The Car Maintenance Checklist
Here are 7 easy steps to a long-running car you can rely on.
1. Keep your tires in shape
It's easy to take those tires for granted. But according to safercar.gov, more than 11,000 tow-away (that is, pretty serious) crashes annually are caused, in part, by tire issues.
- Check air pressure: Underinflated tires are 3 times more likely to cause a serious accident than their properly pumped counterparts. Use a pressure gauge to test them at least once a month and make sure the pressure matches the recommendation listed in your vehicle's manual or tire placard (located on the doorjamb, door post, or glove box). You can also check your owner's manual. It's important to know that the pressure indicated on the tire sidewall is the maximum allowed in the tire and shouldn't be used to determine the proper inflation pressure for your vehicle.
- Rotate your tires: For longer tread life, rotate every 6,000 to 8,000 miles.
- Check the alignment when you rotate the tires: Poor alignment can lead to uneven tread wear.
2. Change the oil and check the fluids
As a general rule, check your oil each month and change it as directed by your owner's manual. If you don't drive that frequently, you can likely go a bit longer.
Oil isn't the only fluid your car needs. Around the time you change your oil, remember to check your power-steering, automatic transmission, wiper, and brake fluids.
3. Test the lights
Flip on your headlights, tail lights, brake lights, and turn signals while your car is parked and make sure each one is working. Aside from being a safety hazard, a broken bulb might get you a fix-it ticket. If a bulb is out, take your car to an expert who can determine whether it's the bulb or the fuse that needs replacing.
4. Replace windshield wipers
If you notice that your wipers aren't working like they used to, don't let the problem linger until you end up in a downpour with no view of the road ahead. Snapping in a couple of new blades is a quick and affordable fix.
5. Check your air filter
Pull out the filter and hold it up to a strong light. If you can't see light through it, it's time to replace it. A clean air filter can improve your car's performance.
6. Give the core components a once-over
There's nothing too technical here, but you can help prevent overheating or electrical failure in your car by simply cleaning debris from the radiator and making sure the battery cables are securely connected and corrosion-free.
7. Regular check-ups
Many other car-care tasks — inspecting the exhaust, flushing the cooling system, and replacing valves, hoses, and brakes — can be done less frequently by experts in a repair shop. Scheduling regular tune-ups will help ensure that your car gets total maintenance.