Car maintenance checklist
There can be many signs your car needs repairs; your wiper blades may not be working properly, the steering wheel can be stuck in place, or you may need to replace the spark plugs. While some of these problems can be fixed easily by going to an auto parts store and completing the work yourself to save money, some are more serious and require an expert.
Every car has a different maintenance schedule. An owner's manual can be your best tool when assessing car maintenance. A car's routine maintenance schedule can suggest when your car should go into for an inspection, but visiting a mechanic regularly can help identify problems and prevent them later on. If your car is not functioning properly, you should visit a mechanic regardless of what the routine maintenance schedule may suggest.
To help we have compiled a vehicle maintenance checklist to help keep a well-maintained car and keep you on the road for longer!
Time for an inspection
One of the best things you can do for your car is to have it inspected by a certified mechanic, yearly. A yearly inspection can keep your car in check and prevent other damages and future problems from arising. Check the owner's manual to see when your vehicle needs to be inspected. Please note that some car manufacturers have gotten rid of the physical owner's manual for a digital version.
One of the best things you can do for your car is to have it inspected by a certified mechanic, yearly. A yearly inspection can keep your car in check and prevent other damages and future problems from arising.
There are certain car problems or maintenance issues that vehicle owners should not ignore and should take their cars into the shop immediately:
- Check Engine Light - When the light appears, it usually means there is a problem with the car's control system. Seeing this light should not send you into an immediate panic but it most certainly should not be ignored. A mechanic can take a look and discover what caused the problem. It is best not to reset it on your own without first discovering why the light went off in the first place.
- Tire Pressure Light - Your car's tire pressure monitoring system will alert you when the pressure is too low. A tire pressure gauge can be a helpful tool in figuring out your current tire pressure and how much air is needed to get to the proper levels. Driving with low pressure in your tires can not only result in dangerous driving conditions but also tickets from law enforcement. It's also important to check the pressure of your spare tire with a tire gauge to make sure it has the proper air pressure.
- Head & Tail Lights - When your car turns on, take a look at your lights to make sure none of them have blown a fuse or gone out. Have someone check to see if your brake lights are out as well. Not only is it dangerous to drive with a broken headlight, but it's also illegal.
It is sometimes best to stay ahead of potential vehicle problems by performing regular vehicle maintenance. Some of these tips should be used monthly, while others are for more long-term use and annual check-ups.
Check every month:
- Fluid levels - These are easy to check and should be done so monthly. Monitoring your fluid levels keeps your engine running smoothly and is an easy way to spot problems such as leaks.
- Car's Oil - Check to make sure your oil and coolant are at proper levels. The oil lubricates the engine parts and prevents friction and wear and tear. Check your owner's manual for the proper engine oil grade and weight.
- Coolant/Antifreeze - Your engine needs to cool before opening the radiator cap to check your coolant. Once your cap is at a good temperature, pour the radiator coolant/antifreeze into your radiator. Do this especially if you are going on a long trip. if the levels are suspiciously low, check for leaks in the coolant system.
- Windshield Wiper Fluid - Having a full tank of windshield wiper fluid keeps from obstructing your view and keeping you out of harm's way. If the windshield wipers do not have any fluid, all the windshield will do is push the mess around making it worse. Check the levels and fill up if needed. Never fill the wiper fluid with regular water.
Check every three months:
- Car Battery and Cables - Check to see that your battery is mounted properly and that the cables are fastened tight. If the battery is over three years old, do a battery performance check twice a year to make sure your battery is running properly.
- Transmission Fluid - If you have an automatic transmission, it's good to make sure your transmission fluid is checked regularly. Leave the engine running and add the fluid if your levels are low. If you have a manual transmission vehicle, change the fluid annually.
- Belts - It's good to check your timing belt and serpentine belt regularly, to make sure they are in good condition. If you notice any cracking, fraying, glazing, or if they are worn replace them immediately. The timing belt can cause serious damage to the engine if not properly tightened or in good condition.
- Engine Air Filter - The air filter should be a white color and if there's dirt and debris, replace the engine air filters. If you have been using the same filter for a year you should replace it, even if the air filter isn't dirty.
- Power Steering Fluid - Check the levels when the car is on. If the steering wheel is giving too much or not moving at all, fill up the fluid and your wheel should return to moving smoothly. If you need to fill the power steering fluid regularly, check for leaking fluid, and take your car in for an inspection.
Check every six months:
- Rotate Tires - Tire rotation is an important part of a vehicle's maintenance schedule as it can balance tread wear, help prevent noise, address vibration problems, and help extend the overall life of your tires. Check the vehicle owner's manual because some tires can not be rotated while others are encouraged to be rotated.
- Engine and Oil Filter - Taking your car in for an oil change can help determine problems you may not have been aware of, but many car owners choose to change their oil themselves to save time and money. If you choose to DIY your oil changes be sure to check the owner's manual to see the specific oil grade and weight. Also, if you use conventional motor oil as opposed to synthetic oil, then you should change the oil every 3 months. Also check the fuel filter, which cleans out dirt and rust from your fuel. A dirty filter can affect your car's fuel efficiency.
- Wiper Blades - It is good to replace wiper blades even if they do not appear to have any damage or wear and tear. Having clean and properly functioning wiper blades can make all the difference in preventing accidents.
Check every twelve months:
- Tread Depth - A tire can last around 6-10 years but it's important to check them annually, especially the tread depth. A good depth is around 10/32". To check the depth, insert a penny into your tire tread, if you can see Lincoln's head, that means your tread depth is at 2/32" and it's time to change your tires.
- Brakes - Having good brakes could mean life or death. Brakes are highly dependent on the driver and how they use them. If you experience any problems with your brake system, take it to a mechanic for a full brake inspection. They can look at your brake pads, brake pedal, brake linings and make sure you have the proper levels of brake fluid.
- Cabin Air Filter - People often mistake this with the engine air filter, but they are different components. The filter is located underneath the dashboard, usually by the glovebox and gets pollen and dust out of the air you breathe in the car. It's important to change this annually.
Check every two years and long term:
- Ignition System - Good quality spark plugs, plug wires, coils, and other electrical components can last up to 100,000 miles. It's good to have the spark plugs checked every 30,000 miles even though you can still get by with a dead plug or two. If you have difficultly starting your car, then it's time to get them replaced.
- Front and Rear Differential - Differentials are devices that split the torque from the engine and send power to the tires to propel the car. Every two years, you should take it to a service center for them to be properly lubricated.
Consistent maintenance keeps your vehicle on the road longer. It's always a best practice to make sure your vehicle's fluid levels are topped off, and your lights are all functioning. Plus if you follow our ultimate car maintenance checklist, then your car should remain in good condition. As always be sure to read the owner's manual for your specific car maintenance schedule so your car can run smoothly at all times.