Customer at car maintenance shop.

Top 14 Car Maintenance Tips

Updated February 1, 2021 . AmFam Team

Proactive car maintenance is easy and can help you extend the life of your car, save on gas and make driving safer. Take a look at simple ways you can make sure your car stays in top condition and keep it performing at its best.

Your vehicle transports you from point A to point B and everywhere in between — and taking care of it is key to keeping your adventures going. That’s why understanding the best ways to maintain your car can be so important. Let’s take a look at some key car maintenance tips to help your ride stay in great shape, so it's performing at its best.

Preventative Maintenance for Your Vehicle 

One of the best car maintenance tips we can offer you: get regular, preventative maintenance work done before you have any problems. Not only does this help increase your car's life, but it’ll also help you avoid spending your hard-earned money on expensive repairs down the road. 

Your owner’s manual is a go-to reference for how to take care of your specific vehicle type, but the below checklist highlights common tips for maintaining a car that everyone can follow.

1. Maintain your car by checking brake and windshield fluids

Keeping your car in shape is all about continued monitoring and replenishing of fluids that diminish over time. From inspecting your brake fluid to filling up your windshield washing reservoir, you can help keep your brakes operational and your windows clean by just verifying fluids are at topped off.

2. Check the oil

Oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle’s engine — it’s what lubricates the engine so that friction and heat produce less wear. Without oil, your engine would quickly be ruined. Proper car maintenance requires oil to be changed about every 3,0000 miles to ensure the engine is being properly lubricated. Checking your oil level is something you can easily do on your own about once a month or every time you fill up your gas tank.

To assess your car’s oil, pull out the oil dipstick, wipe it clean with a rag, stick it back in, then pull up again to determine the oil level and color. You’ll know to add oil if the dipstick is close to the add indicator. Take a look at your owner’s manual for the type of oil you need, since not all oils work for all makes.

3. Inspect coolant and transmission fluid levels 

Since you’re checking the oil, go ahead and give some TLC to the coolant, power steering, windshield washer and automatic transmission fluids as well. Consult your owner's manual for details on how to check these key fluids. These simple general car maintenance tips can impact your vehicle’s performance and reliability. 

4. Get regular oil change changes 

Another routine service for your vehicle is to get its oil completely changed. This is different than simply checking your oil since it requires draining the old oil and changing the filter.

How do you know when you need an oil change? A good rule of thumb is to get an oil change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, or whatever is recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. You can schedule an appointment for a professional to change it, or you can buy the oil and filter at an auto parts store and change it yourself if you're handy that way. 

Maintain Your Car’s Tires & Brakes

Because your tires are always in contact with the road, they not only wear down over time, but can also loose air pressure while you’re out and about. Keeping your tires inflated properly is an easy way to prevent a blowout on the highway. And by staying aware of how your brakes are performing, you’ll have a better idea of when something’s wrong.

1. Check the brakes 

Think about replacing your car’s brake pads every 25,000 – 50,000 miles, depending on how you drive. You’ll also want to check the brake fluid to make sure it isn’t a dark black color, since this indicates brake system issues. Getting your brake fluid changed about every two years helps protect your car's hydraulic components from corroding and can help prevent brake failure. 

2. Check air pressure in the tires 

Keep your ride smooth and safe by setting up a proper car maintenance schedule for checking the air pressure in your tires at least once a month with a tire pressure gauge. How do you find the correct air pressure for your tires? Your car manual of course! Or it should be on a sticker attached to your door edge, fuel door, glove box or door post. If you've got pressure sensing valve stems, keep on the lookout for low pressure tire warnings on your dashboard.

3. Rotate your tires 

Tire rotation is more important than you think. Since the weight on the front and rear axles differ, your tires will wear unevenly. Rotating your tires is one of the easiest basic car maintenance tips to prevent uneven wearing of tires and make them last longer. How often should you rotate your tires? Experts recommend every six months or 6,000 to 8,000 miles. 

