Making sure your vehicle’s maintenance is under control can seem like a complex and expensive process, but even if you are not a car expert, you can do a lot to prevent costly and unexpected service bills later on.
This article will discuss which services you need and when, while helping you understand the proactive maintenance tasks that all vehicle owners should be aware of.
Consult Your Owner’s Manual
Your car needs regular maintenance in order to stay safe on the road, so each vehicle comes with a recommended maintenance schedule outlined in your owner’s manual.
If your owner’s manual includes a maintenance chart, it is simple to find out which services you should be doing and when. Check the mileage on your vehicle, and the chart will take it from there.
There are two primary maintenance schedules: normal and severe.
The severe schedule is for vehicles in risky driving conditions, which require more frequent maintenance.
You may not think that your car falls into the severe category, but if you are mostly driving in congested traffic, it may. Other possible habits that can place your car in the severe category include frequent towing or frequent off-pavement driving.
Vehicle Computers May Help
Some newer vehicle models will keep track of your maintenance schedule for you. If you have a newer system, such as Honda’s Maintenance Minder, your vehicle will display an “oil life remaining” indicator. When the light comes on, read the code that it shows and have that service done. These systems can be hard to interpret, making it more difficult to plan ahead for expensive repair work.
Key Vehicle Maintenance Tasks
Even if you are not experienced under the hood with a garage full of tools, there are many tasks you can do to keep your vehicle in optimal driving condition, which we have discussed below. Proactive repairs can help prevent devastating and costly damage. Read your owner’s manual for more detailed maintenance information.
Check Your Oil
Maintaining the right oil level is important to keeping your vehicle from becoming a disabled lump of steel. Do an oil check whenever you stop to fill up on gas. You just need a paper towel and a warm engine.
Drive around for around 10 to 15 minutes, then turn the car off, pop the hood, and find the engine oil dipstick. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean with a paper towel, then reinsert it. Remove the dipstick again to read the oil level.
If your oil is low, buy the required type of oil for your car at the gas station, add half, and recheck your oil level. Repeat this process until the dipstick reads at the appropriate range. Then, you should be sure to schedule an appointment with the technician of your choice.
Change Your Oil
The times of the 3,000-mile oil change are long gone. Advances in both oil and engine technologies have increased the time needed between oil changes. That is good for the environment and for your bank account, too.
Ford claims that the modern oil-change intervals can reach 7,500 to 10,000 miles, or every six months — whichever comes first. According to Toyota, however, oil changes are suggested every 10,000 miles or 5,000 miles, depending on the vehicle. Honda, on the other hand, says drivers should consult the owner’s manual for recommended intervals. Regardless, check your owner’s manual for specifics.
Inspect Your Tires
Worn, underinflated, or damaged tires will hinder your ability to stop in emergency situations and inclement weather. Fortunately, it is simply to inspect them.
First, check your pressure. Underinflated tires will not grip the road as they should and even overheat at high speeds.
Second, look at the sides of your tires for rips, tears, or gouges. Sidewall damage can cause unexpected blowouts, especially at high speeds.
Lastly, check your tread depth: you just need a penny. Insert the penny into your thread. If you are able to see Abe Lincoln’s head, you have less than 2/32” of tread left and are in need of new tires.
Check Your Air Filters
While you are changing the oil, go ahead and look at your engine air filter. Generally accessible without the use of tools, this filter cleans the air inhaled by your engine, keeping vulnerable areas free from corrosive dust and dirt. Replace it on schedule, typically every 30,000 miles, or when it is dirty.
Also, your cabin air filter cleans the air you breathe inside the vehicle. You should have it changed around once a year.
Keep Tabs on Your Brakes
Brakes are crucial for stopping, and stopping is an important part of driving. Replacing brake pads, shoes, and rotors can be costly, but if you keep up with the longevity of your brakes, you will be able to plan ahead for any repairs.
A skilled technician will check your brakes every time you get an oil change and will let you know if you will need service soon. Servicing for all four brakes usually starts at $200 to $300, and you should expect to do it every 30,000 to 70,000 miles.
Test Your Battery
Batteries usually last for around five years, maybe less if your vehicle often drives in subfreezing weather. If your vehicle is slow to start, you should have your battery tested. Most major parts stores should be able to test your battery and let you know if it needs to be replaced.
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