Simply owning a car can be a lot of work, and it can also be very expensive. However, the maintenance of a car is nothing compared to the cost of an emergency breakdown that results from a lack of maintenance. If you’re new to car ownership or just want to be more on top of your maintenance, we’ll break down exactly what you should be doing, and how often. Here are some essential maintenance tips to keep your car running smoothly.
The one thing that most car owners know first and foremost is the oil change. After all, there’s a little sticker that sits in the corner of your windshield showing you when you should get an oil change. The recommendation is that you change the oil and filter after 3,000 miles or every three months, but it’s not the same for every car. Newer cars can go for longer without an oil change, but make sure to read the owner’s manual to find the exact recommendation.
One of the cheapest car maintenance procedures that people often overlook is changing the air filter. At most, this will cost around $80 but usually isn’t more than $30 or $40. The biggest question for most people is how often the air filter should be changed. Oftentimes, the mechanics who change your oil will push for a new air filter, but it can typically be done every 15,000 miles instead of 3,000. It really depends on how much you drive and the environment around you. Those who live in dustier areas with more traffic will want to change their air filters more frequently.
Windshield wipers are things that we don’t really think about until we need them. Have you ever been caught in a torrential downpour just to realize that your wipers are out of date, then forget to replace them after the storm? It happens all the time, but wipers should really be thought about. It’s recommended that you replace the wipers every six months and that it should be even less for those that live in areas with more precipitation whether it be snow or rain.
Tires require a lot of regular maintenance, and it isn’t just one thing that you should be doing. Whenever you can, check the air pressure on your tires to make sure that they’re in a safe zone. Too much or too little air can be extremely dangerous, so a quick check will let you know if danger is brewing. There’s also the matter of rotating your tires, which should be done around every 6,000 miles, or whenever the owner’s manual suggests.
Then there’s the matter of replacing your tires completely. Of course, it depends on the weather in your area and how many miles you’re putting on your tires, but the rule of thumb is that you should be going no more than six years on the same tires. If you want to go by mileage, it should be between 50,000 to 60,000, but never more than 80,000.
If you’re someone that works on your own car without going to the mechanic, you should be checking all of the lights on your car about twice per year. Thankfully, lights are easy to check for any mechanic, especially with the equipment that they have on hand. Because of this, most lights (brake lights, turn signals, etc.) are all checked every time that someone brings their car in. If any fix is needed, they tend to be on the cheaper side of things and don’t often pose any immediate threat if not taken care of.
Outside of motor oil, there are a few other vital fluids that your car depends on to run at its best. The first one of these is transmission fluid, which should be changed every three years or 30,000 miles. Your transmission going out is going to be one of the most expensive fixes, so it’s important to make sure that the fluids are up to speed.
Power steering fluid is another big one that needs attention, and the same 30,000 mile/3-year rule should follow. Brake fluid also needs to be changed, coming every three years. Coolant should be about every three years (though some vehicles can be up to 10 years) while differential oil is up to five years for synthetics.
There are a handful of other maintenance considerations to make for your car. Your shocks and struts should be changed every 50,000 to 100,000 miles depending on usage. Spark plugs have a similar time window, though they tend to not be changed until around 100,000 miles. The final piece of the puzzle is the serpentine belt, which, again, should be around 50,000 to 100,000 miles.