Car Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Vehicle Running Smoothly

Maintaining your car goes beyond the occasional oil change or tire rotation; it’s a holistic approach that ensures your vehicle performs at its best while minimizing the risks of breakdowns.

Whether you’re a novice driver or a seasoned motorist, this guide will equip you with actionable tips and insights to keep your car running smoothly.

From regular maintenance schedules to emergency preparedness, we’ve got you covered.

Car Maintenance Tips

Here are 10 Must-Do Car Maintenance Tips

What Regular Maintenance Should be Done on a Car?

Every maintenance plan requires a checklist to make sure you’re not missing any crucial steps. Here are some top car maintenance tips you should be keeping tabs on regularly to keep everything working properly:

1. Oil and Other Fluids

You need to make sure vehicle fluids are at the proper levels at all times. Oil is crucial for your engine, and the level getting too low can damage your engine.

Choosing the right type of oil can also have an impact on your engine’s performance. Synthetic oils are generally better for high-temperature resistance and can improve fuel efficiency. 

If you notice frequent drops in fluid levels or changes in fluid color, it might be time to consult a mechanic. Leaks or unusual fluid colors can be a sign of a more serious issue. 

A few tips:

  • Keep an eye on the oil indicator light and check the oil level dipstick at least once per week.
  • Change your oil regularly. This can improve performance and prolong engine life. 
  • Other fluids to watch are brake, transmission, power steering, windshield washer fluid, and coolant.

Recent recommendations often say you can go longer than the old standard of 3,000 miles between oil changes, but changing it also removes dirt and debris from the engine. It’s important to be alert regarding any leaks, too, as these will affect how your vehicle performs.  

2. Filters

change old car air filters

If you get your oil changed at an oil change service center, the staff will usually check and replace items such as the air filter and oil filter. 

A clogged air filter can lead to decreased fuel efficiency and reduced engine performance. If you notice a strange odor or reduced airflow from your vehicle’s HVAC system, it may be time to replace the cabin air filter. Always refer to your owner’s manual for recommended filter replacement intervals.

You should check these regularly on your own as well, and change you oil filter whenever you change the oil. Other filters to check and change when needed are the cabin air filter and fuel filter. 

3. Check Your Battery

Your car’s battery is crucial for keeping the vehicle running smoothly. If you ever got stuck and needed a jump start, you probably wished you’d replaced your old battery sooner. 

Regularly inspect the battery terminals for signs of corrosion and clean them with a brush and a solution of baking soda and water. Batteries generally last 3-5 years; however, extreme temperatures can shorten their lifespan. If your car struggles to start, it may be time for a battery replacement.

Look for signs of wear such as rust or grime on the battery, especially the battery terminals. Today’s batteries last about three years, but this range varies according to the make of the car and how often you drive.

4. Tires

Your tires are another crucial aspect of vehicle safety. The miles take their toll on tires — more so during harsh weather and if you travel on rough roads. 

Regular tire alignment checks can prevent uneven wear and improve fuel efficiency. If you notice your vehicle pulling to one side while driving or if the steering wheel is off-center, it might be time to have your alignment checked.

Measure your tire pressure regularly and rotate them as the manufacturer recommends. Change your tires when they become worn. 

5. Lights

You depend on your car’s lights for navigating at night. They also serve to warn others of your approach. 

When replacing bulbs, consider the type that best suits your needs. LED bulbs offer brighter illumination and longer life but can be more expensive upfront. Halogen bulbs are more common and cheaper but may not last as long. Always replace bulbs in pairs to ensure even lighting.

A broken light, in addition to being a safety issue, can get you a ticket. Promptly replace any broken bulbs, including headlights, tail lights, hazard lights, and turn signals. 

6. Windshield Wipers

Your windshield wipers are important for helping you drive safely in the rain. You should test them regularly to make sure they’re in good working order. 

A clean windshield is essential for safe driving. Always keep your windshield washer reservoir filled with a quality washer fluid. When choosing wiper blades, opt for those that offer streak-free wiping and have a good lifespan. 

Replace wiper blades at least once a year or sooner if they start to streak. At some point, the blades or motor may need replacing.

