For any car owner out there, it is pretty common to want to keep their car in working order for as long as possible. Typically, just making sure you keep up with your scheduled car maintenance would be enough. If you want to save a few bucks and learn a few things while doing it, then making a car maintenance checklist will go a long way.
The car maintenance checklist contains several more common and more frequent things you need to check on your car, helping to increase the vehicle’s longevity while also keeping the cost to a minimum.
Naturally, this isn’t exactly a replacement for professional checkups, but a car maintenance checklist should get you at least one step closer to saving some time and money down the line by reducing the number of mechanic visits.
How Important Is A Car Maintenance Checklist?
Well, what is a car maintenance checklist?
A car maintenance checklist is a reminder of when you should check certain parts. The vehicle components that make it onto the car maintenance checklist are the ones vulnerable to wear and tear and other issues.
A great place to start if you have absolutely no knowledge is to consult the user manual of the car, as typically there is a short guide on what the manufacturer thinks you should schedule for maintenance. And these guides usually come with a recommendation for their own service centers.
Regular service centers are the best way to increase your vehicle’s longevity. However, it can be very expensive. If you don’t mind paying for it, then this is the best option as the service centers replace buggy components with brand new ones, helping eliminate the underlying problem.
A secret we let our readers in on every time is that you can reduce the number of visits to an auto technician’s shop by simply maintaining your vehicle. To do that, you would need to put some effort into making a car maintenance checklist of your own. Maintaining a car yourself is easily the most optimal choice for budget-conscious vehicle owners.
But keep in mind that no matter who is maintaining your car, whether it is a service center or you, a car maintenance checklist will get you on top of the vehicle’s issues. A checklist will not eliminate the need for replacing new parts or repairing old ones; it is just a preventive measure to keep your vehicle in optimum condition at all times to avoid breakdowns.
It doesn’t make your car completely free from wear and tear over the years. At some point, all vehicles reach that part of their life where the maintenance would cost more than a new car when added up.
Common Things To Check In Your Vehicle
There are some components in the car that require regular maintenance, and many of us often forget about these as we are so consumed with our own lives. A car maintenance checklist should contain the following items to ensure that the vehicle is running at peak performance:
Oil And Coolant
Every few months, or before any long trips, you’ll want to make sure that the oil and coolant levels are good. These are both for the engine to run cool and smoothly. If left unchecked, you may face several issues while driving, from transmission slips to engine overheating and more.
Changing oil and coolant is also a DIY task. There are a lot of videos that you can watch to help you change the oil and coolant in your car. You can even refer to the car’s owner’s manual for guidance.
This is the part that keeps contaminants away from your engine as it draws in more air to keep it cool. Keeping an eye on the air filter will help improve fuel efficiency and decrease emissions from your vehicle.
Again, as this is a common check, you can rely on the user manual to guide you through changing an air filter at home.
Tire Pressure And Tread Depth
This should probably be at the top of the short-term items on your car maintenance checklist. Maintaining good tires can prevent the worst things from happening on the road.
Every month or so, check the air pressure in the tires with a tire pressure gauge. Also, keep in mind that for every 10 degrees colder it is, the tire drops one pound in pressure. Using the penny method, you can try checking the tread depth now and then.
You may also want to check the front and rear tires separately, as depending on the road conditions, the wear and tear might be uneven. Besides avoiding accidents, keeping tires well-maintained also improves fuel efficiency since there is less friction between the road and the tire.
Yes, we mean all of them, the headlights, turn signals, brake, and parking lights. To check these, you just have to start your car and flick the lights on, then give it a quick check. It’s also very simple to replace these lights, although depending on your vehicle, they may have special lights that won’t allow more common bulbs to fit in.
Checking the lights should be right beside the tires on your car maintenance checklist, as they can be just as big of a factor in a car crash as the tires.
Oil And Filters
Now for the motor oil, which pretty much is required for all the parts in the engine to work well, as not only does it cool, but it also lubricates, cleans, and prevents corrosion in the engine. Keeping the oil topped up and clean is vital.
You also need to find out what kind of oil will best suit your vehicle. For this, you may want to consult the manufacturer or a professional. As a general rule of thumb, every 3 months or 3000 miles, you’ll want to change the oil and oil filter. If you want to save a bit of money, you can see in the manual the recommended time between changing the oil and sticking generally around that.
Wax Your Car
Finally, cleaning the outside of your car is also important. A quick wash can be done pretty often, just depending on how dirty it is. But about every six months, you should wax your car.
