UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Proper vehicle maintenance is extremely important for your safety and the safety of those around you. The old adage about preventive maintenance is particularly true with vehicle maintenance: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s better to pay $50 for an oil change today than $4000 for a new engine next year.
Proper maintenance can also affect your insurance rates. A safe, properly-maintained vehicle may have lower insurance rates. Auto insurance companies may also provide discounts to drivers who keep their vehicles in good condition.
Many drivers are surprised to learn that they should keep maintenance receipts and records. You should keep these records for your own bookkeeping purposes. However, you should also keep them to show your insurance company. Your insurance agent may be able to provide a lower rate if you prove you care about the safety of your vehicle.
Vehicle maintenance is obviously important. It leads to lower accident rates, reduced breakdowns, and cheaper insurance. What’s not to like? Below, you’ll find some of the best car maintenance tips you can implement today.
Car Maintenance Tips
Preventative maintenance is a valuable investment. By implementing the car maintenance tips below, you can significantly reduce the long-term ownership costs of your vehicle. You can avoid costly breakdowns in the future. You can also preserve the value of your car.
Change your Oil Every 4,000 Miles
Your car’s oil should be changed approximately every 4,000 miles (or as specified by your car manual). Some car manuals recommend oil changes every 3,000 miles, while others recommend them every 5,000 or 6,000 miles. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to change your oil every 3,000 to 4,000 miles.
Check All Fluids
Your engine relies on a number of different fluids to stay operational. A modern vehicle has fluids for brakes, power steering, transmission, trans-axle, windshield washing, and antifreeze. Check your owner’s manual to learn how to check these fluid levels in your vehicle. Or, take your car to a mechanic for a checkup.
Check your Tire Air Pressure Monthly
Tire pressure is extremely important. Your tires keep your vehicle on the road. Low tire pressure can indicate a serious problem – like a hole in your tire. Low tire pressure can increase the risk of a blowout and a serious accident. At the very least, low tire pressure reduces your fuel efficiency on the road. Check your car manual to determine the optimal tire pressure level. Then, use a pressure gauge to check the levels in your tires.
Check your Headlights, Brake Lights, Taillights, and Turn Signals
Have someone stand in front of your vehicle or behind it. Or, if you can’t find a friend, just drive up to a wall (or use the front of your garage). Check your headlights, high beams, signal lights, taillights, and brake lights to ensure they’re all working properly.
Replace your Windshield Wiper Blades Periodically
There’s no rule on when to replace windshield wiper blades since blades vary widely between brands and manufacturers. Generally speaking, however, you should replace your windshield wiper blades whenever they begin to streak, or if you notice cracking or tearing along the blades. Typically, you need new wiper blades approximately every 10 to 14 months.
Check your Battery
Your battery starts your car. It’s obviously an important part of your vehicle. Even a few specks of white residue on your battery posts can prevent your car from starting. You can check your battery visually simply by opening your hood.
If your battery needs to be cleaned, grab some corrosion-removal fluid, a wire brush, a rag, and a wrench. Some people even use Coca-Cola, although any auto parts store will sell fluid specifically for this purpose. Baking soda and water also work well (in fact, most corrosion-removal fluid is essentially just baking soda and water). Remove the battery terminals, then clean the posts with your wire brush and fluid.
Flush your Radiator
Your car’s radiator and cooling system need to be clean to work efficiently. Normal wear and tear causes deposits to build up around your radiator. This disrupts the cooling process. Flushing your radiator keeps everything running smoothly. Typically, a car manual will recommend flushing the radiator every 1 to 2 years.
You can flush your radiator at home. However, anything involving coolant is typically left for more experienced mechanics (temperature can be a dangerous issue).
Check your Brake Pads
Your brake pads need to be replaced around every 20,000 miles, although this can vary between vehicles. If you’re a city driver who does a lot of “stop and go” driving, then you’ll need to replace your brake pads more frequently than a driver who just does long highway road trips. If your brakes squeal, or if your brake pedal feels “off” when you step on it, then you may need to replace your brakes.
To check disc brakes on your vehicle, jack up your vehicle and remove a front wheel. Then, look at the brake disk (the rotor). Look for heavy rust, scoring, or uneven wear. Then, inspect your brake caliper. There should also be an inspection hole in the dust shield on the caliper. Peek through that hole to check your brake pads. If you see a thin pad (or worse, the metal pads underneath your pad), then it’s time for new brakes.
You can replace brake pads at home, although it’s a more advanced process than many of the maintenance tips listed here.
Check your Air Filter
Your air filters clean the air as it enters the cabin of your vehicle. Your air filters also clean air before reaching your engine. Check both air filters to ensure they’re clean. Replace filters that are clogged, dirty, or damaged.
Some experts recommend replacing your air filter every 12 months or 12,000 miles. You can replace an air filter at home in about 10 minutes or take it to a mechanic.
Check your Engine Belts
You don’t have to have any mechanic experience to check your car’s engine belt. Open the hood and inspect the engine belt. Look for any cracks or missing segments.
By following the tips above, you can save thousands in costly auto-repairs.
Additional Vehicle Maintenance and Insurance Information