Regular car maintenance is a vital aspect of car ownership. Most drivers know they’re supposed to get an oil change every few thousand miles or replace their tires when they wear out. Following a preventative maintenance schedule can help keep your car running longer. Additionally, regular maintenance of your car is usually required for insurance coverage.
Each manufacturer provides car owners with recommended maintenance schedules. You can find your maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual of your vehicle. This schedule will detail what maintenance services are recommended by your manufacturer at specific mileage milestones. While you should check your owner’s manual for the specific needs of your vehicle, we’ve put together a quick checklist of routine services vehicles need to run smoothly. .
Your engine’s air filter allows air to flow into your engine while also protecting it from dirt and debris. As you drive, the air filter catches debris from the air. Over time this debris builds up and begins blocking the filter, making it more difficult for air to get through to your engine. A blocked air filter leads to a lower performance from your engine and decreased gas mileage. Most manufacturers recommend changing your air filter every 15,000 to 30,000 miles. For drivers in a dusty environment, you may need to change the air filter more often.
Coolant is a mixture of water and antifreeze that is used to keep your radiator cool when driving. If you run out of coolant or it becomes contaminated with dirt your engine may overheat. An overheated engine can cause serious damage to your vehicle. Every couple of months you should pop the hood of your car to take a look at the coolant level. It’s best to check the coolant when the engine is cool and not running. Debris builds up in coolant over time and needs to be replaced, even if levels aren’t low. It’s generally recommended that your coolant be replaced and the entire cooling system by flushed by a mechanic every 60,000 miles.
Your vehicle’s tires play one of the most important parts in keeping your vehicle running safely. Tires with worn tread or low pressure can lead to dangerous driving conditions. Worn treads make it difficult for the tires to grip the road. This can lead to sliding or difficulty braking as your tires can’t grab hold of the road’s surface. Low tire pressure can cause friction in the tire, increasing your chance of a blowout. You can help avoid these issues by checking your tires often. Many drivers check their tire pressure every month. Your tire tread can be monitored simply by running a hand over each tire before getting in the driver’s seat. You should be able to feel a deep groove between each tread.
In addition to checking for tire tread and pressure, you should have your tires rotated every six months or 6,000 to 8,000 miles. This will help the tires wear evenly so you can avoid wearing out one tire sooner than the others. The lifespan of your tires can vary greatly based on the quality of tire and road surface, but most tires need to be replaced between 25,000 and 50,000 miles.
Vehicle Lights and Signals
Checking your car’s lights and signals is an easy, quick way to help avoid accidents. Lights can be checked once a month or as often as you like. Before driving, check that your headlights, taillights and brake lights work properly by engaging each of them. Turn on your hazard flashers and each turn signal individually to make sure you can signal to other drivers. If you find a light has gone out, be sure to replace it as soon as possible.
Oil Level and Filter
Oil changes are what probably comes to mind when you think about regular car maintenance. Your car’s engine oil serves a wide range of purposes and is vital to keep your car running. As you drive, debris and dirt wind up in the oil and the oil level decreases. This debris shouldn’t hurt if you regularly refill or replace your oil, but too much debris or low oil levels can cause major damage to your engine. Depending on the type of oil you use, you may need to replace your oil and oil filter as frequently as every three months or 3,000 miles. Most modern cars use synthetic oil that can be changed less frequently between 5,000 and 10,000 miles. Check with your mechanic or owner’s manual to get recommendations specific to your vehicle.
Much like engine oil, transmission fluid helps keep your car’s transmission lubricated and running smoothly. When transmission fluid is low or clogged with debris, your car will have a difficult time shifting gears and can burn up the transmission. Transmission replacements are costly, so it’s best to keep an eye on your transmission fluid and have it replaced before it causes issues. Good transmission fluid is a light pink color and smells sweet, while transmission fluid that needs to be replaced may have a dark red tint or smell burnt.
Check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to check the fluid in your vehicle. Often your mechanic will check the transmission fluid as a part of other regular maintenance, such as an oil change. Most cars will display the “check engine” light if the fluid has been contaminated or the level is too low. If this happens, make an appointment with your mechanic to replace the fluid. It’s important to note that trucks or SUVs that are used for towing, such as a trailer or boat, may need to have their transmission fluid replaced more often.
Many different factors contribute to brake pad wear. A person who drives mostly on the highway to get to work may use their brakes less often than someone who commutes through several stoplights. Due to the differences between cars and drivers, knowing when to have your brakes checked is more important than following a mileage milestone. You should have your brakes checked if you notice it takes longer to engage the brakes when pressing down the pedal. You may also notice a longer stopping time or that your vehicle shakes when braking. Additionally, squeaking, grinding or screeching brakes probably need to be inspected or replaced.
Why Regular Car Maintenance is Important
The biggest reason to perform routine car maintenance is safety. A regularly maintained car is safer for you, your passengers and the drivers around you. Additionally, proper maintenance helps your car last longer that a car that does not receive regular maintenance. Most drivers, however, do not realize that regular maintenance can help reduce the potential for an accident which affects their insurance premiums.
As a car owner, keeping your car in good condition is your responsibility. Even with great car insruance coverage, you want to do everything you can to help avoid being in an accident. You can greatly reduce your chances of causing an accident and hurting someone by completing regular checkups and routine maintenance on your vehicle. In addition to being safer on the road, you’ll enjoy lower insurance premiums as you are less likely to be in an accident due to proper maintenance.