4. Change your tires 

There will come a point when rotating your tires just won’t be enough for proper car maintenance, and you’ll need to get new tires. A good way to reduce the likelihood you’ll have to fix a flat tire is by replacing them somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 miles — depending on tire quality and the terrain you travel. Experts often say you should buy all four at the same time because their matching traction is safer. And all wheel drive vehicles may suffer costly transmission differential issues when wear between tires is significant enough.   

Keep Up With General Car Maintenance

There’s a lot you can do to help keep your car safe. Try downloading a free car maintenance app (Opens in a new tab) like Carfax Car Care or Drivvo to help you remember to do routine maintenance on your ride. The schedule is set specifically to the maintenance schedule recommended per your car’s make and model.

If safety recalls are issued, you can program the app to notify you about high priority safety issues and recalls, which can help keep you and your passengers safe. Maintenance details are uploaded to your car’s online record, too. Here are some other easy ways to take care of your car:

1. Check the air filter 

One easy car engine maintenance tip is to periodically replace the air filter. The air filter in your vehicle is responsible for cleaning the air as it enters the engine compartment and helps ensure that harmful debris doesn’t make it through.

The more miles you add to your vehicle, the more that air filter becomes clogged with debris, which could damage internal components and even reduce fuel efficiency. It depends on your vehicle, but usually you’ll want to get a new air filter every 12 months to 12,000 miles — whichever comes first. Your car's air filter is something you can typically swap out on your own. 

2. Replace your windshield wipers 

Another consideration to add to your proper car maintenance schedule is the replacing of windshield wipers. On average, you should get new wiper blades after six months to a year of use, depending on their quality. You can change the blades or inserts yourself, but make sure to do your research on the size your specific car needs. Note that the wiper packaging should walk you through what to do. 

3. Check the timing belt 

One old car maintenance tip is to check the timing belt as the car ages. However, not all vehicles have timing belts. But if yours does, it’s critical to its health. There aren’t any obvious signs your timing belt needs replacing, so manufacturers recommend you have it changed between 60,000 and 100,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual or call your mechanic to find out if you have one and when you should have it changed. 

4. Assess exterior lights 

Another smart addition to our car maintenance tips and tricks is to check in on the exterior lights of your car. Grab a friend and check each other’s parking brake lights, high- and low-beam lights (and fog lights if you have them) every few months. Depending on your car’s model, you might find it easy to change these lights in just a few seconds. 

5. Replace the car battery 

Colder weather causes batteries to lose their strength. If you want to ensure good car maintenance, replace your battery once it loses capacity. An average battery lasts 5-7 years. Read your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations for your vehicle. Quick tip — many auto parts stores will test your battery for free! While you’re there, be sure to pick up items for your car’s emergency kit so you’re ready for the unexpected.

6. Inspect your car’s windshield carefully

Damage to your windshield can occur without much notice at first. When you’re traveling at high speeds on the highway, airborne pebbles can cause small cracks in the windshield which are hard to spot. Do your best to inspect the windshield carefully on a regular basis for signs of damage — and have repaired made as you find them. Our Safelite glass repair program can get your windows looking like new in no time.

Use a Professional When Needed

Many of these maintenance tips and tricks are easy and can save you a lot of money on service fees. But remember that it’s just as important to know when not to do it yourself. For non-mechanically inclined owners, get your ride into the shop every three months or so — or as often as your manufacturer’s maintenance schedule recommends. 

If you’re more hands-on and experienced with car maintenance, do yourself a favor and take the time to get under the hood for routine car care. Go the extra mile and protect your finances from expensive repairs with our ForeverCar Vehicle Service Plan (Opens in a new tab). It can really help you with extended warranty protection up to 225,000 miles.

Protect Your Car with Great Insurance 

Your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) is always ready to keep you moving forward. Contact them to find out more about how Emergency Roadside Assistance can make for smoother travels. And don’t forget — one of the best ways to protect your ride is excellent auto insurance. Get a quote today. 

Looking for more ways to keep your car on the right path? We have all the car repair and maintenance advice you need in one easy-to-find location. Take a look!

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