Automotive maintenance is one of those things that we know we should do, but sometimes forget or neglect in the end. This abandonment isn't healthy for any automobile. Just imagine if you stopped practicing a healthy diet, or failed to detox away from heavy red meats, junk foods, or strong alcohol every now and then. Your body would be a complete wreck.
Or, imagine if you stopped paying regular visits to your dentist. Goodness knows that sort of horrors might be hiding behind those pearly yellows. Your car might be a piece of machinery, but its many moving parts require no less attention. Having mentioned that, perhaps it's those many moving parts that deters people from caring for their cars properly.
It can be daunting, for sure. You don't exactly know what to look out for, and what to do. But once you get the hang of it, a simple car maintenance checklist is all you need. Here are some noteworthy examples, for when you get around to giving your car its much-needed attention...
The Monthly To-Dos
While your car could make do without excessive care for a little while, there are a few things that you absolutely should give a good check every month or so. Usually, these involve the vital fluids that your car relies on day to day.
Engine Oil - No doubt one of the most important things to check under the bonnet, and it's safe to do this once a month. If you're overly cautious, you could even take a peek at the motor oil reservoir after every fuel stop. Keep a note of the dipstick level, as well as the colour and viscosity of the oil. Fresh motor oil should be golden brown, while burnt-out oil will turn dark and thicken in viscosity.
Coolant - While the motor oil will ensure that your engine is well lubricated, it can't keep it cool. This is where you need coolant, and this must be checked regularly to make sure your car won't overheat. Check the coolant reservoir within the engine bay, and be extra careful. Never ever open your radiator or coolant cap while the engine is still running hot. Let it cool first.
Lights - To be fair, your car's lights are robust components on their own. It's not like it's imperative to check it all too regularly, but who knows when a bulb might burn or blow a fuse. Or, you might've smashed into something and not noticed it, damaging your car's head or tail-lights. In short, it's easy enough of an inspection, and one that'll not only save you a ticket, but also keep you safe.
Once In Three Months, Or After 3,000 Miles
While some things require a check-up every month, others might not need you to be so attentive. Nevertheless, a quick glance after three or so months, or after around 3,000 miles of driving never hurts...
Transmission Fluid - Just like engine oil, gearbox fluid is necessary to lubricate and help cool your car's transmission. Thankfully, it's one of those fluids that doesn't wear down all the time. Still, this doesn't mean that you should ignore it. Find the transmission fluid reservoir (if easily accessible), and inspect the colour. Gearbox fluids are generally pinkish. If it turns into a dark red or brown, then it needs a change.
Battery - A car's battery is the source of the spark that's so badly needed for combustion. If you've left your car static for a while, it might be good to start it up and have it running to charge it up. Otherwise, you can inspect the condition of the battery itself. Have a look at the mounts, and make sure it's well secured. Then, you could (carefully) inspect the cables are fastened, and the leads aren't covered with any corrosion.
Air Filter - Another important piece of that aforementioned combustion is air. Crucially, it needs to be clean air. That's why your car has an air filter to scrub off all that nasty contaminants in the air that could affect your engine's fuel economy and performance. The air filter should commonly be white or off-white in colour. If it's all dirtied up and filled with debris, then replacing that could make a world of difference.
Power Steering Fluid - Again, a fluid that doesn't necessitate too much attention. Though since you're already working under the bonnet to check everything else, you may as well have a look at the power steering fluid, too. Though it might seem like a matter of convenience, power steering fluid is quite important. Losing that power steering while you're driving is a recipe for terrible accidents.
Tyre - The tyre is one thing that you should certainly pay attention to, as failure to do so can result in horrendous crashes. There are a few things to look out for here. First, it would be to maintain the recommended pressure. Next, check the tyre treads, and ensure the grooves are deep enough. Simply run a coin through the grooves, and see how far it sticks in. Lastly, ensure the tyre itself isn't damaged. Look for uneven tyre wear, as well as damage to the treads and sidewalls.
Once In Six Months, Or After 5,000 Miles
Now, we get to the long-term maintenance checklist that you ought to do after every 5,000 or so miles. It's a good mileage where your car will be broken in thoroughly, and parts might see more wear...
Engine Oil Filter - By now, your car will likely need a flush and replacement of the engine oil. This will, of course, vary from car to car. But if you are ready to change the motor oil, be sure to swap out the engine oil filter as well. This is something that most people miss out on. But a brand new oil filter will keep that fresh motor oil running clear of debris and contaminants.
Tyre Rotation - Rotating your tyres is a great way to make the most out of your whole set of fours. Most cars are either front or rear-wheel drive. This would, in turn, mean that most of the wear will occur along the front and rear tyres, generally speaking. In any case, your tyres should be rotated after a while to ensure even wear. Swap out and rotate the front and rear tyres accordingly.
Once A Year, Or More
A year has passed, and your car's mileage may now have passed ten thousand miles or more. In that case, it's time for another quick check-up, and some routine servicing...
Brakes - Your car might go, but it's nothing more than a moving coffin if it can't stop. A car's brakes are often (thankfully) quite reliable and dependable. But after some time, it too needs caring. Everything on it should be checked on, including the brake fluids and brake linings. The ones you most need to look at are the brake pads and rotor discs, and whether those are worn out.
Everything Else - Depending on how heavily you use your car, every single component will require a replacement at some point in its life. The battery, for instance, has an average lifespan of at least three years, though it could last upwards of five. Tyres too, last around 13,000 miles. The spark plugs should be changed every 30,000 or so miles, while your car's many belts such as the timing belt should be swapped out after 60,000 to around 90,000 miles.
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