If there’s one thing you don’t want to slack off on, it’s car maintenance. No car can run well for long without proper maintenance, but if you’re not a car person, the thought of maintaining your own car can be intimidating.
Never fear. There are plenty of car maintenance chores you can do on your own, and if you need help with some of them, that’s what mechanics are for! Knowing when to get your fluids, belts, and filters changed and how to do some basic maintenance tasks like monitoring your tire tread or changing your windshield wipers can keep your car running well for a long time.
Get Your Routine Maintenance
Routine maintenance for cars include oil changes every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. Every 30,000 miles or so, it’s going to need more comprehensive service that can include things like checking and replacing belts; flushing the transmission, brakes, or power steering; checking hoses and coolant; and inspecting the HVAC system, brake pads, and suspension system.
The older your car, the more maintenance it will need at these regular service visits. Check your owner’s manual to find out what your car needs at what intervals. Take those lists with you when you take your car to the dealership, so they can’t upsell you on services you don’t need.
Clean the Battery Every Six Months, and Replace It Every Five Years
A corroded battery doesn’t work properly – the layer of corrosion on the terminals can get thick enough to stop the electrical signal from traveling. A corroded battery can also crack or wear out faster. Get a battery terminal cleaner and clean your battery every six months. Use a wire battery terminal brush or AC tools like an air blower. Buy a new battery every four or five years.
Monitor Your Tire Pressure and Tread
If your tires aren’t inflated to the right pressure, your gas mileage could suffer and your tires could wear out faster. It’s also not safe to drive on underinflated tires. Most modern cars will sound an alert when the tires aren’t properly inflated, but make sure you know how much air should be in your tires (hint: check the owner’s manual) and check your tire pressure once a month with a tire gauge. You should also use the penny test to check your tire tread once a month.
Get Your Brakes Checked Every Six Months
Brake pads don’t need to be replaced that often – usually every 30,000 to 70,000 miles – but you should still get your brake pads checked every six months to make sure they’re still thick enough. If you’re hearing squealing every time you hit the brakes, or your brakes aren’t working as well as they once did, it’s probably time to replace the pads.
Check Your Coolant Twice a Year
While you only need to flush your car’s coolant every three to five years or 30,000 miles, you should check coolant levels every six months – preferably at the beginning of spring and then again at the beginning of autumn.
Check Your Oil When You Get Gas
Every time you get gas, check your oil. Problems with the oil could signal a leak in your engine or blown head gaskets. Make sure your oil is relatively clean, that it’s between the min and max lines on the dipstick, and that it doesn’t look milky.
Examine Your Windshield Wipers Every Season
Windshield wipers might not seem that important, but a worn or broken windshield wiper can scratch or break your windshield. Not to mention, it’s also unsafe to drive when you can’t see because it’s raining and your windshield wipers don’t work that well. At the beginning of every season, inspect your windshield wipers for signs of wear. If your windshield wipers look cracked or broken or they’re squeaking a lot or they’re not working very well, it’s probably time to replace them.
Pay Attention to Changes
A change with your car can indicate a new problem that has cropped up, and with car problems, it’s usually cheaper to address them right away than it is to put them off – and putting them off won’t fix them, anyway.
Pay attention to any new leaks, smells, or noises your car is making. Even if a new weird noise only happens above a certain speed or when you make a left turn, it could be a sign that your car needs to be repaired. Pay attention to any alerts that come up on your dashboard, too – a yellow light indicates that your car needs service soon, while a red light indicates that you need to stop driving your car.
Who doesn’t want to keep their car running as long as possible, and save money on repairs, too? Take good care of your car, and it will take good care of you.