Whether your car is your pride and joy, or simply a way to get where you need to go, it’s important to take good care of it. Here’s our top list of car maintenance to-dos.
So, why does vehicle maintenance matter?
For starters, it will extend the life of your vehicle. Driving a car produces wear and tear on every part, bumper to bumper, from tires to batteries to timing belts and so on. It can even make your car more efficient and help you improve your vehicle’s fuel mileage.
Staying on top of maintenance will also keep you and your precious cargo (aka, your passengers) safe and healthy; neglecting to maintain your vehicle properly could lead to a dangerous accident.
It also protects your wallet: Preventative maintenance will help you avoid costly repairs. Consider that it’s much cheaper to get a routine oil change than to replace an entire engine.
Creating a Maintenance Schedule & Checklist
It’s a good idea to create a written schedule for yourself to adhere to. That way, you’ll always know what you need to do and when (and you’ll have a handy way to double check you’ve completed certain maintenance tasks in the past, along with completion dates). You can easily do this and store it in your glove compartment, where it’s always accessible, or you can even create a schedule in your phone (in fact, there are multiple apps for that!).
So, where to start? Checking your owner’s manual is a great first stop in creating an auto maintenance schedule and checklist. Here’s a list of general maintenance tasks, along with recommendations for when your vehicle may need them to be completed.
What to do: Get your oil changed.
How often: You should get your oil changed on a brand new car at the 500-mile mark (this helps rid the engine of “new car” debris that enters during the car’s break-in period). Thereafter, make sure to schedule this service every 3,000 miles.
Why it’s important: Motor oil helps the engine run: It lubricates and prevents the engine from overheating. As the oil does its job, it gets full of gunk that can limit engine efficiency and ultimately stop it from working altogether.
What to do: Get your tires rotated and your wheels balanced and aligned.
How often: You should do this every 6,000 to 8,000 miles.
Why it’s important: Rotating your tires ensures that all four tires wear at the same rate, and balancing and alignment makes sure the vehicle doesn’t bump or wobble as you drive. This improves your fuel efficiency, as well.
What to do: Clean and test your battery.
How often: About once a year.
Why it’s important: Here in the Valley of the Sun, car batteries get zapped by the intense heat and only last a couple of years. You can keep tabs on your battery life (and minimize the risk of getting stranded in 110 degree heat) when you check the water and clean the terminals.
What to do: Replace your windshield wipers.
How often: Every 6 to 12 months.
Why it’s important: Here in Phoenix, we don’t often think about our windshield wipers and don[‘t give them a lot of use. But the rubber on the wiper blades can get dried out and cracked here, especially if you frequently park outside. This, along with their infrequent use, causes them to not adhere to the windshield as well, so they don’t work as effectively.
What to do: Get belts replaced.
How often: Timing belts should be changed every 50,000 to 60,000 miles. Serpentine belts (also called accessory drive belts and V-belts) and other belt changes depend on the vehicle make and model.
Why it’s important: Over time, belts get cracked, frayed, or experience other wear that might cause the belt to slip or otherwise not work properly, which prevents your car from working as it should.
What to do: Replace filters, including your air filter, cabin air filter, and fuel filter.
How often: Each type of filter needs to be replaced at different intervals. The air filter should be replaced every 30,000 to 40,000 miles. The cabin air filter should be replaced every 15,000 to 20,000 miles. Your fuel filter should be replaced every 20,000 to 40,000 miles. Your vehicle’s manufacturer should specify ideal mileage for changes.
Why it’s important: Each of these filters remove dust, debris, and other pollutants and contaminants from the air to keep your car running the way it should. As they do their job, the filters collect their fair share of dirt and contaminants, making them less effective over time.
What to do: Have your transmission fluid checked.
How often: Some vehicles must have the fluid changed every 30,000 miles, while others don’t until the 100,000-mile mark. If you accelerate hard when you drive, you should be sure to check the fluid more frequently.
Why it’s important: The transmission is the part that makes sure the right amount of power is distributed to your wheels at a given speed, and it does this by shifting gears. Not having enough fluid can cause you to lose fuel economy, and if your transmission gets so bad that it needs to be repaired or replaced it can be the single most expensive part in your vehicle.
What to do: Replace spark plugs.
How often: Typically every 30,000 miles.
Why it’s important: Spark plugs have the major responsibility for starting your car, and they face a lot of wear and tear and other issues caused by extreme temps, as well as outside contaminants.
Now that you know how to keep your vehicle in top shape, think about some preventative maintenance for your driving skills. We specialize in teaching you and helping you perfect the defensive driving skills you need, so you can stay safe on the road. Check out our driving courses now.