Maintaining your car is a very important step that every car owner must follow to increase the life of their car and make it look brand new well into the future. If you follow your maintenance schedule and never ignore it, your car should always be in good working order.
Perform weekly and monthly inspections and maintenance on your car to help it last longer. When you stick to a routine, your car will look and feel like new for years to come. You'll have fewer problems and better performance.
I've was able to buy a truck over ten years ago. I have followed a regular maintenance routine and everything has gone well so far. I now have over 100,000 miles and feel glad I have kept up the maintenance and inspections with my truck.
1. Check your Air Filter
Many car problems are due to faulty air filters attached to them and the wear caused by them. You should get your filters changed every 12 months or after 12000 miles, whichever comes first. Don't ignore this maintenance as it could lead to problems with your AC and help you breath clean air in your car.
You can get the filter replaced at your mechanic away in the comfort of your garage in just 10 minutes. By doing it yourself, you can save the trip to the mechanic and also money. Here is how you can do it yourself:
- Locate your filter, which is situated under the hood of the car. (There may also be one inside the car cabin, sometimes behind the glove box.) It may look like a black rectangular box, which has metal clips inside it. You should see it as soon as you pop the hood. If you don't find it there, then check the owner's manual for assistance.
- After locating it remove the casing and see how the filter fits inside. It is important to note the directions of the filter. Make a note of the direction and remove it.
- After removing it, insert the new filter the same direction as the old one. it should fit exactly the same way as the old filter, perfectly fitting into place.
- Now close the metal clips or fastener after you are done. Now you have changed the air filter.
You can also clean out the debris from a newer filter if there seems to be low air flow. Use compressed air or a brush to remove any debris. This will improve the life of the filter and make it last longer. If the filter is dirty throughout, it's time to replace.
2. Inspect Fluids and Tire Pressure Regularly
This is something, which you shouldn't ignore or delay. These are the main areas to check on your car regularly. Making it a habit to check these can save you lots of money. You can make this a part of your weekly routine. You never know when a leak could occur. This should take about 10 minutes.
If your car has a sealed transmission with no dip stick, you can skip this step. While your car is running, warmed up, on level ground, and in park, you can open the hood and check the transmission fluid level.
Pull up the dip stick, clean it with a cloth or paper towel, and replace the dip stick. Next, pull the dip stick again and look for the hot level line. The transmission oil should be up to the line. If you see brownish fluid, it's time to replace it. It should be pinkish.
Next, shut off the car and wait until the engine has cooled down (30 minutes usually) and pull up the oil dipstick. Using a white cloth or paper towel to wipe off the oil, will ensure you can see the oil color, so you know it's still good. The color should be yellowish, possibly a little darker, but not brown or black.
Clean the stick thoroughly and put it back. Now when you pull it out again and you will notice the oil should reach all the way to the full line. Some cars have a hot and cold temperature line. If it's at the line for the correct temperature then everything is correct. If the oil is too high or low, go to an oil service center to get it checked out.
This is a good time to check your power steering fluid level as well. Check the hoses and belts for any signs of wear.
Many people have had their car battery run out when they need it the most. You may have faced a situation that left you stranded on the road, maybe at nights and the only lights you have is your cell phone. It isn't a pretty situation, is it?
To avoid situations like this don't ignore your low battery indicator on the dashboard and get the battery checked (Amazon Link) regularly or DIY. (YouTube Video) Also, check for leakage or any mineral build up around it. Clean it with a battery cleaning brush (Amazon Link) and do this whenever necessary.
4. Change your Spark Plugs
Get them replaced if needed or at regular intervals. They can last up to 60,000 miles but may only last 20,000 miles depending on type; see the owner's manual and spark plug specifications for an accurate idea of mileage.
If you decide to DIY, remove old spark plugs and replace them with the correct model. You can check the thread length on the old and new plugs to see if they match. Check the gap (Amazon Link) on the old and new ones to see if they are the same.
Hand tighten the new spark plugs into place and either turn the amount indicated on the packaging with a wrench or tighten using a torque wrench to the correct torque amount. (See Chart for more information)
5. Get your Tires Rotated and Balanced
This is the easiest trick in the book to prevent wearing of tires and make them last longer. The trick is to get them rotated once every 5,000-8,000 miles. Tires do not wear at the same amount in each location on the car. So by rotating the front and rear tires, you balance the wear and extend the life of your tires.
Ensure that the tires of your car are balanced and aligned as well. Non-aligned tires can wear tires and may cause you to lose control of your car in certain conditions.
If you'd like to do a DIY (do it yourself) tire rotation, ensure you have the proper tools and a torque wrench (Amazon Link) to make sure the lugs nuts are tightened to the correct foot pound torque in your owners manual. Do you have the jacks you need? (Amazon Link)
6. Clean your Windshields and Replace the Wipers
The dirty windshield can prove to be a lot of hassle if they are not cleaned regularly and might cause accidents too. It is very important for the driver to have a clear view of the road to ensure safety while driving. If you don't clean them, the dirt can be accumulated and this can cause blurred views and possible scratched glass.
If the rainy season is approaching, check your wipers and get them replaced whenever needed. Using damaged wipers can cause scratches to the glass and blur your view in the rain. Replacing your wipers ensures your safety.
Tip - I go to Costco and buy the Michelin wiper for fairly cheap. All sizes are the same price, although they may not be premium wipers, they get the job done.
7. Inspect and Replace Serpentine Belts
Thoroughly inspect your serpentine belts for fraying or cracks. If these belts fail, they can cause damage to the other part of your engine, creating a large repair bill.
Serpentine belts can be fairly easy to replace yourself by using a tensioner belt tool (Amazon Link) and getting the correct belt type.
