The Ultimate Car Maintenance Guide

guide to car maintenance: car mechanic looking at a vehicle

Guide To Car Maintenance

Owning a vehicle can come with an awesome weight of responsibility. To enjoy the freedom of the open road, you absolutely must focus on the needs of your car.

By focusing on the tasks of this guide to car maintenance every now and again, you can take important preventative steps and give your ride the chance to stay worthy of the road for many years.

Understanding the basics can also be useful when it comes to knowing whether or not your car is experiencing a problem. By having a general idea of how your vehicle should operate, you’ll know when it is running poorly.

To stay prepared for any issues you might encounter down the road, you need to have a broad sense of what you could encounter.

Give yourself a bit of time to explore this ultimate guide to car maintenance. By studying these simple tasks and knowing when to look for signs of trouble, you are going to get more years of service out of your trustworthy ride.

Immediate Concerns

The best way to get this guide to car maintenance started is by examining the most likely problems you are going to encounter.

Some car troubles will be more pressing than others, so it can be useful to get a feel for the obstacles that require the most immediate attention.

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Check the Light

guide to car maintenance: red car light

The moment your “check engine” light comes on, it means you need to bring your car to professionals for services. Allowing the light to remain on without learning the reason why can lead to your vehicle suddenly breaking down on you while you are on the road.

You are also far more likely to fail an inspection with the Department of Motor Vehicles simply because the “check engine” light is on without explanation.

This light can turn on for a number of reasons, ranging from issues with the engine’s temperature to a broken component that is not operating at full capacity.

As soon as you notice this light, you should reach out to professionals who specialize in auto maintenance. The longer you wait to have the problem addressed, the easier it will be for a small issue to become a costly disaster.

Dreary and Smeary

Paying attention to the condition of your windshield wiper blades is also important for preventative maintenance.

Depending on what kind of vehicle you drive, you could have anywhere from two to a dozen wiper blades on your car. Should one of these become worn or damaged, you are going to start noticing a problem with the way the wipers clear your windshield during a storm.

Visibility is crucial when you’re behind the wheel. When your windshield wipers need to be replaced, be sure to take care of it fast. This allows you the chance to see clearly and say in control while driving. 

Let There Be Light

When it comes to visibility, the windshield wiper blades are not the only component to concern yourself with. In order to see when light conditions are low, you need functional headlights, tail lights, and turn signals.

The more you drive your car at night, the easier it will be for these bulbs to need changing. Dim or busted headlights are easy to notice, as you will likely realize something is amiss when you flip on the lights before driving.

Malfunctioning tail lights and rear turn signals are not as easy to notice. Since you do not want to have to rely on a stranger waving you down on the road to inform you of your tail lights being out, it can be smart to check the lights now and again on your own time.

Every week or so, do a quick inspection of your lights and see if any bulbs need to be swapped out. Changing a light early can help you avoid losing illumination while driving down a particularly dark road.

Monthly Maintenance Tasks

guide to car maintenance: person touching gray metal rod on vehicle engine

While some problems are going to require immediate attention, there are countless car issues that develop over the course of time.

This guide to car maintenance is to help you with your vehicle. To stay aware of these problems and prevent them from becoming serious, you need to involve yourself with basic maintenance tasks now and then.

Change Air Filters

As you drive your car, air passes through the engine and into the cabin of the vehicle. To keep dirt and debris from the outdoors away from your respiratory system, your car includes useful filters.

These devices are responsible for purifying the air so you do not have to breathe in the dust of the road. Of course, these filters are not able to perform forever. The longer a filter has been utilized, the more likely it will function at a reduced capacity.

A filter that is too clogged with dirt is not going to be able to clean the air in the correct manner. The clogs can also put unnecessary pressure on the engine, forcing the system to work harder so it does not overheat.

Unfortunately, there is no direct answer for when filters should be changed. Some say every 30,000 miles and others say 45,000 miles. To get the best results, consult the manual on your specific vehicle and see how frequently you should be swapping out your filters.

Be sure to learn the difference between your engine air filters and cabin air filters. Though both filtration systems work together to keep the air in your car clean, each provides a specific function and might have different requirements in regards to replacement.

Check Levels

Your vehicle relies on a number of different liquids to stay functional. This means you need to know when it is time to replace or restore some of these liquids. You probably know you should be changing your oil every so often.

What you might not realize, however, is that you can do wonders for your car by checking the oil levels more frequently. Each time you go to the gas station, you should make it a point to look at your oil and see if you need to top it off before hitting the road again.

Coolant levels are also quite important. Checking these levels can be a bit tricky. The radiator, where the coolant is located, can easily reach very high temperatures. In order to check the levels, you need to unscrew the radiator cap.

Since this piece can be dangerously hot, it is best to wait until the engine lowers in temperature before you examine the levels. Stay safe and check your levels every few weeks to ensure your car is in the best condition.

Get Some Air

Your tires are another crucial component of your vehicle. The more you drive your vehicle, the lower the air pressure in your tires will become. Driving around with low pressure in your tires can be risky and can lead to some serious troubles for your wheels.

