If you’re like most drivers, your vehicle likely has or will experience some preventable issues. In fact, the numbers tell a very grim and revealing story, as 80 percent of all vehicles on the road today require some type of service, a new part and/or repair, according to the nonprofit Car Care Council.
In particular, low fluid levels, dirty and clogged air filters, unattended check engine lights and worn belts are some of the most common neglected maintenance issues. While many of these repairs are inexpensive, failing to address them not only can do damage to your car, but can also endanger your life and the lives of your passengers.
Moreover, poorly-maintained vehicles are responsible for thousands of accidents each year and cost billions of dollars in damages. Fortunately, most of these issues are preventable if you follow some basic maintenance procedures. Here are some of the most important car maintenance procedures to follow.
1. Check Your Oil Every Month
Experts say problems with engine oil are the most common and costly car maintenance repairs. In fact, your car can experience a slew of problems, including an overheated engine, increased wear and friction on moving parts, promoted rust and damaged pistons, if it has low oil levels.
However, you can avoid incurring these serious issues by checking your oil once a month. Of course, you can check it more often if you notice a leak or continually need to add more oil. Normally, your oil should be changed out every six months, or every 7,500 miles, whichever comes first. If your oil is depleting much faster, then your best bet is to visit your mechanic.
2. Take Monthly Tire Pressure and Tread Depth Readings
Another simple but vital routine maintenance task that should be performed every month is checking your tire pressure and tread depth. Tires lose pressure periodically due to temperature and other factors, while tread gets worn down regularly from braking and friction. Driving with low tire pressure or worn tread can wear down your tires faster and put you at risk of a blowout or brake failure.
But you can avoid these serious risks by being vigilant with monthly tire pressure and tread depth readings. Not sure how to go about it? Your owner’s manual should detail your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure. To avoid your reading getting skewed by air expansion caused by heating, take these readings after both your engine and tires have cooled down.
To check your tread depth, simply insert a coin into your tires’ grooves to ensure they haven’t worn down significantly — 2/32 of an inch is considered an unsafe level. You can easily check by inserting a penny upside down into your tire tread and seeing if the top of President Lincoln’s head is still visible.
If that’s the case, that means your tread is less than 2/32 of an inch and dangerously low. Thus, to prevent your tires’ tread depth from getting too low, experts instead suggest using a quarter, with President Washington’s head letting you know whether your tires are in good shape or need replacing.
3. Take Advantage of Biannual Inspections
When you visit your mechanic every six months for an oil change, he or she should also perform a few other important and routine maintenance tasks, which include checking your:
- Transmission, steering and brake fluids
- Air filter
- Constant-velocity-joint boots
To ensure all these items get checked over during your oil change, talk to your mechanic about getting a full-service oil change, and make sure you know which items are included.
4. Schedule Any Long-Term Maintenance
In addition to performing certain maintenance tasks every six months, there are others that should be conducted every two to four years. These tasks include:
- Replacing drive belts and hoses
- Changing your timing belt
- Changing out your automatic transmission fluid
- Draining and flushing your cooling system
Follow your manufacturer’s estimate on how often to have these tasks carried out. For best results, schedule automatic reminders with your mechanic or through various car maintenance apps.
Do the Simple Things Now to Enjoy Your Ride’s Extended Lifetime
Good car care boils down to scheduling routine maintenance tasks. Performing monthly checks of your oil, tire pressure and tread depth is simple to do and will help prevent small problems from escalating into serious repair issues. When going in for an oil change every six months, it’s also an ideal time to schedule other inspections, such as checking other fluid levels.
Certain long-term maintenance tasks such as replacing belts and hoses should be done every two to four years. In the end, following these guidelines will extend the lifetime of your vehicle and keep it in top working condition.