Whether you have just bought your first car or you have owned cars for years, everyone can do with learning how to take care of your car —inside and out. Staying on top of problem areas, keeping things clean, and giving your wheels a regular check-up (and not one at the cost of a mechanic) is your best bet to getting more years out of your car.
In the terms of safety and fuel economy, you should check your tires on a monthly basis —fortnightly if you use your car as a workhorse or go off-road a lot. Having the right air pressure is a must, so either buy a little gauge you can keep in your garage or head over to your local gas station and check those tires. Likewise, you should check the treads for wear. Bald tires waste fuel and can be a real danger, especially on wet or iced over roads. Heavier cars, like Mazda 3 sedans or big brutes like the Ford F-150, really rely on tires in good nick to keep moving, so put checking your tires on your to-do list.
- Clean and Polish
Giving your car a regular wash isn’t just something you do for aesthetic purposes. Stains can develop, chipping can occur, and sometimes paint will even start to peel in the right circumstances which will expose the substrate beneath to the elements, promoting rust or oxidization to grow. Not only do these defects smash the resell value of your car, but they will cause problems to develop down the road —like when that rust creates a hole in the roof during storm season. Take the time to give your wheels a wash and polish.
- Air Filters
Internal combustion engines need air intake to work, and the air filters prevent all manner of dirt, bugs, feathers, and gravel from getting sucked inside. Keeping the air filter maintained increases your fuel efficiency, lengthens the engine’s life, and reduces emissions. The climate and environment where you drive will more accurately define how often you need to replace the air filter —if you drive on a lot of dusty, dirt roads for example, you will need to do this more often than someone who only drives in the city— but most manufacturers recommend popping in a new one every 12 months or 12 000 miles. Check your car’s manual for what filter you need, pick one up, and swap the old for the new.
- Oil Changes
Cars don’t come with endless oil. Your mechanic will likely change the oil when you bring it in for a service, but you can do this yourself too. It’s quick and simple to do! On a level surface, with the car off, flip up the hood and pull the dipstick out. Give it a wipe down, stick it back in, pull it out again; there will usually be two little marks or holes on the dipstick, and if your oil level is not somewhere between those two marks you need to add oil. Read your car’s manual or oil instructions for how much new oil to add, but generally you’ll only be adding about a quart.
- Regular Check-Ups
Alongside oil and air filter changes, you should be monitoring the transmission fluid, windscreen washer fluid, and cooling system reservoir. Whether you choose to do this weekly, fortnightly, or monthly is up to you, but a basic check-up of these will only take you ten minutes. Your car manual will show you where everything is if you don’t recognize them by sight.
Look, you don’t want to get pulled over by a cop and get a ticket just because one of your rear brake lights isn’t working. Every now and then, check to see if your lights are working, and keep a few spares in the glove box.
Shop around for a good mechanic with a better reputation, and keep to the servicing schedule they and your car’s manufacturer suggest. While all of the items above can certainly prolong the life of your car, and stop little problems from becoming big problems, a fully equipped and trained mechanic still needs to give your car a full service every now and then.
Follow the tips above and you will be keeping your wheels running smooth. Take care of your car, and it will take care of you.