Luckily, this is one of the easier maintenance tasks. You can usually use your eyes to do a quick reading of the pressure. If a tire looks like it needs air, then it most likely needs air.

When you are unsure of whether or not a tire needs air, try pushing your thumb into the side of it. If you feel any give on the rubber, then you absolutely need air.

Be sure to note how long you go in-between trips to refill the air. When you need air in a certain tire frequently, then it could mean you have a slow leak that needs to be addressed by professionals.

Check Your Engine Every Few Months

guide to car maintenance: black and silver car engine

Even a vehicle that is in great condition is going to require some basic maintenance every couple of months. This guide to car maintenance can answer that need.

Simply taking a car out on the road puts a bit of wear on it. Though not as pressing as some of the above information, these are a handful of tasks you need to perform for your vehicle a few times a year.

The Battery

The battery in your car can last a long time. According to some research, the average car battery will stay functional for around four years. This will vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle, but it can be a great starting place.

When a battery begins to go, it is going to produce a few telltale signs. To notice these signs, you often need to pop the hood of your vehicle and give the battery a closer look.

At least once every three months, take a moment to examine your battery. Check to see if the battery is mounted properly, as bumpy road conditions can shake around the components of your engine. Look to see that all the wires are connected properly and adjust anything that has become loose.

If you notice any rust or visible signs of corrosion, you should definitely change the battery right away. The longer a battery corrodes, the easier it will be for it to completely fail at the worst possible moment.

The Hoses

There are also various hoses and lines in your engine that will need your attention a few times a year. Since these hoses are responsible for carrying coolant and other liquids throughout your car, damage done to these lines can result in some serious problems.

If a hose develops a small leak that goes unnoticed, the leaking coolant or water can cause some serious damage to the engine itself. To prevent this, you want to get into the habit of inspecting the hoses for cracks or tears. 

For the most part, it is easy to spot a break in the various hoses and lines running through your engine. In some cases, pools of coolant or other liquids will start to gather below your car from a leak.

A puddle in your driveway when you pull out can be a telltale sign of trouble. Should you have difficulty learning what the problem is or how to fix a broken hose, take your car to qualified experts and get a more experienced point of view.

The Belts

The hoses are not the only components of your vehicle prone to tearing. There are also a number of belts in your engine that can snap or break from being used frequently over the years.

Unlike the hoses, the problems associated with the belts are going to be much more serious and require more immediate attention.

Usually, a broken timing belt is going to prevent a car from running at all. Since this is a huge problem, you need to try and avoid it the best you can.

By checking your engine every few months, you can give yourself the opportunity to closely examine each belt. If you see that a particular component is a bit more worn than it should be, then you need to have the part replaced.

Should a worn belt snap while you are driving your car, the force of the belt can cause other damage to more sensitive parts of the engine. Avoid a total disaster by replacing the belts when the time comes and staying diligent about the status of each belt throughout the year.

Annual Explorations

Though many maintenance tasks require your immediate attention, there are also plenty you can put off for longer than others.  

So far in this guide to car maintenance, only the most pressing issues have been discussed. The following tasks can be handled roughly once a year for the best results. It is important to remember that these tasks are just as important as the others, even though they can be taken care of in a less demanding manner. 

Examine the Brakes

Being able to stop is a very important aspect of driving a car. To make this happen, you need functional brakes. While you are less likely to see brake troubles arise than you are issues with tire pressure, you still need to make sure you are focusing on how your brakes are handling while you drive.

Once a year, you should check the brakes and make sure the system is working as the manual dictates it should. Brake pads can easily become worn the more frequently you push the brake pedal, and annual inspections can help point out glaring troubles.

While checking the brakes annually is the best move to make, you also might need to have the brakes looked over by professionals in certain cases.

Specific issues with your brakes might arise from accidents or manufacturer troubles. The moment you notice your brakes acting out of the ordinary, call the experts and arrange for a tune-up and inspection.

Rotate the Tires

Checking the air pressure every now and again can do wonders for your tires. Still, there are other maintenance tasks you need to focus on to keep your wheels turning without resistance.

A great way to do this is by having your tires professionally rotated at least once a year. Some garages and service centers offer free rotations when motorists come in for services like oil changes. This can help remind you of the task and make it easier to have the right people take care of the job.

Rotating the tires helps to balance the way the tread of each tire interacts with the road. When the tires hit the road in an uneven way, it can throw off the alignment of your vehicle.

Though it does not take much time, plenty of motorists snooze on tire rotations and it leads to more serious problems on the road. Stay safe and prepared and have your tires inspected and rotated at least once a year for the best results. 

Additional Tips

Finally, there is a handful of the helpful guide to car maintenance to keep in mind when you want to make sure your car is in the right condition.

While many maintenance tasks are associated with the engine or the tires, there are also plenty of simple actions you can take with the appearance of your vehicle to increase the way it performs.

Give yourself a moment to think over these final suggestions and see which tasks you can take care of right away to better your vehicle. 

