Car Maintenance Tips

Your guide to a safer ride.


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 basic car maintenance is so important. Let’s take a look at simple ways you can make sure your car stays in top condition and keep it performing at its best.

Preventative Maintenance for Your Vehicle

One of the best things you can do for your vehicle is to perform regular preventative maintenance. Not only does this help increase its life, but it’ll also help you avoid spending 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 guidelines everyone can follow to help maintain their vehicle.

Check the oil. Oil is the essence of your vehicle’s engine — it’s what lubricates the engine so that friction and heat produce less wear. Without it, your engine would quickly be ruined. Checking oil helps ensure the engine is being properly lubricated. It’s 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 assess the oil level and color. You’ll know to add oil if the dipstick is close to the add indicator. Check your vehicle manual for the type of oil you need, since not all oils work for all makes.

Check all fluids. 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. These are all important factors that affect your vehicles efficiency and reliability.

Get an oil change. 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, if you know how, you can buy the oil and filter at an auto parts store and change it yourself.

Check the brakes. Typically, you should replace 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 the fluid needs to be replaced. Getting your brake fluid changed about every two years protects the hydraulic components from corroding and ultimately causing brake failure.

Check air pressure in the tires. Keep your ride smooth and safe by 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.

Rotate tires. Tire rotation is more important than you think. Since the weight on the front and rear axles differ, your tires wear unevenly. Rotating your tires is one of the easiest ways to prevent 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.

Change your tires. There will come a point when rotating your tires just won’t do the trick, and for your safety and the safety of others, 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 their quality and the terrain you travel. Experts often say you should buy all four at the same time because their matching traction is safer.

Check 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 your air filter becomes clogged with debris, which could damage internal components and 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. This is something you can replace on your own.

Replacing 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. Tip: The wiper packaging should walk you through what to do.

Timing belt. 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 to find out if you have one and when you should have it changed.

Assess exterior lights. Grab a friend and check each other’s parking brake, 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.

Replace the car battery. Colder weather causes batteries to lose their strength. 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!

Many of these maintenance tips are simple to DIY 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.

Your American Family Insurance agent 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 proper auto insurance. Get a quote today.


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Related Topics: On The Road , Car Maintenance