Most people are at least familiar with things like oil changes or checking the air filter, but do you know about the rest of the maintenance that keeps a vehicle healthy?
The best way to prevent issues is to follow a basic car maintenance checklist to help you through.
Types of Car Maintenance Checklists
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There are two different types of maintenance schedules. One is for regular maintenance and the other for severe maintenance.
Severe Maintenance Might Be Necessary If…
If these are normal for you, your vehicle likely needs severe maintenance. Although you may need oil changes more frequently, you’ll have fewer serious issues later.
- Shorter commutes
- Heavy loads that include many passengers or regularly towing trailers
- Frequent rough and bumpy roads
- Environments that are primarily salty (like the coast) or dusty (like the desert)
- You live somewhere with extreme temperatures
- Your car is frequently exposed to high humidity
- Regular stop and go traffic
Regular Maintenance is Best for You If…
If your vehicle has a predictable driving routine with these conditions, then you’re on track for regular maintenance.
- Longer commutes, generally over 5 miles
- Minimal loads, including passengers
- Traveling on smooth roads
- Moderate climates with steady temperatures
- Low humidity environments
- Lack of frequent stop and go traffic
Top 5 Items on Your Basic Car Maintenance Checklist
If you follow this list, you’ll cover basic car maintenance, but keep in mind that this list is not all-inclusive. Consult your owner’s manual to make sure you don’t miss anything.
1. Check your tires.
Check inflation first because varying temperatures along with regular driving impact the amount of air in your tires.
Also, check the tread on your tires every time you check your tire pressure. You’re already there, so take an extra few seconds to make sure you’re still within safe tread ranges.
2. Check your fluids.
Windshield washer fluid should be checked monthly to make sure you don’t run out when you need it most.
Transmission fluid needs to be checked at minimum every three months to make sure it keeps running smoothly. If you’re low on transmission fluid, you’ll want to find out why because you shouldn’t ever be low unless there is a leak.
The same goes for your power steering fluid. The last thing you want is to hear a grinding noise when you’re turning your steering wheel. It won’t hurt your car, but it makes steering more difficult. Check it at least every three months or 3,000 miles.
Oil was mentioned earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again. Oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle, so don’t neglect to get it checked and replaced every 3,000 to 5,000 miles according to your owner’s manual.
Other fluids to check regularly include checking your brake fluid and coolant at least once a year.
3. Check your filters.
Your oil filter is incredibly important because it makes sure that your oil goes into your engine without any debris that can sometimes accumulate. This should automatically be replaced at every oil change.
The air filter also needs to be checked anywhere from monthly to every three months depending on where you live. If you live somewhere very dusty, you’ll need to change it more often. If you live somewhere with less dusty, you’ll be changing it less often.
Don’t neglect your fuel filter, either, and check it at least every three months. If your fuel filter gets clogged, your engine loses power. When you remember to replace it regularly, you’ll keep impurities from reaching your fuel injectors, which keeps your engine working more efficiently.
4. Check your hoses.
There are several hoses inside your vehicle. Your hoses should be checked at a minimum of every three months to make sure there aren’t any leaks or breakages.
Breaks in your hoses can lead to loss of brake fluid, transmission fluid, or coolant. You don’t want to be without any of those because each one can lead to a costly repair.
While you’re checking your brake fluid hoses, remember to check your brakes yearly, too, so they don’t eat away at the rotors. A good rule of thumb is to check them annually, and then replace them if they
5. Check your battery, belts, and cables.
If your car won’t start, it’s a good bet that it’s going to be your battery or the starter. To make sure the battery isn’t the culprit, check it every six months or so, along with the attached cables.
There are also belts in your car that make it run properly, like the drive belts and the timing belt. Drive belts do a lot in your car like giving power to your a/c compressor, cooling fan, power steering pump, and a few other vital components.
The timing belt turns the camshaft which opens and closes valves in time with your engine’s pistons. If this belt breaks, you’re looking at potentially major engine damage, so this needs to be checked regularly at six-month intervals.
Keeping Up with Maintenance
Even if you don’t know what you need to do, that’s okay. It just means that you need more information to be preventative instead of reactive. Follow a car maintenance checklist, and you’ll be much better prepared.