, but other types of spark plugs such as iridium plugs don’t need to be changed until they are 100,000 miles old.

Monitor for open recalls regularly

Occasionally, faulty equipment may require replacement instead of maintenance. Vehicle owners should be proactive and check for open recalls on the make and model of their vehicle regularly, in addition to monitoring physical wear and tear they can see. For instance, the recent Takata airbag recall has affected more than 3.3 million vehicles.

A good example of this is an airbag recall that happened recently. Instead of doing what an airbag is supposed to, often the airbags will explode and injure or kill the driver and passenger of the car.  Make sure to check that your car isn’t on the Takata airbag recall list by using a VIN search tool.

While it is essential to consult your vehicle owner’s manual for maintenance information specific to your car, a regular maintenance routine is important to keep up with. Many of these items are services you can even perform on your own.

John Henry
 

I am John Henry and I have begun to work in automotive industry since the 90s, specializing in car rebuilding and repair. After nearly two decades of working in this complex section, with extensive experience in repairing, troubleshooting and maintaining thousands of cars, I started to work as an auto blogger to share my practical knowledge as well as skills with car owners all around the world through a wide range of articles in online magazine.

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