Preventative maintenance goes a long way in keeping your car running better and avoiding short- and long-term problems. Knowing what to check will help you do your part to keep your vehicle working properly for years to come.

7. Scheduled Maintenance

Regularly scheduled maintenance is crucial for the longevity and optimal performance of your vehicle. Most automakers provide a maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual that outlines when various components and systems should be checked or replaced.

Following this schedule can help you avoid unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs.

8. Emergency Kit

An emergency kit can be a lifesaver in unexpected situations. It’s wise to keep essentials like a first-aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food items, blankets, a flashlight, and basic tools in your vehicle.

 Additionally, include items like jumper cables and a tire repair kit to deal with common roadside issues.

9. Tech Tools

Modern cars come with various tech tools that can assist you in maintaining your vehicle. Features like tire pressure monitoring systems, maintenance reminders, and advanced diagnostics can help you stay ahead of issues before they become problems.

Familiarize yourself with these tools and use them to your advantage.

10. Green Practices

Adopting eco-friendly driving and maintenance practices can not only improve your vehicle’s efficiency but also contribute to environmental conservation.

This includes avoiding excessive idling, maintaining optimal tire pressure, and using eco-friendly car washes and cleaning products.

4 Other Useful Tips to Keep Your Car in Top Condition

Maintenance is important, but it’s not the only thing that impacts the longevity of your investment in a vehicle. Aside from the mechanical issues listed above, you can help keep your car in optimal condition by paying attention to the following factors.

Keep Your Car Clean

Cleaning your car makes it look better and keeps it safer and running more smoothly. It’s especially important to keep the windshield and windows clean so your vision is unobstructed, as mud and other debris can cause blind spots. 

Giving the exterior of your car a thorough cleaning removes from the wheels and undercarriage, which can cause rust and body damage. It’s also nice to keep the interior clean and free of clutter. Vacuum the interior regularly. 

Drive Conscientiously

The way you drive has an impact on your engine and other auto parts. Bad habits such as slamming on your brakes and rapid acceleration contribute to wear and tear on your car. 

They also reduce fuel efficiency. It’s also safer and more considerate to other drivers to speed and slow down gradually unless there’s an emergency that demands a fast response. 

Conserve Fuel and the Life of Your Car

A fairly obvious truth is that the more you drive, the faster you wear out your car and its parts. There are multiple benefits to reducing the number of miles you drive. 

Practices such as carpooling and combining errands help you save on gas. Walking and biking more is good for your health. Consider alternatives to driving for long trips will help you keep your car running longer. 

Tools and Equipment to Keep in Your Car

You should own certain items to perform basic maintenance on your car or to check certain things. Many of these items can be carried with you in the vehicle. 

  • Tire gauge to check tire pressures.
  • Flashlight
  • Thick gloves for protection if you have to look under your hood.
  • A jack.
  • Spare tire
  • A car or truck heater
  • Jumper cables to charge a dead battery.
  • A Tool Kit — includes screwdrivers and socket wrenches. 
  • A cell phone and car charger. You don’t want to be without phone service if you have to call a towing service.

These items will help you do basic checks and maintenance for your car, plus help you avoid being stranded in an emergency. 

As a general rule, if you notice anything that’s not quite right with the way your car is running, it’s best to get it checked as soon as possible. Preventative maintenance can help you extend the life of your car. 

It can also save you from breaking down, having to call a towing company, and possibly needing costly repairs.

Here Are 3 Common Preventative Auto Maintenance Lists Based on Months and/or Mileage

annual car maintenance at car shop

Three Months or 30,000 Miles Car Maintenance

  • Check automatic transmission fluid levels
  • Check hoses and replace if necessary
  • Check power steering fluid levels and refill
  • Check engine light
  • Inspect your car battery and car battery cables
  • Change the engine oil and oil filter
  • Replace fuel filter
  • Inspect the exhaust
  • Check brake fluid levels and refill
  • Check coolant levels and refill to keep the cooling system working properly
  • Check the fluid level of windshield wiper fluid and replace wiper blades if worn
  • Inspect your brake pads and brake system
  • Check all lights, including brake lights and parking lights
  • Check the tread, air pressure, and general condition of your tires

Six Months or 60,000 Miles Maintenance Schedule

At least twice a year or every 60,000 miles if you’re driving many, there are car care tips that you shouldn’t avoid. This many miles put a lot of wear and tear on your car, and you need to give it a little loving care to ensure it can make it another 60,000 without the air conditioning going out or the check engine light coming on.