It is recommended to get it checked every 60,000 miles. Take a look at the owner's manual for guidance for your specific car.
8. Ensure the Working of the Cooling System
The hoses, which carry the engine coolant can damage very quickly as they transport high-pressure fluids, which can break if the pressure is too high. Also, the heater hoses face the same problem as they carry hot coolant to the passenger compartment.
The best way to achieve an efficiently working AC is to check the parts regularly. And how do you do this? Inspect the fan, the compressor, the condenser, the hoses, and lines.
If you don't see any cuts or leaks, the parts are moving freely, and your AC blows cold air, then your probably fine. If you suspect a problem the smart choice would be to inspect the AC system and get help when needed.
9. Check your Brakes
You may have seen a movie or two where a car's brakes fail, leading to a crash. We don't actually think this might happen to us, but people take risks every day when they ignore warning signs from their brakes.
An effective braking system will stop your car efficiently, without any problems. Good brakes will ensure your safety and help you have more control.
The first thing to do is easy, check your brake fluid. Open the hood and look for the brake fluid reservoir. There should be lines indicating low and high levels.
If you notice the color is a little too dark then that's a sign you may need to change the fluid. If the color is dark black, this indicates that the fluid is bad and should replace the fluid as soon as possible.
To make sure your car brakes are working well, you should get them inspected at least every six months. If you notice a noise coming from your brakes, get them checked right away. This is usually the safety indicator on the brake pads, letting you know the brakes pads need replacing.
Be aware that when replacing your brakes, you'll need to either replace the rotors or have them resurfaced. Replacing the rotors is sometimes cheaper and safer, so decide what is best for you.
Last, if your pulling a trailer, getting a brake controller for your car or truck will help get the trailer under control and stop quicker.
10. Keep it Covered
This may seem like a mundane task, but it has a major impact on maintaining your car. Whether you use a garage, carport, or a car cover, keeping your car out of elements can help save you a ton of money.
You'll like need to get a car wash less frequently and there will be less sun damage over time to painted and rubber surfaces. All the parts of your car surface will be better protected.
11. Drive Better
The way you drive impacts your car. If you drive too aggressively, then your car will likely wear out faster and there's a higher chance of mechanical damage to your car. By driving defensively and calmly, you not only ensure less wear and tear on your car and you'll save on fuel costs.
If you have a habit of taking off quickly and applying brakes suddenly, then this can cause wear on your car. Always drive at the speed limit and avoid sudden stops. Avoid using your phone or anything else which might distract you and take your eyes off the road.
12. Exterior Engine Cleaning
Maintaining all your engine fluids is important, but what about the exterior of your engine? Does it need to be maintained as well?
At a minimum, it's important to inspect the engine for debris or anything that should be there. One time a worker from Jiffy Lube showed me a coat hanger wire and said it was laying on top of the engine. A mechanic must have used it and forgot to take it out.
While you don't need to dismantle anything, it's a good idea to take a minute to see if everything looks normal. If you do want to clean the engine, there are some options to choose from.
This link can show you different engine cleaners available on the market designed specifically for exterior engine cleaning. Do not use damaging equipment like a wire brush or a pressure washer (maybe if you're extra careful) as these can harm the engine and damage components.
If you are buying a used car, you can look at the engine number or car vin number, you can know the date, model, specifications, etc. of the car or engine, because most engines was engraved some specific numbers by dot peen marking machine for identification traceability
13. Carry Automotive Tools at all Times
A helpful tip for maintaining your car is to have the tools you'll likely with you during common car problems. Equipped with the right tools you can solve the problem yourself instead of waiting for someone to assist.
Some things to keep in your car are a when your car breaks down are a flashlight, jumper cables, tire sealant, a tool set, a multimeter, Gorilla Tape, gloves, a telescoping mirror, a knife, and rope.
With these tools, you can diagnose problems and possibly temporarily fix your car. Of course, if your car is stuck on the side of the road for other reasons, it's good to have all other accessories for emergency situations, like a seat belt cutter with window hammer tool for use after a car crash.
Then you can go home or to the mechanic and repair any problems. Try not to postpone any repair because things can get worse and that may increase the amount spent on repairs. The best remedy is to inspect the problem, temporarily repair if safe to do so and fix as soon as possible.
14. Protect Your Headlights
Always keep an eye on your headlights because they will keep you safe while driving at night. It can be extremely dangerous and cause harm to others if you drive at night with limited visibility. Replace or repair your headlights and check the headlight lens for clarity.
If you need to remove the haze from your headlight, try a restoration kit (Amazon Link) to help your light stay their brightest. If you're replacing the headlight bulb, take your time to find out the best method. Some cars are very easy, while others may take some time and tools.
15. Protect the Interior of your Car
We spend a lot of time in our cars now and having a worn out interior is just not comfortable anymore. You will always find smudges on the windows and scratches on the dashboard.
The best way to maintain the interior is to do a quick clean whenever you get out of your car. Keep a cleaning spray, and an extra rag of cloth handy and your car will always be clean and brand new.
In today's world, we live in our cars. So it only seems logical to maintain it as we spend most of our day there. Road trips can prove to be a lot more fun if your car is up to speed and gives you good performance.
Maintenance not only involves checking your lights and the oil but whole new aspects as mentioned above. You don't need to always rush to the mechanic as you can do some minor inspection and repair in the comfort of your garage. The above mentioned are some of the tips, which you can follow to improve the efficiency of your car and also make it last longer.
Should I keep a fire extinguisher in my car?
It can be helpful to have a fire extinguisher in your car for certain situations. Although you should not use it during a car fire. Get yourself and passengers at least 100 feet away during a car fire and call 911.