Maintenance of the routine car is mandatory in order to keep the car running properly. The following guidelines are the approximate intervals many car manufacturers suggest that auto maintenance services should be performed. However, always refer to the owner’s manual, dealer’s or authorized service professional for the specific service and intervals required.
Get to know your owner’s manual
Every vehicle has an owner’s manual, a thick book usually squirreled away in a glove box or another storage compartment. If you can’t find your copy, an electronic version may be available online. Otherwise, please contact your dealer for a copy. Head to the Maintenance Schedule section with the manual in hand. Take note of the intervals for maintenance items such as engine oil and filter, tire rotation, belts and hoses, and so on.
Check your tires every month
The only thing that separates your car from the road is its tires. They need to be properly inflated to do their job, as well as to reduce the chance of blowing. You probably know how to add some air to your tires. What you might not know is the correct tire pressure. You’ll find that information in a closet on the driver’s door jamb or in the owner’s manual. Inflate the tires when they are cold (driven less than 1 mile) for accurate reading, otherwise add 4 PSI to the recommended amount. Check your spare tires while you’re at it and confirm all the pressures with the tire gauge once the tires have rested.
Change your oil and oil filter
Oil is the life blood of your engine. It acts as a lubricant, keeping important engine parts from grinding against each other and destroying the engine. Motor oil not regularly changed can also damage your engine as accumulated contaminants cause friction, rubbing parts together.
Inspect all other liquids
Motor oil is not the only fluid to be checked. Your car’s got brake and transmission fluids, coolant, and washer fluid. Like motor oil, you’re going to check the transmission fluid with a dipstick. Determine the level of brake fluid, coolant and washer fluid by removing the related covers and visually inspecting each. By the way, never remove the radiator cap to check the coolant — you’re at risk of getting scalded. Check the level in the nearby transparent refill container instead.
Check your battery and clean the contacts
Most of the batteries these days don’t require a lot of maintenance, but you should know where they are and check them to make sure they’re not leaking and there’s no mineral or other build-up to the contacts. If there is one, clean it with a brush to clean the battery. It’s going to set you back a couple of bucks at any auto parts or department store. Buy one of them and keep it in the trunk. Consider buying a cheap battery tester or jump starter while you’re at it. You’re never going to have to call someone or wait for AAA (or a friendly passer-by) to give you a jump.
Examine belts and hoses
If you want to go one step beyond the basic routine maintenance of the vehicle, inspect the hoses and belts in the engine bay. These hoses provide direct coolant flow to ensure that the engine does not overheat. If the hose is separated or shows cracks or bulges, replace the hose. Also, check the belts, too. The timing belt, as found in most of the cars and small SUVs, is critical to the operation of your engine. If this belt shows signs of wear, including cracking, glazing, and material loss (chunks missing from the belt itself), replace it.
Replace your windshield wipers when the view is streaky
It may seem stupid, but I’ve known a few people who just ignored their wipers until they were replaced as part of a bigger job. Wipers are cheap and easy to replace. Don’t wait until you can barely see it through your windshield. Your visibility is important, and you wouldn’t wait until you saw an optometrist clean your glasses, would you? While you’re at it, let your windshield clean inside and out — if it’s hard to see, the problem may be inside, not outside.
Change your spark plugs
If your spark plugs are worn out or under construction, your engine doesn’t work efficiently. It can cost you fuel money for one thing, but it can also lead to a breakdown. It may sound daunting, but in some cases it’s not that difficult to check and replace them. If you don’t feel like doing it yourself (or it’s a big and complicated job for your vehicle), follow your manual recommendation and change it regularly — for most standard copper spark plugs and vehicles, that’s about 30,000 miles (but again, it’s different — some iridium plugs can last up to 100,000 miles).
Replace your cabin air filter
Replacement of a cabin air filter is probably one of the easiest things you can do to keep your car comfortable. Most of the vehicles make the cabin air filter easily accessible, and replacing it is as easy as opening a box. You can get a fitting filter from any auto parts store. It may not be critical to the operation of your car, but it’s easy, it makes the ride more enjoyable, and it’s a repair that you’ll never have to pay someone else to do.
These are just a few things that every vehicle needs, and almost all of them are things that you can do yourself. We can’t stress enough the importance of checking your owner’s manual for anything we’ve missed here, or anything specific to your vehicle. If you don’t have a manual, you can find it online quite easily.
By Jon ‘ShakataGaNai’ Davis, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3177569
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