You rely on your car to get to work, run errands, and generally manage your busy life. This can all be derailed in an instant if your vehicle breaks down. While wear and tear is par for the course when you own and operate an automobile, you can do a lot to prevent potential problems, or at least catch and repair them early, when you practice proper maintenance. Here's your essential guide to vehicle maintenance and upkeep.
Fluids and Filters
Most of your engine parts are designed to last for years without repair or replacement. Fluids and filters, however, need to be checked and changed frequently. To be honest, you should be checking oil and coolant levels on your own between scheduled maintenance visits to make sure you're not running low. Checking once a month when you fill your gas tank is a good rule of thumb.
As for professional checkups, these are typically performed every 3 months or 3,000 miles for older vehicles, or up to 5,000-10,000 miles for newer vehicles. Your oil and oil filter get filthy and require frequent replacement, and this is a good time to top off or replace other fluids and check filters. If you fail to keep up with this basic maintenance, performance will start to wane and you could end up with major problems like engine parts that wear prematurely or warp due to overheating, or even a seized engine.
When you check your oil once a month, you should also take a moment to check tire pressure and the depth of your tire treads. Proper air pressure helps to improve gas mileage and prevent blowouts, and regular checking helps you to catch leaks. Tracking tread depth ensures you know when it's time for rotation or new tires. Your mechanic will check pressure and wear during regular service appointments and rotate tires as needed or recommend replacement.
Most drivers don't pay much attention to windshield wipers until they stop performing as they should, and chances are, you won't notice until you're in a downpour and you really need them. For safety's sake, you should change them out annually. It's an inexpensive update that could save you from an accident.
While the checklist for vehicle maintenance in the long-term is extensive, your mechanic will manage most concerns, provided you schedule regular maintenance. The last thing most drivers should be aware of is electrical components like lights, including headlights, tail lights, and signals.
Once a month, take the time to turn on your engine and check all the lights (with the help of another person), to ensure that your signals, brake lights, reverse lights, and parking lights are all functioning properly. If there's a problem, contact your mechanic immediately, since functioning lights are legally required for safety on the roadways.