The Complete Car Maintenance Checklist
It’s a known fact that all cars need a regular maintenance checklist in order to run smoothly. Still, essential car maintenance goes beyond a visual inspection of your car and an occasional washing from time to time. You’ll also want to care for your car after every outing, as well as follow a regular maintenance schedule.
Fortunately, many upkeep-related tasks are manageable for most vehicle owners and do not require a mechanic. However, if you do find that your car needs a major repair, we recommend turning to the pros so you can continue to enjoy it safely.
In the meantime, in this car care maintenance guide we will cover a basic yet fundamental car maintenance checklist. We’ll show you how to maintain a car so that you can enjoy it without worries for as long as possible.
Why Do Cars Need Constant Maintenance?
In itself, a car is an engineering marvel. The sheer fact that it’s built to travel at such high speeds, while having a beautiful design and offering you great comfort is fabulous.
However, a car is more than a mere toy for grownups.
It’s a product that is built following accurate science for it to function perfectly. And like any other piece of engineering, a car is ultimately a well-assembled machine that is the sum of all its mechanical and electrical systems. They all have a logic and sequence in their functioning. Whenever this logic is not followed, something will break down.
This is precisely why all car owners need to have a car maintenance checklist. Thankfully, all cars have a basic maintenance checklist that can be generally used, regardless of the model or the kind of upholstery it has inside.
Such a checklist is, in fact, the Holy Grail of car care, which is why today we’ll take you through everything you need to know about keeping your car safe and running at all times.
What Is Routine Maintenance On a Vehicle?
Routine maintenance is a basic check-up on your vehicle, meant to ensure its proper functioning, usually composed of a series of check-up procedures that are best repeated regularly and which all go on your basic — or thorough — car maintenance checklist.
The good news is that you can do many of these procedures by yourself. Others, of course, are best carried out by a professional mechanic.
In this article, we are going to share with you some of our best vehicle maintenance tips so that you’ll know exactly what needs to be done — and when — to keep your car protected and running smoothly.
lar Maintenance Should Be Done On a Car?
Before we start talking extensively about our suggested car maintenance checklist, a useful tip you should know is that your car’s owner manual is your best friend. This is because it contains information on all the maintenance checks that need to be done and, ideally, when they should be performed next. So be sure to check your owner’s manual before anything else.
Every single car out there has an owner’s manual that is typically stored inside the glove compartment — look for it thoroughly, and you’ll find it. If, however, you can’t, then you can either access its electronic version online or you can request a copy from your dealer.
Once you have it, go to the maintenance schedule section. There you can find the intervals for changing the engine oil, the oil filter, belts, tire rotation, hoses, and so on.
After talking about our car maintenance checklist, what regular maintenance should be done for your car exactly?
1. Check Your Tires Regularly
Since tires basically sustain the entire weight of the car for thousands of miles each year, you must take care of them properly.
Check The Pressure
When inflated to the correct pressure, your fuel consumption will be reduced, not to mention that your trip will be a lot safer. In order to do this, there’s certainly no need for you to visit the body shop. With a high-quality tire gauge, you can easily do everything by yourself.
Don’t forget to also check the tire pressure more often during winter, since cold temperatures can affect your car and make the tire pressure drop.
Alignment And Balance
If you ever feel like your car is pulling to one side when you drive, it would be a good idea to check your wheel alignment and balance. These are also extremely important to be checked as often as possible and especially before a long drive.
Our car maintenance checklist doesn’t stop here, but tires are one important item to check off this list and an element you need to pay proper attention to.
Reduce Uneven Tire Wear
New tires can be quite expensive and will easily burn a hole in your budget. That’s why most car owners will aim to extend the life of their tires as much as they can.
A good way to do this is to have them rotated regularly to reduce uneven wear.
Penny-Test Your Tires
To understand just how worn out your tires are, you can perform a quick and simple test. It’s called the penny test and implies that you take a US penny and place it between the tread ribs of a tire. If you see all of Lincoln’s head, then it may be time for you to replace your tires since they’re pretty worn out.
This is crucial for any car maintenance checklist. If the top of his head disappears completely, it means that the tread depth of your tires is at an optimum level.
If your car tires need to be replaced, do it as quickly as possible! Acting decisively may save your life.
2. Check The Car Fluids
Fluids are basically the lifeblood of your vehicle. Without them, essential parts of your car would get jammed, rusty, frozen, and so on. To check the oil is not enough. Your car maintenance checklist has to include them all if you want the car to function as it should.
