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Car Maintenance Checklist 101

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Car Maintenance Checklist 101

88% of Americans own a vehicle, such as a car, van, or motorbike. These play a valuable role in transporting people around the country to home, work, school, and on daily errands. So they are a vital part of day-to-day life.

However, for the majority of Americans, buying a car is a real investment. The average price of a new car in America currently sits at more than $40,000. If you’re splashing that kind of cash around, you want to make sure that your car will last!

In that case, you need to take good care of your car’s maintenance. This will ensure that your car runs efficiently and smoothly for as long as possible. It is also vital if you are going to stay safe on the road.

Are you a new car owner looking for tips on how to maintain your vehicle? Then you’re in the right place! Read on to find out everything that should be on your car maintenance checklist.

Get to Know Your Car Maintenance Schedule

Whether you are using your car a lot or just for small errands, it needs regular maintenance. In fact, you should get it serviced by a mechanic at least once a year or once you reach 12,000 miles on the dash. They will be able to diagnose any larger issues and will give you a quote for repairs.

It’s also worth looking out for warning lights on your dash. These can alert you to issues such as the oil being low. If you are planning a big road trip, then it’s a good idea to get your car serviced before you leave.

In the meantime, there are some jobs that you should look into more regularly. For example, you should:

  • Change the oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles
  • Check your tires and realign them every 6,000 to 8,000 miles
  • Check your tire rotations every 6,000 miles
  • Change your wiper blade every 6 to 12 months
  • Replace your brake pads every 25,000 to 70,000 miles

It is more useful to look at mileage for your car than how long you have had it when it comes to car maintenance. This is because some people will reach 12,000 miles more quickly than others. A car that gets used more use will need more regular maintenance.

So what does this involve? Let’s take a look at some of the basic car maintenance jobs for vehicle owners.

Oil Changes

For your car to run properly, it literally needs to be a well-oiled machine. So a lot of systems within your car require fluid to work.

This includes your engine oil along with power steering fluid, coolant fluid, transmission fluid, and brake fluid. It is a good idea to check all of these fluid levels at the same time.

You should do this once a month if your car is relatively new. Older cars may require more lubrication, so you should check the fluid levels in these once a week if you can.

Checking your oil is fairly straightforward, and you’ll find this in your engine bay. There should be a dipstick here that you can use to check your oil levels without getting your hands dirty.

Simply wipe this clean, then dip it all the way into the engine oil. The oil will have marked up to a joint on the measuring stick when you bring it out. You should aim for the oil levels to be as close to the maximum line as possible.

It’s also worth taking a look at the oil that is already in your car’s engine. It should be a yellow or amber color. If it looks darker (black or coffee-like), then it may have been burnt, and you will need to change the oil.

If it looks milky at all, then your car’s coolant may be leaking into it. In that case, you’ll need to see a mechanic and fix the leak as soon as possible.

Check Your Wheel Alignment

In order for your car’s power steering to be most efficient, all four of your tires need to be aligned properly. You will need to check and readjust this from time to time, as repeated use can shift the tires slightly.

You should do this every 6,000 miles, which is around every six months for the average car owners. It is worth consulting your vehicle maintenance guide to make sure, though. Some manufacturers may recommend doing this more frequently, especially for larger vehicles.

Adjusting your tires starts with your front wheels — this is known as your front alignment. Once these are in place, your back tires will be adjusted to match your front alignment. That way, when you steer, all of your tires will be moving in exactly the same direction.

This doesn’t just improve your driving experience, and it can also save money on the cost of your tires. Misaligned tires will wear out very quickly, which means they will need replacing much sooner than normal.

Inspect Your Tires

You should view the tires on your car as an investment. A lot of tires last for between six and ten years, although this may be longer if you change them seasonally. Your owner’s manual will tell you more about the expected lifetime of your tires.

You can also check their age by looking for the tire identification number (or TIN.) You’ll find this on the sidewall of your tire (or inside the sidewall.) The final four digits of the TIN tell you the week and year of manufacture.

However, even if your tires are fairly new, you should still check them regularly. This is because the pressure of a tire has a big effect on your safety while on the road. Poorly inflated tires will also decrease your fuel economy, so they’re more expensive to run.

