8 Tips for
Maintaining Your Car
There are many benefits to performing regular
maintenance on your car, beyond just ensuring that it runs smoothly. Proactive
maintenance will save you money and frustration in the long run, by allowing
you to catch potentially expensive car troubles in the early stages. You’ll
also see savings at the gas pump, because routine maintenance will ensure
continued fuel efficiency. Keeping your car in good condition will also help
preserve its value, getting you the best return when you decide to trade it in
or sell it. Most importantly, taking good care of your vehicle will help keep
it running safely, potentially preventing dangerous accidents.
If you’re a new car owner, or not super
car-savvy, you might be wondering what routine car maintenance steps you should
be taking, and how often you need to worry about them. Here are eight simple
things you can do to maintain your car and keep it running and on the road for
1. Get to know your owner’s
Your owner’s manual is the complete guide to
keeping your vehicle well maintained based on its specific make and model. It
will tell you everything you need to know, from how often to change the oil to
which kind of gas you should be using. If you no longer have the physical copy,
or want a backup, you can often find car manuals online. Take a look at the
manufacturer's website, or search for it on google.
Your car’s manual will most likely offer two
maintenance schedules: ‘routine’ and ‘severe.’ If you’re a frequent driver and
put in a lot of miles, or live in an area with a lot of severe weather, it’s
best to follow the ‘severe’ option. Otherwise, the ‘routine’ schedule will work
for most drivers.
2. Keep track of your regular
Take notes about the last time you performed
routine maintenance on your vehicle, or took it in for service. Write down both
the date and the mileage. You can do this on your phone (such as in the notes
app), or download an app specifically designed for this purpose. Car Minder, for iOS, and aCar, for Android, are two good options.
3. Do a basic inspection of your
vehicle on a regular basis.
Even if you’re not a car expert, you can
easily detect if something seems amiss with your vehicle by doing a cursory
inspection on a regular basis. Check to make sure that:
- All of your lights are working.
- The glass, including windows and
windshield, are clean and free of chips and cracks.
- The tire pressure is adequate, and
your tire treads aren’t worn down.
- Your horn is working.
- Your hand break holds on an
- The seat belts are in working
- The windshield wiper blades don’t
- Check that there is no residue
around your car’s battery.
4. Keep an eye on your car’s fuel
While it’s always a financially savvy practice
to maximize your car’s fuel efficiency, keeping track of how much gas you’re
using can also reveal potential issues with your vehicle. A sudden change in
your car’s fuel economy could point to a number of issues, including:
- Poor wheel alignment
- A faulty fuel pump
- A dirty fuel filter
- Failing spark plugs
There are a number of gadgets on the market
you can use to track your fuel efficiency. These are easy to install, and are
compatible with any vehicle made after 1996. Alternatively, you could use an
app like Fuelly
to track your fuel consumption, or manually write down your mileage each time
you fill up.
5. In order to catch problems
early, don’t ignore warning signs.
Warning indicator lights are there for a
reason! Get to know what each one means, either by consulting your car’s manual
or an online resource. (Check out Mental Floss’s great guide to warning light symbols, which offers
some helpful mnemonics to remember which is which.)
If you notice something unusual while you’re
driving, pay attention to what your car is trying to tell you. Some common
indications are obvious (such as a screeching noise as you break, indicating
break trouble) while others can be more subtle (your steering wheel tugging in
one direction may indicate your alignment is off.)
Use common sense! If something about your car
feels different or wrong as you’re driving, it’s worth taking seriously.
6. Check your fluid levels and
replace them as needed.
The old saying used to be that a car’s oil
needed to be changed every 3,000 miles. Thankfully, car oil has improved over
the years, lengthening its lifespan to 7,000-10,000 miles. Newer cars can even
tell you when it’s time to change the oil.
Even so, it’s important to check your oil
levels periodically. In addition to your engine oil, you’ll want to also check
- Power steering fluid
- Brake fluid
- Windshield wiper fluid
Either use a dipstick to check the level, or
monitor based on “minimum/maximum” markings on the container, depending on the
fluid. If your oil or brake fluid has turned a murky color, it’s time to get it
7. Replace parts of your car when
they near the end of their lifespan.
Different parts of your vehicle need to be
replaced on a routine basis, usually measured in terms of years or mileage.
Some of the most frequently replaced car parts include:
- Windshield wiper blades (1-2
- Fuel filter (2 years)
- Brake pads (3-5 years)
- Car battery (4-5 years)
- Tires (5-6 years)
- Spark Plugs (30,000 miles)
8. Learn how to DIY car
maintenance – but know when to go to a professional.
If you’re not already familiar with the inner
workings of your car, ask a friend or relative who’s comfortable under the hood
to teach you the basics. Make sure you can recognize and name each part, and
understand its basic function.
Many routine part replacements can be done
yourself, and for far less money than taking the car in for service. For
example, replacing your windshield wiper blades is fairly straightforward, and
often the packaging of the new set of blades will include a diagram to show you
how. Changing your own oil can be messy, but isn’t too difficult. Even more
complex repairs, such as replacing your spark plugs, can be done yourself with
a little know-how. Check YouTube for videos that will walk you through the
Every now and then, though, you’ll still want
to take a car in for professional maintenance. When that’s the case, get
recommendations from people you trust, or ask your dealership for names they
recommend. Always get multiple quotes before spending money on a significant repair.
By following these simple tips, you should be
able to keep your car in proper working order. Investing time into regular
maintenance of your vehicle will save you the headache of breakdowns and
unnecessary costs for fuel and repair.