February 3rd, 2016 by Eli P
Failing to do timely auto maintenance not only decreases your car’s lifespan by a factor of tens of thousands of miles, it can make you more likely to get into an accident when driving. Often, car owners put off maintenance because they think it is too time consuming, or they simply forget they have not performed routine maintenance in a while. By breaking down routine vehicle maintenance into simple checks to be performed monthly, seasonally, and annually, you can streamline vehicle maintenance, stay safe and even save money.
Monthly Vehicle Maintenance Tasks
In 10 minutes a month, you can perform a baseline maintenance check for your car. If you are handy, you may be able to take care of these quick repairs yourself; if not, have a mechanic attend to these items, instead. Here’s what to check during monthly maintenance scans:
- Headlights — Turn on your car’s headlights, get out of the car and walk around the vehicle. Test turn signal lights and taillights, too. Replace burned-out bulbs to see clearly at night and reduce your risk of getting pulled over.
- Fluid reservoirs — Open the hood latch and check the brake fluid, power steering fluid, automatic transmission fluid, windshield wiper fluid, and coolant levels. As long as fluid falls between the minimum and maximum lines, you are safe. If fluid is low, pick up fluid at a local automotive shop and top levels off, or take a quick trip to the mechanic.
- Check tires — Check the tire treads and air pressure. Top off air pressure since low tires pose a safety hazard; make note of tire wear and tear in order to budget for new tires.
- Clean the car — Make a habit of dusting the interior, removing garbage from the car and cleaning the windows. This keeps your car’s interior looking great year-round.
Seasonal (every three months or 3,000 miles) Vehicle Maintenance Tasks
Seasonal maintenance makes sure your car is ready for the demands of the season and runs smoothly. If you are a high-mileage driver, you may need to perform these quick checks more often:
- Check vehicle battery — Check your car’s battery terminals for a chalky white substance, which indicates corrosion. You can clean corrosion using a stiff bristled wire brush, thereby improving your battery’s performance.
- Inspect belts and hoses — Open the hood and visually inspect your car’s belts and hoses. If belts show signs of age — such as cracks, frays or a brittle feeling — they may need replacement. If hoses are brittle, cracked or feel spongy to the touch, they should be replaced for safety.
- Request anoil change — Have your car’s oil and oil filter changed by a mechanic, or do it yourself.
- Check air filter — Check your vehicle’s air filter. If it is soiled, replace it; if it looks good, you may leave it in place.
- Tighten tire lug nuts — Walk around your car with a lug nut wrench and tighten all the lug nuts on your vehicle to keep tires secure.
- Inspect brakes — If your brakes are seriously worn, you will hear squealing or grinding sounds. However, it’s a good idea to check brakes before they get that bad, since worn brake pads will damage rotors. To check pads, remove the car wheel and measure brake pads using a compass. New brake pads are a 1/2-inch wide; pads should be replaced when they are worn down to 1/8-inch wide. Every six months, check the brakes when driving at highway speed and neighborhood speed. In both cases, the brakes should smoothly slow the car. Pulsing indicates brake wear and means brake rotors need replacement.
- Check spark plugs — Use a flashlight to check spark plugs for physical damage, corrosion or scorch marks. An ohmmeter can help you test the spark plug wire resistance. As long as resistance is in the range recommended in your vehicle owner’s manual, spark plugs are good. Testing spark plugs is an advanced car maintenance task, so you may prefer to leave it to the pros.
- Replace windshield wiper blades — Wiper blades generally need replacement twice a year. If they show signs of aging (such as tears or holes) or leave the windshield streaky when used, they are overdue for replacement. This is a quick DIY task that even beginners can tackle with the right windshield wiper replacement kit.
- Clean and wax the car — To protect the body from weather damage, wash and wax your car at least twice a year. If you’re disinclined to do this yourself, have the car detailed to preserve the lifespan of your upholstery and auto body.
Annual Vehicle Maintenance Tasks
Once a year (or every 12,000 miles) tackle these auto maintenance tasks:
- Check the fuel pressure regulator — Using a fuel pressure gauge, test the fuel pressure regulator to make sure its PSI is within the range stated in your owner’s manual. If the gauge reading is more than 5 PSI off from the range recommended, have the regulator serviced.
- Replace brake pads — If you have not already replaced your car’s brake pads, do it at this time.
- Install new spark plugs — If you have not already had the spark plugs installed, take care of this now.
- Flush the radiator — Yearly, flush the car radiator when the car is cool to the touch. You may do this yourself following the instructions in your owner’s manual or have your auto mechanic do this.
- Inspect the timing belt — As in earlier belt inspections, look for visible wear and tear to the belt: such as slack, stiffness or cracks. Replace a worn belt.
- Replace the air filter — If you did not replace the air filter earlier, do so now. This is a 10-minute beginner DIY fix.
- Apply lubrication to the chassis — Squeaking or popping sounds indicate the car chassis needs lubrication. If you don’t mind getting dirty, apply lubrication yourself using a grease gun, chassis grease and aerosol lubricant; otherwise, have the mechanic take care of this.
- Read the owner’s manual — Last but certainly not least, review your vehicle owner’s manual once a year to refresh your memory on manufacturer recommendations for your vehicle. Where your car’s manufacturer makes different vehicle recommendations (for example, oil changes every 5,000 miles instead of 3,000) you may follow those recommendations instead of those listed above. Your manual should recommend your car’s baseline needs, which you can then follow.
By breaking down vehicle maintenance like this, you can divide it into manageable tasks. Every time you work on your car, you will build skills and increase confidence. Even if you opt to have all maintenance work done by a pro, the time spent checking your car’s basic systems will help you be more familiar with your car’s normal operation and sounds. This way, you will quickly note when something seems off and will save thousands of dollars by fixing the problem before issues get worse.
Author Bio: Kimberly Quinones VP of Sales Midwest:
As Vice President of Sales in the Midwest, Kim oversees all aspects of the sales and service programs for Illinois Vehicle Auto Insurance. With her many years in the industry, Kim knows what happens when car owners stop performing vehicle maintenance activities.