If you’ve ever invested in any costly purchase, you know that maintenance is the key to maximizing it. Homes need regular upkeep and repairs, as do many electronics or sports equipment items, and vehicles are no different.
Standard car maintenance procedures keep your car in shape and performing in peak condition so it lasts as long as possible. In essence, a well-maintained vehicle experiences less strain on the engine and other critical parts, which subsequently saves you money on repairs.
While complex maintenance practices are best handled by a qualified mechanic, there are those you can handle by yourself. Knowing which you can DIY and which should be handled by a professional is also important, so here’s a look at some essential car maintenance tips to help keep your car working at its best:
Why Car Maintenance Is Necessary
Car maintenance or tune-ups refers to a series of maintenance procedures carried out at set time intervals or after your car has traveled for a certain distance. Vehicle manufacturers of all car types and brands specify the ideal service intervals.
Modern vehicles use the electronic instrument panel that automatically indicates the due date for the next service. After each completed service, the service’s details and next due date are recorded in a service book. The following are a few reasons why you need to carry out regular car maintenance:
- It helps identify problems early to have them fixed before they become devastating.
- Scheduled car maintenance enhances the safety of your vehicle and prevents accidents from happening.
- It increases your vehicle’s performance and reliability.
- A car with good maintenance history has a higher resale value in future.
- Regular services also lowers the cost of running and maintaining your car.
- Car maintenance reduces the number of roadside emergencies due to stalling
Now that you are aware of the need for regular car maintenance, let’s look at the tips you can do on your own.
5 Things You Can Do for Your Vehicle on Your Own
Even if you are not a car geek and know little about cars, doing some basic DIY care steps will reduce your trips to the mechanic and extend vehicle life.
Here are a few things you can do for your car on your own:
- Change the coolant.
Make sure you change your coolant every 25,000 miles for the green coolant and 100,000 miles for the extended life coolant. Driving on a worn-out coolant will damage your radiator, heater system, and water pump. Once you have mastered the process, it will take you just under an hour to change the coolant. Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all procedure, but you can check your owner’s manual for the recommended practices and the right coolant for your car model.
- Check the fluid levels.
To keep your car running optimally, you need to check the important car fluids regularly. This includes the brake fluids and transmission fluids. Inspect the color of the transmission fluid and check if it is clear and pink. If the fluid is clear, you’re good to go, but dark color is a sign it needs immediate replacement. Use the dipstick attached to the car’s underside to check the brake fluid. If it indicates the levels are low, it’s best to refill the fluid as soon as possible.
- Replace the air filter.
A clogged cabin air filter spells trouble for the car’s AC system. It prevents the AC system from working optimally to produce enough heat for the winter, for example, and prevents the cooling system from creating enough cold for the summer. Clogged filters cause also window fogging problems and lower the gas mileage. You should change your car’s air filter after every 20,000 miles. Be sure to check your owner’s manual for the recommended procedures for your vehicle.
- Clean your headlights.
You don’t have to live with cloudy headlights, but you also don’t have to replace them. Clouded headlights reduce the amount of light they project and are a significant cause of frustration when driving at night. Use a headlight restoration kit and follow the sanding and buffing instructions to get the headlights sparkling once again. You can purchase a functional headlight restoration kit from an auto parts store near you.
- Clean corroded battery terminals.
Corrosion strains your charging system and may lead to malfunctioning of the computer-controlled system. One minor corrosion even decreases your alternator output by up to 30 percent. This stresses your charging system and causes poor starting. If the issue is not handled early, it may lead to costly electrical issues. Use a wire brush and baking soda/water solution to clean the terminals of your batteries thoroughly. Make sure to dry off the battery with paper towels and apply acid-neutralizing felt pads.
These are all things you can regularly do on your own, so long as you have the space to work through the process and feel comfortable handling each after reading your vehicle’s manual. There are definitely maintenance items and repairs that should be left to the professionals, though. Let’s look at the things that should be left to someone with an in-depth understanding of the car’s intricate workings.
Things You Should Let a Mechanic Handle
Although several small maintenance tasks — such as checking the tire pressure or engine oil, swapping out filters, and changing transmission fluid — can be handled at home, plenty of maintenance tasks are better left to a qualified mechanic.
Let’s look at the tasks that you should strictly leave for the professionals:
- Transmission repair
After thousands of miles, your vehicles’ transmission system can develop internal problems such as grinding gears. Transmission repairs are not only expensive, but also exceptionally delicate, and you should leave it to someone who understands the intricate parts of the machinery.
- Brake rotors
Unlike the brake pads, the brake system rotors are not simple to repair. The rotors refer to the metal discs that your brake pads make contact with to slow the vehicle. Over time they become dirty and worn from overuse, and it may need a re-machine or replacement. You should have a qualified mechanic replace the brake rotors after every mileage of about 20,000 miles.
- Electric works
Do not attempt any electric tasks during your DIY routine car maintenance. The risk of errors that can fry your entire system is real, and this task should be better left to a professional.
- Power steering and suspension
Over time, the suspension takes a lot of beating on the road, and your shocks and struts get damaged. If no urgent repairs are done, it leads to damages in other parts of the vehicle, including the tires and springs. This task should only be handled by a mechanic who understands the parts and how to fix them.
- Wheel alignment
Wheel alignment is a complicated procedure that requires top-notch tools and relevant skills. A mechanic with the right equipment can help properly align your wheels and get your car in top shape once again.
In a nutshell, be sure to work with a qualified mechanic during maintenance to ensure the repairs are done correctly.
FAQs About Annual Car Maintenance
Vehicle owners have many questions about car maintenance and what is required to keep their investments in top working order, but here are some of the most common.
How often do cars need maintenance?
Different car models require different maintenance needs. Notably, there is conflicting information from various sources on the right frequency of car maintenance. To be on the safe side, drivers should follow the manufacturer maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual or service booklet for each car model.
What is the most essential maintenance on a car?
The most critical maintenance task on your car is an oil change. Every engine needs regular oil changes, as the oil is responsible for keeping different parts of your engine moving cohesively with minimal friction. That oil gets dirty over time.
How often should I change the oil?
Typically, a modern car or truck needs an oil change after 3,000 to 5,000 miles. You should also ensure other minor parts such as engine air filters, windshield wipers, wiper blades, and spark plugs are functioning without problems. Other components to check include the car battery, motor oil, radiator cap, fuel filter, oil filter, car tires
If you want to improve the efficiency, extend your vehicle’s longevity, stick to an ideal car maintenance schedule, and keep good records of each task to provide a useful history. Performing annual car maintenance tips will help protect you against breakdowns, expensive repairs, and other unwelcome surprises. If you do find yourself in need of towing services or roadside assistance, contact the expert team at Geyers Towing. Our professionals are always ready to come to wherever you are and help get you safely back on the road.