The right tire pressure for your car depends on how big it is, and this should be listed in your manual. You can check your tire’s pressure using a tire gauge and should use this, rather than checking how your tires look to feel. If your tire pressure isn’t high enough, you can pump them up at a local gas station.

When checking the pressure of your tires, you should also take a look at their tread. This is another name for the surface of the tire, which gets worn down with use. The better the tread, the better grip your car has on the road, so the easier it is to brake.

Over time the tread depth gets more shallow. You can test this by sticking a penny into one of the grooves in your tire tread. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head on the penny, you need new tires!

Replace Your Wiper Blades

Your windshield wipers see a lot of action, especially in the winter. When they aren’t wiping away rain or snow, they are also useful to clean your windshield while driving. Because of this, they have a big impact on your visibility while on the road.

Replacing wiper blades is a fairly simple job. You can get replacement blades at car supply stores, from your mechanic, or even sometimes in gas stations. When doing this, make sure that you get the right make and model for your car.

Depending on how much you use your wiper blades, they should be replaced between every six and twelve months. However, if you do notice that they aren’t clearing your windshield properly, you might want to do this sooner.

Check Your Brake Pads

When it comes to road safety, checking your brake pads regularly is an absolute must. After all, you need these to bring your car to a standstill as safely as possible. Without them, you’d have little to no control on the road and could cause (or end up in) a nasty accident.

In general, you should check your brake pads every six months. If you drive more aggressively (and brake a lot), you may want to check them regularly. Most brake pads should last for between 30,000 and 70,000 miles depending on the size of your car.

However, your brake pads are only part of the mechanism that your car uses to brake. The brake assembly also contains shoes, calipers, rotors, and brake fluid. Even if your pads are in good condition, it is worth looking out for signs that something in the assembly isn’t working.

If you notice that your brake pads aren’t working properly, you should immediately take your car to the mechanic. You should do this if:

  • The brake light on your dash is on
  • You notice a squeaking, squealing, or grinding noise when using your brakes
  • You feel a wobbling, scraping, or vibrating sensation when using your brakes
  • Fluid is leaking from the brake or brake fluid chamber
  • The brake pedal feels spongy or soft when you press it
  • Your car pulls to one side when you brake
  • You notice a burning smell when you are driving
  • Your car bounces up and down when you stop short

These indicate that some part of your braking system is not working properly, so your car is not safe on the road. You should not drive your car if you are concerned about the brakes. Instead, phone a mechanic and discuss your options for getting your car to a garage safely.

Check Your Car’s Lights

Your car lights are an essential part of roadway communication, especially at night. They tell other road users of your planned route and help them give you the space on need. Without them, there would be a lot of accidents on the road.

Because of this, it is actually illegal to drive when you know that one of your lights is out. If you get pulled over, you could receive a fine!

So it is important to check your car’s lights regularly. This includes your headlights, brakes lights, fog lights, and signaling lights.

You might need help from a friend to check these, as you can’t test a brake light and watch to see if it comes on at the same time. Alternatively, you can check your lights using something reflective, like a large window.

It is a good idea to check your lights both in the day and at night. That way, you know you will be visible to road users regardless of the visibility conditions.

Make Sure Your Insurance is Up-to-Date

In most states across America, it is illegal to drive without insurance. This ensures that every driver on the road is able to take financial responsibility for any damages they might cause. This also covers liability if you are involved in an accident on the road.

So it is worth making sure that your insurance is up-to-date. To help with this, make a note of your policy expiry date when you sign up for it. Most policies last for a year before they need renewal.

If you get a new car, then you may also want to review your insurance policy. Most insurers will recommend at least $100,000 injury protection or $300,000 per accident. However, you may want to look for more extensive coverage.

Whatever you go for, make sure that your insurance policy meets the state’s mandatory guidelines. If you have the budget for it, more extensive coverage will pay off in the long run.

Get Your Car Road-Ready Today

If you own a vehicle then it is your responsibility to maintain it properly. This will ensure that your car lasts as long as possible. Car maintenance also helps to keep you and other road users safe.

Need to update your car’s auto insurance? Then you’re in the right place — get an instant quote for your car’s policy today! We’re here to help.

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