Basic Vehicle Maintenance Tips
Being stuck at home has made us all a bit more conscious of our cars’ condition, even if we’re not driving as much. A study by SimpleTire found that 65% of U.S. car owners performed maintenance on their vehicle during COVID-19. Are you among those ranks? If not, you should be! That’s why we’ve created this list of basic vehicle maintenance tips.
Most of the items on this list are easy to do at home, even if you don’t have much experience working on cars. By following this checklist, you can keep your vehicle in optimal shape and reduce the chances of needing to use your roadside assistance to bail you out of a jam.
Sure, you could take your car to the shop for an oil change, but why not do it yourself? It takes just a few minutes of work and could save you $30. All you need to do is drain the old oil and put it in a jug of fresh new stuff. This will keep your engine well lubricated, so you don’t face any major problems.
As for how often to change your oil, you should do it every 5,000 miles at a minimum. Your owner’s manual may have a different recommendation, though, so defer to that.
Keeping your battery clean isn’t just for aesthetics! Corrosion, which naturally builds up over time, can block the flow of electricity and prevent your car from starting. To get rid of this white or blue power, all you need to do is scrub it off with a wire brush.
In addition to keeping your battery spick and span, we also recommended testing its juice levels twice a year. Batteries don’t last forever; replace yours if it’s on its last legs. It’s better to replace it now, so you don’t end up stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Check your tire pressure every few weeks to make sure it’s still at the recommended inflation level. You should be able to find this information on the inside of the driver’s door or in your owner’s manual. Additionally, you’ll want to check the pressure any time your tire pressure sensor goes off or there’s been a cold night.
Keeping your tire pressure at the manufacturer-recommended PSI can improve your gas mileage by as much as 0.6%, according to the EPA. That equates to about $0.02 savings per gallon for no real effort.
Your car relies on a lot of different fluids to keep it running well. It’s a good idea to spot-check these every couple of months to make sure you’re not low on any of them. Some of the ones you’ll want to check include:
- Brake fluid
- Power steering fluid
- Radiator fluid
- Transmission fluid
- Windshield wiper fluid
Windshield wipers are essential for maintaining good visibility when it starts to rain or snow. That’s why you should change at the first sign of an issue. Don’t wait for them to be falling apart!
To stay on the safe side, we recommend checking your wipers at the end of every season to see how they’re faring. Look for any signs of damage or wear and tear, and replace accordingly.
Over time, your air filter collects a bunch of muck and prevents it from getting into your engine. If you leave it for too long, this might completely block airflow and cause inefficiencies. You’ll experience decreased fuel economy.
That’s why you should take a look at this filter at least once a year and replace it whenever it looks a little worse for the wear.
It’s always a good idea to check and make sure your brakes are still good. Usually, by the time you start hearing squealing or grinding, your brake pads are already destroyed and could be causing extra wear on the rotors. You can avoid doing more damage by changing out your brake pads before they’re fully exhausted.
If you let your brakes go, you put yourself and other drivers at risk on the road. And if you doubt your abilities to change your brakes on your own, this is one thing you might want to see a mechanic for instead of attempting a DIY.
Notice any cracks or chips in your windshield? Take care of these right away to prevent them from spreading. Generally, you can fix most cracks on your own, as long as they’re small enough, by using a repair kit.
If the crack has gotten too big, don’t worry! That’s why we offer our windshield repair plan. It gives you peace of mind that you can get a high-quality replacement no matter what happens.
Washing your car isn’t just about vanity. It’s also about removing damaging salts and other chemicals that can cause your vehicle to rust prematurely. Not only does a good wash protect your underbody, but it also can keep your paint job in great condition if you apply a good wax afterward.
Rotating your tires helps them to wear more evenly. While this might not sound like a big deal, driving on uneven tires can lead to drivetrain damage. If the tires are severely worn along the edge, they may even burst while you’re on the road, putting you in immediate danger.
You can avoid these dangers simply by rotating your tires around every so often. It’s generally recommended to switch the back tires to the opposite front side while moving the front tires straight back.
Have any broken headlights or taillights? Replace them on your own! You can follow the directions in your owner’s manual to accomplish this. Usually, you only need to pop the hood or trunk and maneuver until you can reach the bulb.
If your lights are just dim, you can also use a hack to make them brighter. Try cleaning the lenses with toothpaste to help remove dirt and grime and get them back to their original luster.