The truth for many of us ordinary car owners is that we don’t think about car maintenance as much as we should. We might wait until we have a big car trip planned to check our tires or forget about things like fluid levels until we get a reminder in the mail that it’s time for another oil change.
But, putting together a basic car maintenance list is a good way to ensure that your car is running at optimal performance throughout the year. You’ll save yourself the nagging stress of trying to remember when the last time you changed your air filter was, and you can be sure that your car is cleaned frequently enough to keep that paint looking new for years.
In this Spacer guide to car maintenance essentials, you’ll know exactly which tasks need to be done for your car and when. For peace of mind, feel free to print this list out, write important dates into your calendar or set yourself digital reminders.
First, a note about scheduling
In this guide, we’ve included suggestions about how frequently to complete different car maintenance tasks that will work for the average 5 to 10 year old car. But, it’s a good idea that you hone in on your driving habits and refer to your owner’s manual in order to tailor the timeline to your unique car. For instance, a brand new car that uses synthetic oil and doesn’t get much mileage can last much longer between oil changes than an older car that you might use for work. Likewise, a car driving in harsh winter conditions will need to have its tire pressure checked more often than a car in a temperate climate.
If in doubt, check with your trusted mechanic to personalise your car maintenance checklist.
Under the hood
Some car owners will opt to have their regular mechanic check off all of these tasks during their normal tune-up. But, if you’re interested in doing some checks on your own or learning how to do some basic car maintenance fixes, here’s a rundown of some important tasks:
Replace the air filter
It’s suggested that you change your air filter about once every 12,000 miles or more if your car is frequently exposed to dusty or windy conditions. Typically, a mechanic will charge between $40 and $80 for this upgrade.
This is a task that is simple to do yourself, and because the filter itself only costs around $20 to $50, it’s worth going the DIY route.
Spark plugs are an integral part of your car’s engine, and most owner’s manuals suggest replacing them every 30,000 miles. When spark plugs erode, you might experience poor fuel economy, difficulty turning the car on, and slow acceleration. Eventually, the check engine light will engage.
In some cars, you can learn how to remove the spark plugs for inspection and replacement, yourself. If you have all of the tools, it should take about an hour. Spark plugs tend to cost around $30, so this is a great way to save yourself anywhere from $200 to $400 in labor.
That said, some V-6 models require more complex disassembly of the intake manifold before you can access the spark plugs. Since spark plugs are so vital to the normal functioning of your engine, it might be worth having a pro do it the right way.
Drive Belts and Hoses
Serpentine belts, timing belts, and coolant hoses are all items that should be inspected about twice a year. The belts should be replaced about once every 40,000 to 50,000 miles.
You can also give these items a once over every time you pop the hood. You’re looking for cracks or signs of tear that could signify a belt that’s about to snap, a hose that could be leaking, or hose clamps that look eroded or loose. If you see a part that looks questionable, have it replaced.
Fluids – coolant, engine oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering, windshield wiper fluid
Checking the levels of your fluids is one of the most frequent car maintenance tasks that you’ll want to do for your car. Checking and filling up your coolant, oil, and windshield wiper fluid is easy, and should be done at home at least once per month, and always before a big car trip.
Now, which fluids need to be changed and when? Well, engine oil and the oil filter require replacement most frequently. In newer cars, think once every 5,000 to 10,000 miles or more frequently in older cars. Brake fluid and transmission fluid should be changed after about 45,000 miles and 30,000 to 60,000 miles, respectively.
Most of these fluid change services are affordable enough that you might as well have a professional do it for around $50 to $70.
Car batteries have developed quickly in the last decade. In older cars, you can do some regular car maintenance yourself by cleaning the terminals about once per season.
But, in newer models, the car battery might not be accessible with at-home equipment. Instead, they require more complex tech devices for diagnostics and optimization.
Take a look at your owner’s manual for recommendations of how to care for your car battery and how often.
One thing that we should mention when it comes to battery care is that prevention is key! If you can, park your car inside where your car battery won’t be exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations that could compromise its functionality. If you don’t have access to underground or covered parking, take a look at the many affordable options on Spacer. From Miami to San Diego, you can rent out garages or private parking spaces right in your neighborhood.
Tend to your tires
Keeping your tires in tip-top shape can save you a lot of money. After all, driving with low pressure in your tires or worn tread can reduce your gas mileage and reduce the lifespan of your tires. Here’s a few car maintenance tips for tires:
Maintain good tire pressure
In regular driving conditions, it’s a good idea to check your tire pressure about once every two weeks. In colder climates, or areas with severe temperature fluctuations, you’ll want to check the pressure and fill up more frequently. And definitely fill up before long trips.
Checking and filling your tires yourself is absolutely free, so don’t shy away from this car maintenance task!
When your tire tread gets worn down, it can be more difficult to maintain control of your car, especially in rain or snow. Popular Mechanics suggest rotating your car tires every 3,000 to 8,000 miles to slow this process down. In general, the cost for rotating your tires is about $50 at the shop. It’s worth the money unless you really enjoy changing tires at home.
Exterior car maintenance
Now that you have a good plan for keeping up with engine and tire car maintenance, you can focus on your windows, paint, seating areas and more.
Regular cleaning, as in soap and water for your exterior, tidying up and vacuuming your seats and floors, should be done about once every two weeks. You might make this more frequent if you’ve driven in a dusty area, been bombarded with bird droppings, or live next to the ocean. And make sure to take some time to learn how to clean your car in order to target areas most prone to damage.
Car detailing is a much more thorough process. It’s like spring cleaning for your car, and the pros are excellent at getting into all the nooks and crannies that we tend to overlook with regular cleaning.
It’s not the cheapest service. You’re likely to pay between $100 and $150. But, you can keep your car in great shape with car detailing scheduled only 2 or 3 times per year. Again, make it more often if you live in areas with extreme weather or ocean air.
Your car will thank you for making car maintenance a priority!
With this Spacer basic car maintenance guide, you can now keep some of the more important car care tasks in mind throughout the year. No more wondering when you’re due for an oil change or whether you have to pay for someone to replace your air filter. You know exactly what car maintenance your car needs, whether you can do it yourself, and when to pencil it in to your calendar!