Squeaky Clean

A clean car is a functional car. Many motorists assume that going to the car wash is more of a cosmetic move, but the truth is much more serious.

By taking the time to clean your car from top to bottom, you are actually doing wonders to preserve it and even increase its life expectancy. Dirt and grime begin to collect on the surface of your car as time goes by. The longer it sits there, the more damage the filth is doing to the exterior of your vehicle.

By ignoring the dirt, you are stripping the paint from your car and making it more susceptible to rust. While dirt can be annoying in and of itself, other substances like bird droppings or tree pollen can create even more hazardous conditions for the body of your car.

The best way to preserve your vehicle and keep it looking and performing its best is to dedicate time to a deep clean at least once a month. Wash the car more frequently when it looks dirty to stay on top of your game.

Eliminate Rust

As stated above, a failure to clean your car can lead to rust spreading along the body. While rust might be unpleasant to look at, it can be extremely problematic when it comes to keeping your car functional.

As rust collects on the body, it makes the vehicle weaker and more likely to take on damage from an impact. In addition to this, the rust itself can be hazardous to anyone who makes contact with it. When rust is present on your vehicle’s surface and a person runs his or her hand along it, it makes for a painful experience.

The moment you notice rust on your car, you need to do something about it. Grind the rust down to the steel using the appropriate tools and restore the affected areas by using primer and paint. This can take a lot of time and effort, so be sure to dedicate enough of your schedule to the task.

When you don’t have the availability, bring your vehicle to professionals who specialize in detailing and bodywork. These experts typically can do wonders for rust and other surface troubles.

Wax On

It is also a good idea to get into the habit of waxing your car. Experts suggest a fresh coat of wax roughly every six months to keep the exterior of your car looking its best. Wax does far more than simply boost the appearance of your ride.

By applying wax now and again, you are helping to preserve the paint for longer. While rust might be able to develop when the dirt hits your car and sits, wax provides an added level of security to slow this process to a halt. 

When it comes to preventative measures, a coat of wax is going to be your best friend. Many motorists forget about the importance of waxing because it does not seem as important as other maintenance tasks.

Remember to always wax after a full wash of your car and see how long you can preserve the exterior from damaging substances like rust and environmental troubles like dirt and debris.

Be Gentle

Though more of a suggestion than an actual maintenance task, you can also do wonders for your vehicle by adopting the right attitude while behind the wheel.

You might be the kind of person who likes to feel an adrenaline rush when hitting the road, but this does not mean you have to be rough with your car.

Several studies released over the years have pointed out that a large chunk of preventable auto problems begin when a person is a bit too rough with how he or she uses a car.

The moment you put the key in the ignition and turn it, consider how much force you are using. Pushing the key as hard as you can to get the car started might be a habit, but it is a pattern that can put a lot of wear on your starter. Once you damage the starter, you are going to need to replace it or you won’t be able to drive your vehicle.

Avoiding these costly repairs comes down to using a slight bit of restraint when it comes to using your car.

Pay Attention

This tip has been mentioned a few times throughout the guide, but it can be helpful to mention a final time: the best way to maintain your vehicle is by paying attention to the way it is performing.

In most cases, you are going to be able to handle a small problem right away. When you get gas, for example, take a look at your tires. Since gas stations usually have air pumps, you can take care of filling the tires as soon as you notice they’re looking a bit low.

Your vehicle is going to let you know when a serious problem is afoot. Since you are the one who drives your car the most, you are going to know how your vehicle is supposed to sound.

When peculiar noises seem to be coming from your engine or wheel well, it means you need to stop the car and take a second to address the noise. Ignoring these telltale sounds and signs can cause a simple problem to morph into an expensive repair in no time at all.

It only takes a couple of minutes to look at your engine and check to see if there is a problem. Use your time wisely and you can get a ton of different tasks accomplished at once. Filling the air in your tires? Use this opportunity to pop the hood and look over your fluid levels. Inspecting the coolant and oil levels can take no time at all, helping you to cover some pressing tasks at the same time.

Getting into the habit of listening and focusing on early signs of problems can save you time and money.

Final Thoughts

Giving yourself the chance to maintain your vehicle is going to be a huge advantage in life.

While the guide to car maintenance provided here covers most of the basics, there are always additional tasks to think about. In order to do what is best for your automobile, you need to consult with the owner’s manual and take a look at the specific requirements of your car. Should you not have a physical copy of the manual, most manufacturers make these documents readily available on the internet.

Also, be sure to remember that accidents can and will happen. Though you might put a lot of effort into maintaining your car, a simple slip on the road can undo a lot of the hard work. Don’t let an accident discourage you from putting in your best effort for the sake of your vehicle. While you might not be able to predict what will happen while you’re behind the wheel, you can definitely stack the odds in your favor with a bit of preparedness.

Look over the guide to car maintenance a few more times and make a list of all the tasks you need to complete for your car to function properly. By writing out all of the pressing maintenance tasks and creating a timeline for yourself, you are going to have an easier time sticking with a schedule.

Before you know it, these tasks will become second nature and you will feel like you are able to handle any vehicular problems life throws your way.

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