Having said this, let’s take a look at the most important fluids you need to change:
To check the oil level in the engine, open the car’s hood and pull the dipstick out from the engine and wipe the oil on it.
Then insert it back into its tube and push it all the way down.
Pull it back out again and look at the oil level it indicates. If low, then it is time to add some more — this is how you check engine oil levels.
First of all, you’ll need to find the expansion tank. Then check the coolant level, which should show on the side of the expansion tank. If it’s leaning towards the minimum, top it up.
Automatic Transmission Fluid
To check the levels of your automatic transmission fluid, leave your engine on and the gear shift in Neutral or Park. The automatic transmission fluid should be high on your checklist when doing car maintenance.
Windshield Washer Fluid
When you check your windshield washer fluid, you need to make sure you’re parked on level ground and that your engine is cold. Find the fluid washer cap, pop it open, and check the fluid level inside. Replenish the level of windshield washer fluid if necessary.
The brake fluid is yet another top priority fluid that can ensure your personal safety on the road. Check to see what level the fluid level is at exactly, keeping in mind that it needs to be within half an inch or so of the cap. Add more if your inspection doesn’t meet this requirement, and be sure to continue with your car maintenance checklist.
A quick way to test if your clutch fluid needs a top-up is to get in the driver’s seat and press the clutch pedal a few times.
Each time you do this, it should move smoothly and spring back up right after. If this doesn’t happen, there’s a big chance your clutch fluid is low. Before you check this fluid, make sure your car is on level ground.
Turn off the engine and let it cool for 30-60 minutes. The reservoir is located inside your vehicle’s engine bay. You are looking for a small, clear tank near the windshield. Check the level of clutch fluid visually.
If you can’t approximate it visually, use a dipstick.
Top up if the level is too low and leaning towards the ‘min’ indicator — this way, you’ll have made another step in completing your car maintenance checklist.
Power Steering Fluid
There is one quick way to test the power steering fluid, and that’s by seeing how the steering wheel turns. If you have difficulty turning it, or if you hear high-pitched whining noises when you do so, then the fluid is low. Near the power steering pump, you’ll find a cylindrical reservoir that contains the power-steering fluid.
This should be clearly labeled. However in order to locate all these reservoirs, you can easily consult the owner’s manual. Check the level of the power-steering fluid and top up if necessary — it will help you get through your car maintenance checklist successfully.
Battery Electrolyte Fluid (Distilled Water)
To check this, get a small flashlight and look inside the vent. This way, you’ll be able to see the cell plates in the electrolyte. What you need to check is that the level of electrolyte fluid is enough to submerge cell plates. If the level is low, you can add distilled water, but be mindful to not overflow the cells.
3. Check The Air Filter
Just as other auto parts are key to the overall functioning of your vehicle, the air filter also plays its very own part in the entire system of the car. In other words, the cabin air filter makes sure the air that gets inside the car cabin is regulated and what you breathe is free of debris and other particulates. No car maintenance checklist is complete without checking the air filter.
Changing the air filter depends on how often you actually drive your car. However, it usually needs to be changed once or twice a year. Remember that a properly flowing air filter not only impacts the quality of the air you breathe but also helps decrease your emissions, improve your fuel efficiency and sustain your vehicle’s long life.
4. Change The Oil And The Oil Filter
Some procedures need to be done regularly without following a specific calendar. Others will require you to follow a schedule with precision. On a car maintenance checklist, changing the oil definitely requires you to follow the schedule and be on time with it.
Oil is extremely important for the life of the car because it serves as a lubricant and keeps important engine parts from grinding against each other. If you leave your oil on for more than necessary, it will accumulate all sorts of contaminants that cause friction when they rub against each other.
If you want to understand what kind of oil is best suited for your car’s engine, check the owner’s manual. It will show you all you need to know about the needed level of viscosity and other service requirements.
It’s best to get an oil that meets most of the requirements and still has the engine running smoothly rather than offering your engine no oil when it needs it for the parts to stop grinding against each other.
Apart from the regular oil change, you’ll also need to pay attention to the oil filter. Generally speaking, an oil filter will last you roughly between 5,000 – 8,000 miles.
5. Check The Brakes
Having brakes that function smoothly should be a priority for you as a car owner. That’s why it’s important to test them out each time you can, both by listening to them and actually pressing on them.
If you feel you need to apply more pressure than usual, then it’s most likely time for an inspection with a professional mechanic.
Here are the guidelines on the noises you may hear:
This can happen frequently, and, in fact, doesn’t necessarily mean your car is in critical condition. Actually, this tends to happen on rainy days, when the car hasn’t been driven for a day or more, and rust accumulates on the rotors.
