Regular Car Maintenance Tips

For a lot of drivers, as long as the car starts when they turn the key, they assume the vehicle is running fine. Keeping the gas tank full and getting a regularly scheduled oil change are top-of-mind concerns. However, there are plenty of other regular car maintenance checks to keep up with to make sure your vehicle is running in top condition. Here are a few things to keep an eye on and how often to check them.

Frequent car maintenance you can do yourself

First things first. If you feel unsure performing any of these tasks, feel free to go to your local auto service center. You shouldn’t attempt anything you aren’t comfortable doing.

Lights – A broken taillight can mean a ticket and makes stop-and-go traffic that much more hazardous. It's also important to clean your headlights to ensure proper visibility. You can buy headlight cleaning kits for $20-$30 dollars, or you can also use things you already have around the house for free. For example, toothpaste is an effective cleaning agent for your headlights. 

Tire inflation and condition – Underinflated tires and tires with poor tread can decrease fuel economy. Flatter tires can also make for bad handling, especially in poor weather conditions. You might also notice your car is veering to one side or taking longer to come to a complete stop. Using a tire pressure gauge, check the air on all four tires, including the spare if you have one. Look for cuts, gouges or sidewall bulges. Inflate as needed to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure. If a tire frequently needs to be inflated, if the tread depth looks low or if you see anything else that doesn’t look right, visit your nearest tire and auto body shop.

Windshield washer fluid – Gallon jugs run about $4 and can be purchased at most gas stations. It’s a small price to pay for good visibility behind the wheel. It may not seem that important, but in inclement weather or when traveling at high speeds on the highway, maintaining good visibility keeps you and other drivers safe.

Car battery – A dead battery is among the most frustrating car problems, probably because it's so easy to avoid. If you've had the same battery for a few years, we recommend giving it a quick visual assessment for corrosion. You can also have the battery tested at Caliber Auto Care or local parts store for battery health and charge levels.

Things to check every 3 months/3,000 miles

Engine oil and filter– This is the one most people remember, but double check your owner’s manual. Newer cars can have longer intervals between oil changes. This simple service can be done at home. A quick look at the car's repair manual and an oil filter wrench should do the trick if you're comfortable trying. If not, taking your vehicle to get a professional oil and filter change is quick and easy. Keep it up to maintain your vehicle’s overall health and increase its longevity.

Automatic transmission fluid – With an automatic transmission, shifting gears is out of sight out of mind. Keep it that way by checking on your automatic transmission fluid levels or having a certified technician check it for you.

Engine air filter ­– Imagine trying to go for a run in a city with bag smog, that’s your engine with a clogged air filter. Replacing your air filter is one of the quickest, cleanest and easiest things you can do for your car. The cost is small compared to the big difference they can make when you’re driving. Dirty air filters decrease airflow and can even lower your gas mileage.

Power steering fluid – Being able to easily turn your steering wheel is a vital part of driving. Keep your power steering fluid levels in check and keep making u-turns with ease.

Be sure to check these every 6 months/6,000 miles

Chassis lubrication – Properly lubricating chassis components will minimize wear on the frame of your vehicle. It's also essential for keeping mountings for suspension springs, shocks or struts and steering arms in top condition.

Wiper blades – Rubber wiper blades naturally deteriorate over time. If wipers streak or fail to clear the windshield thoroughly, replace the blades. Typically, they should be replaced every 6–8 months. Following the winter weather is the perfect time to replace your wiper blades. To breathe new life into your existing ones, try wiping them down first with soapy water. Then, wipe off the edge of the blade with rubbing alcohol. Remember, you don’t want to wait until you’re in bad weather to find out your wiper blades need replacing. 

Belts – Without belts, the battery won’t get charged, and none of the electrical accessory components in the car will work. Keep an eye out for cracks and wear, and if you hear squealing under the hood, it’s time for a replacement.

Car maintenance every 12 months/12,000 miles

Cabin air filter – The cabin air filter's job is to catch dust, pollen and more impurities. This ensures that the air the A/C and heat are generating is as clean as can be. If you notice your car A/C is not running to its full capacity, take your vehicle to an automotive repair shop to be assessed.

Coolant (antifreeze) – Coolant keeps things running, well, cool. Keep your engine from overheating with a quick check and refill of coolant. Follow instructions on your radiator cap or in your Owner’s Manual to make sure you’re using the right type for your vehicle.

Steering, suspension and alignment – Getting your vehicle properly aligned helps eliminate premature tire wear. Doing so keeps your ride running smoothly, literally, and prevents full part replacements in the future.

While all of this may sound like quite a bit to keep up with, it's important. There are helpful apps like Road Trip and Car Maintenance Reminder to help you keep track of your maintenance schedule. Plus, a lot of these are simple checks with simple fixes you can do yourself. The important thing is to make sure that they get done. Hectic schedules and cost are common reasons to avoid regular maintenance, but preventative care is a lot cheaper than major maintenance and schedules are easier to keep with reliable transportation. Keeping up with the little things will keep you safer behind the wheel. And if you don’t want to do it yourself, Caliber Auto Care is here to help with everything from routine maintenance to major engine repair.

Find a Caliber Auto Care location

Caliber Auto Care takes the place of your dealership’s service department and your local quick oil and mechanical repair shop with efficient, high-quality auto repair or maintenance services at an affordable price.

We know that scheduling car care services between work, school and play can be a hassle. That’s why we make it as easy and straightforward as possible, offering you neighborhood convenience, superior service, comfortable waiting areas or free local shuttle service and the option of staying in your vehicle for some services while we work. It’s all about meeting your needs and standing behind our work.

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