  • Check automatic transmission fluid levels
  • Check hoses and replace if necessary
  • Lubricate the chassis
  • Check power steering fluid levels and refill
  • Check engine light
  • Automatic transmission fluid levels
  • Inspect the car battery and car battery cables
  • Change the engine oil and oil filter
  • Replace fuel filter
  • Inspect the exhaust
  • Check brake fluid levels and refill
  • Clean the interior and exterior of the car with a car wash
  • Polish or wax the car’s exterior: Check the owner’s manual from the dealership to find the correct products to safely use on your new car’s paint job
  • Check coolant levels and refill to keep the cooling system working properly
  • Check the fluid level of windshield wiper fluid and replace wiper blades if worn
  • Inspect your brake pads and brake system
  • Check all lights, including brake lights and parking lights
  • Check the tread, air pressure, and general condition of your tires

12 Months or 120,000 Miles Car Maintenance

You’ve made it a year or driven a lot of miles on your car’s engine. Here’s a look at the minimum car maintenance you need at this point:

  • Check automatic transmission fluid levels
  • Check hoses and replace if necessary
  • Inspect the car battery and car battery cables
  • Check the tread, air pressure, and general condition of your tires
  • Check the fluid level of windshield wiper fluid and replace wiper blades if worn
  • Inspect all belts and replace as necessary
  • Replace the cabin air filter to keep your air conditioning blowing cold air
  • Check brake fluid levels and refill
  • Check coolant levels and refill to keep the cooling system working properly
  • Check the fluid level of windshield wiper fluid and replace wiper blades if worn
  • Inspect your brake pads and brake system
  • Check all lights, including brake lights and parking lights
  • Check the tread, air pressure, and general condition of your tires
  • Replace fuel filterInspect the exhaust
  • Inspect and replace spark plugs and air filter

Bonus Car Maintenance Tip

Car auto manuals are a great place to read to find the manufacturer’s recommendation for the mileage at which you should replace your timing belt. If you do no other maintenance, you must replace your timing belt at the mileage listed in your owner’s manual. 

Timing belts do major damage to the engine when they break, and your car won’t move again on its own until the work is completed.

Car Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Vehicle Running Smoothly 1

The Bottom Line: Don’t Ignore Car Problems

Just as you shouldn’t ignore health symptoms, you shouldn’t overlook signs that your car needs attention. Being proactive with car issues can save thousands of dollars. Here are some signs to watch for.

  • Your check engine light is on. Even if your car seems to be running fine, you should find out the cause.
  • Any unidentified sound such as a rattling or a change in the way the motor sounds. This could indicate an issue with a belt or another auto part. You need to add fluids more often than you should. This may indicate a leak.
  • Problems with your brakes. For example, you may notice that you have to press down harder on the brakes to slow down. This is an indication you need to get your brakes checked.

It’s good to be aware of whom to call in the case of a problem or emergency. It’s nice when you can develop a relationship with a reliable mechanic to help you with car maintenance. 

You should also have the number of a reliable towing company in case you ever need to be towed. If you find yourself in need of towing, contact Geyers Towing Service.

Things You Should Let A Mechanic Handle 

Although the several small maintenance tasks we have outlined in our list — 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 qualified mechanics.

Car Maintenance

Let’s look at the tasks that you should strictly leave for the professional mechanics:

  • 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 their car 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?

One of our top car maintenance tips, and 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

Key Takeaway

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 auto maintenance will help protect you against breakdowns, expensive repairs, and other unwelcome surprises. 

While keeping your car in top condition involves various tasks, scheduled maintenance and proactive checks can go a long way in preventing costly repairs and extending your vehicle’s lifespan.

Remember, maintenance isn’t just about avoiding issues; it’s about optimizing performance and safety. If you find yourself in need of towing or roadside assistance, know that experts like Geyers Towing are just a call away.

 

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