A rattling or vibrating sound indicates that one of the rotors is warped or worn out and needs to be replaced.
This sound always indicates that you should change your brake pads since the ones you currently have are worn out and are rubbing against the rotor.
6. Examine Belts And Hoses
This may take your entire checking process a step a bit further, but it’s completely worth it and will help you save money on future costly repairs. Having said this, the car maintenance checklist cannot be completed without a proper inspection of your car’s belts and hoses.
The hoses help direct coolant flow to ensure the engine doesn’t overheat. If a hose shows signs of being cracked, separated, or having bulges, then you should replace it immediately.
Belts are also an important part of the vehicle. When we talk about these, we refer especially to the timing belt found in most small cars and SUVs.
If this belt is worn out or shows bulges, cracks, or material loss, you need to replace it as soon as possible. The quicker you change it, the safer your entire journey will be.
7. Check Your Lights
The lights of your car are also a top priority when going through your car maintenance checklist, even though they are often overlooked.
This is why a monthly check on them would be perfect. Make sure your car is on a flat surface, and proceed to check that both headlights are well-positioned. Then, engage the breaks and have someone stay in the back to let you know if they’re working properly. You can also inspect your turn signals and parking lights by walking around your car and taking a quick look at them.
8. Check Your Battery
The battery is what starts your car up by igniting the spark plug with energy. A battery is usually checked with a multimeter, and you can get this service done when going in for a car maintenance check-up in the body shop.
However, there are a few things you can do to protect and check your battery’s life. During wintertime, it’s essential to check the battery since freezing temperatures will cause it to die. The simple way to do this is to start your engine often enough to keep the battery on its toes, even during colder times.
9. Check Your Wiper Blades
As a driver, you know how important the windshield is since it offers you a view of the traffic, so having it clean at all times is absolutely crucial. That’s why checking your wiper blades every so often and ensuring they’re running smoothly is paramount. If they have difficulty in going across the windshield, or if they make screeching noises, then they should be replaced.
How Else Can You Ensure Proper Car Maintenance?
As mentioned before, car maintenance doesn’t only refer to the inner workings of a car but also to its exterior aspect. Having said this, the paint of a car is the most significant aspect of its entire aesthetic finish. This is why it’s important to protect it thoroughly.
After giving your car a proper wash, polish it to remove any extra debris or residue the wash session didn’t eliminate.
Wax Your Car
Following the polishing procedure, wax only comes naturally. Waxing your car gives it that beautiful, glossy look and an extra layer of much-needed protection. For this, we recommend the all-natural carnauba wax, which is a lot friendlier to your car’s paint coat than synthetic waxes.
Ceramic Coating Your Car
When all is said and done, going the extra mile always pays off. Ceramic coating gives your car the additional layer of protection that will last for months, as well as a higher level of shine. In this department, we totally recommend you go with the Nexgen Ceramic Spray, a ceramic coating item with a high silicon dioxide (SiO2) composition that offers four times longer protection than that advertised by other similar products.
What Do Professionals Check When Doing Car Maintenance?
For the most part, when you take your car to the car service, they check the same things we’ve been discussing. In other words, these will be ticked off the car maintenance checklist:
- Lights, exhaust, tires, and operations of steering and brakes.
- Checking hydraulic fluid and coolant levels.
- Steering alignment.
- An engine oil change and/or filter replacement.
- Checking the cooling system.
- Engine working properly.
- Testing battery condition.
Another thing they check that’s more difficult for you to check on your own is represented by the suspensions. Other than this, your lists will be the same, and it’s up to you if you want to take your car to an official car maintenance check or if you want to do it by yourself.
On the one hand, professionals may quickly go through a car maintenance checklist with optimum efficiency. They have a trained eye for this and the necessary equipment as well. However, it will surely make you pay an extra amount of money that you could otherwise invest in something else.
If you want to save money, then take matters into your own hands and get through the list, one item at a time.
Proper car maintenance will keep your vehicle running better and longer, and most importantly, create a safe experience for you and your family. Whether you’re just driving to work or embarking on a cross-country adventure, you’ll need a safe way for you and your companions to ride along.
In the end, it’s good to remember that a regular car maintenance check-up is very much needed and that it’s not rocket science at all. As long as you follow the indications we’ve shared with you above, you should get your car ready and running smoothly.
If you have any questions regarding your car maintenance checklist, reach out to us, and we’ll support you in completing it — easily and successfully.
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