Like it or not, routine car maintenance is the best way to ensure our four-wheeled friend remains in good shape. A lot of us are intimidated by opening up the hood and poking around. As a result, we sometimes neglect basic car maintenance.
However, without the proper care and attention your car requires, you’ll encounter bigger fixes down the road. And, if you choose not to have a certified mobile mechanic come to you, that means a dreaded trip to the repair shop.
We’re here to help. We’re going to run you through how to do car maintenance yourself and the essential actions to tick off your car maintenance checklist.
1. Checking and changing your engine oil
Checking and changing your car’s engine oil is a necessary step to insure your car runs safely and soundly. While there are other fluids to keep in mind, engine oil is arguably the most important in any vehicle.
So, why is engine oil so essential? Well, besides lubricating the moving parts of your engine, it has a couple of other functions, including:
- Cooling down your engine - Engine oil takes away a certain amount of heat that occurs during the combustion process. As a result, it helps keep your engine cool and prevents it from overheating.
- Cleans your engine - Engine oil has detergent in it. Therefore, much like in a way washing detergent gets pesky oil stains out of your clothes, engine oil dissolves engine dirt build-up and keeps your engine gleaming.
So far so good, but these benefits come at a price. Firstly, the constant exposure to heat and various other contaminants means engine oil becomes dirty over time. Additionally, this contamination will prevent it from lubricating engine parts and cooling them down.
As a result, checking your oil at least once a month is recommended. How often you change your oil depends on a variety of different variables. However, there are some telltale signs to help you identify when an oil change is necessary:
- It’s dark and dirty
- Engine is louder than usual and you can hear a knocking sound
- Exhaust smoke
2. Check other car fluids
Engine oil is just one fluid you need to consider when carrying out routine car maintenance. Besides this, there are several other fluids you need to keep at appropriate levels to ensure your vehicle’s wellbeing:
- Brake fluid
- Power steering fluid
- Transmission fluid
While keeping these filled up is straightforward, what happens if there’s a leak?
A potential leak from these fluids affects the way your car drives and possibly puts you and your passengers in danger. However, in the scenario where you do spot a leak, you can sometimes identify the fluid by its color.
Identifying the fluid color will help you and your mobile mechanic determine where the leak is and speed up the repair process.
Learn more about the brightest colored car fluid, coolant, in our blog: Why is your car's coolant so important to your car's health?
3. Maintain your tire pressure
Maintaining your car’s tire pressure will not only reduce general wear and tear on your tires, it will also increase your vehicle’s gas mileage.
There are 3 steps involved in checking your tire pressure:
- Find the recommended pressure
- Checking the PSI (Pounds per Square Inch)
- Inflating or deflating your tires accordingly
Failure to maintain tire pressure while performing car maintenance could result in a flat tire. Thankfully, you can easily do this at your closest gas station. It’s better to be safe than sorry, though. So, with this in mind, make sure you do this at least once a month.
4. Check your car’s belts
Your vehicle has two belts that you need to be aware of: a timing belt and a serpentine belt. Even if you stick to routine car maintenance, these will eventually need to be replaced.
How often do they need to be replaced? That’s tricky. Manufacturers have different recommendations for when to switch these belts over, meaning there’s not one blanket figure of time here. However, at FixMyCar, these are average ballpark figures we’d recommend for how long a timing belt and serpentine belt can last for:
- Timing Belt - 60,000 miles to 100,000 miles
- Serpentine Belt - 50,000 miles to 100,000 miles
That being said, if you see cracking, fraying, or loosening of tension on either of these belts, it’s time to consider a replacement.
Neither of them are easy to replace. Therefore, we recommend you contact a licensed mobile mechanic to handle the problem for you.
Still wondering what a timing belt is? Have a read of our blog to learn more.
5. Change your engine air filter
Air carries various particles that go into our lungs and into our cars. These range from dirt and dust to soot and pollen. And while these particles all come in different shapes and sizes, they all have the potential to cause significant damage to your car’s engine.
Step forward, the air filter.
Your engine’s air filter acts as a barrier and stops these particles from setting up camp in your engine. However, all air filters have a limited shelf life. When the air filter reaches its maximum dirt absorption capacity, the resistance rises and your engine is basically gasping for air.
Therefore, changing your engine's air filter at a specified interval is a must-add to your car maintenance checklist. It will ensure your car’s engine operates at maximum capacity and save you a more expensive headache down the road.
As I’m sure will be music to your ears, this doesn’t require a regular inspection or change. We recommend you inspect your car’s air filter once a year and replace it as needed. This information should be included in your car’s service manual. However, as a rule of thumb, it should be changed every 12,000-15,000 miles.
6. Inspect your windscreen wipers (especially in the winter)
Let’s take our heads out of the engine and take a look at your windscreen.
The need for a windshield replacement is normally easy to spot. In fact, any sign of windshield damage needs to be dealt with by a professional right away. However, windshield wipers - and their blades - are a little more subtle. Therefore, you need to familiarize yourself with your blades.
Wiper blades are made of rubber. Therefore, they can wear out - even with limited use. We recommend inspecting your blades once a month as part of your routine car maintenance and replace roughly every six months.
With that said, if you live in a place where the winters are particularly harsh (like some of the FixMyCar team in Michigan) you might want to shorten that replacement window. In fact, this is an essential part of preparing your car for winter.
Wiper blades take a real beating in the winter. And, if your blades become cracked, torn, or worn down, they will be ineffective in removing mud, rain, sleet, or some thick snow. This will not only help you see clearly through your windshield, but it will also help your windshield last longer.
Modern car’s fuel injection engines and upgraded ignition systems mean that the days of the old-fashioned 1960’s tune-ups are more or less a thing of the past. Nevertheless, even the newest car models have parts that need an occasional tinkering with, such as:
Like a lot of the recommended actions on this checklist, when to make these changes varies depending on a variety of factors.
Therefore, we recommend you ask a mechanic to take a look next time you take your car in for repairs. After that, you can decide whether to get the wrench out yourself or leave it to a professional.
Professionals like FixMyCar Mobile Mechanic, Dave!
Is car maintenance necessary? You bet!
Well, there you have it. We hope our car maintenance checklist has shown you the importance and relative ease of carrying out routine car maintenance.
Failure to do so can put you and your passengers in danger and cause you greater problems at the repair shop in the future. Although none of these tasks are particularly difficult, they are still a pain - especially if you’re not a car enthusiast.
If you’re in this boat, you may consider hiring a professional. At FixMyCar, we have certified and seasoned mechanics that can tick off all the items on your car maintenance checklist. Better yet, as they are mobile mechanics, they will come directly to you.
Sound good? Get a quote now and get your four-wheeled-friend back to full health from the comfort of your own home.