This not only makes it look nicer but also helps with the longevity of the paint, which will in turn prevent rusting. If rust begins to form and it’s not dealt with, it can lead to further complications down the line.
Things To Look Out For The Long Term
These items on the car maintenance checklist don’t need to be changed out as frequently, but they must still be kept for your car to last a long time.
Similar to the oil in the engine, the transmission fluid helps keep your transmission’s parts in working order. Forgetting to change this out won’t cause a devastating accident, rather it will slowly start to damage the transmission.
You’ll start to notice symptoms of a failing transmission, such as gear slippage, being unable to start, and more. The more you delay changing the transmission fluid, the greater the damage. Not focusing on transmission fluid can damage the entire transmission, resulting in thousands of dollars in replacement costs.
So, to avoid an unnecessary cost, keep the transmission fluid topped up.
Check The Shocks And Struts
This part should be checked by a professional unless you’re confident in your DIY abilities. The shock and strut are what takes the brunt of passing over bumps and are essential in the auto-steering system of a vehicle.
These should be checked every 50,000 miles or so. If left unchecked, you’ll notice a lack of responsiveness when steering as well as a tougher car to handle.
Transfer Case Fluid
This is for all-wheel-drive vehicles, as the transfer case is what shifts the power from the transmission to the axles.
You have to follow the specifications given by the manufacturer in this case, and if you’re checking yourself, you’ll need the tools to get under the car. If you do not have these, then you should probably just let a professional deal with this.
Coolant Fluid Exchange
This is a part of the radiator that is a vital component in keeping your engine cool. This is where you flush out the coolant, as keeping the fluid clean is necessary for smooth functioning and to avoid any sort of buildup.
While you’re here, you can also clean out any buildup that might’ve happened while also checking the rest of the radiator. To know how often to change this, refer to the manufacturer’s specs.
This is what ignites the engine and is responsible for mixing air and gas to help the vehicle start. If the spark plugs aren’t working right, then the engine may lose power and, in turn, performance.
Again, taking it to a professional is recommended unless you want to go tinkering around in there until you can get it right. This part is less likely to go bad, so you have to base it on the feeling of the drive. If it’s gotten slower or harder to reach the usual speeds, you might want to check the spark plugs.
The serpentine belt is what gives life to most of the peripheral devices in your car. Things like the alternator, power steering pump, and air conditioner compressor. It may seem like just a piece of rubber, but it does contribute greatly to driving comfortably.
When checking on the serpentine belt, you sort of just have to look at it to see if the wear is too great or if tearing has started. If you spot any wear and tear on the belt, it is best to replace it with the manufacturer’s recommended replacement.
Front And Rear Differential
These are what split the torque of the engine over to the tires which is what allows them to spin. In simpler words, it makes engine energy useful. For vehicles with two-wheel-drive, there is only one differential. For four-wheel-drive vehicles, you’ll have to check the front and rear differentials.
You may need to take your car to the mechanic for it as it will require a few tools to get to the parts you need. However, if you have tools at home, you can embark on this DIY project and start to lubricate the parts sufficiently.
Things To Remember For Hybrid Car Maintenance
Alright, now you have your car maintenance checklist, but uh oh, you drive a hybrid!
Hybrid car maintenance can differ from regular car maintenance in some ways, so you may have to rearrange the car maintenance checklist a little. Hybrid car maintenance, for the most part, is still the same.
When it comes to hybrid car maintenance, you still have to do all of the above. There will be several parts that last longer on a hybrid car, so check the user manual as the time between checking or miles driven can vary from car to car.
Since hybrids use less gas, the wear and tear on the engine and brakes are considerably lower, which means you won’t have to check up on them too often, unlike with a petrol or diesel car.
Changing the coolant can be more labor-intensive depending on the model. With a hybrid car, you also have to be more mindful of the battery. Of all the things in hybrid car maintenance, you should probably let a professional deal with any problems with the battery, as that can get really ugly, real quick.
The hybrid car is known for its low daily costs as compared to traditional vehicles, but the trade-off is the price. Hybrid cars are much more expensive, and the battery is an issue that few car owners want to concern themselves with.
Is Your Car Too Far Gone?
The easiest way to tell if your car is a lost cause is when, even after maintenance, it just doesn’t run as well as it used to.
If it still runs well, then maybe the parts are wearing out faster and it’s getting more and more expensive to maintain the car regularly. Or maybe the parts the car uses are out of date and buying new ones comes with a significantly higher cost. At this point, it’s a sign that you should either move on from your car or at least accept that it probably can’t be your daily driver anymore if you want to keep it.