Not everyone has the skills or patience to be an expert car mechanic or handler, but not every car owner need be to keep his ride in tip-top shape.
After all, it’s the little things we need to take care of to avoid larger and sometimes catastrophic outcomes.
Here are 17 essential, yet easy, basic car maintenance checklist you can do on your own to take care of your car:
1 – Regular inspections are a must
Before detailing all the things you’d need to inspect and how to go about it, the most important thing to remember is that these inspections need to be carried out regularly.
No matter how thorough the first inspection is, it does not mean you can skip out on the next inspection, for in the time frame between the two, a new serious problem could very well occur.
To prevent an inexpensively solvable issue from evolving into a difficult and costly problem, it’s important you inspect your vehicle regularly without fail.
2 – Learn what each warning light means
It’s quite embarrassing to note how many people who drive are unaware of what the different lights in the panel behind our steering wheel mean.
Most of us know they are warning signs of some sort, but we largely choose to remain ignorant of what each warning light indicates.
Learning what each light means is essential if you want to catch problems right as they’re starting.
It’s also beneficial since you’d be made aware of the actual problem with your car and could solve it yourself, instead of relying on a mechanic.
3 – Rotating your tires and getting the alignment checked
One of the basics of tire maintenance is having your tires rotated, balanced and aligned regularly.
Doing so helps you manage your fuel economy, since tires that aren’t aligned every so often end up putting a strain on the engine, that consumes more fuel as a result.
Although a good rule of thumb is to get this done once every 5000 miles driven, you should consult your owner’s manual for the most optimal time frame to get your tires rotated.
4 – Checking your tires every once in a while
Just as wheel alignment can affect the way your car works, the condition of your tires can too affect your car’s performance.
Both tire tread depth and tire pressure are factors that degrade over time, so it is important to keep them both in check; you can refill your tires if your pressure is too low, but replacing your tires is the only solution if your tread is too worn out.
5 – Cleaning brake dust off of wheels
Though brake dust itself doesn’t affect your car’s performance or breaking capability, left unchecked it can cause your wheels to stain horribly.
However, all it takes to remove it is scrubbing it off with a sponge soaked in cold water, a pretty painless procedure.
6 – Replacing your serpentine belt
Your engine’s drive belt (also called the serpentine belt) is responsible for transferring the rotational power of your engine to every other part of the car that works in it.
It is usually made of rubber or some other polymer material, and as such is being constantly degraded with every use, eventually wearing it out and making it inefficient.
Replacing this belt can help your engine work more efficiently when the old belt has passed its limit.
7 – Checking engine coolant and oil levels
Heat and friction are two things that can wear any material down if exposed to them regularly, and your car’s engine is no exception.
To prevent this from happening, it’s pivotal to keep an eye on your engine oil and coolant levels and replace the fluid if necessary.
8 – Keep an eye on your fuel economy
A handy trick for finding out when something might be wrong with your car is to keep an eye on your fuel economy, i.e. the mileage per gallon of fuel consumed by your car.
A steadily falling fuel economy can be a subtle indicator of something going wrong with your engine and can bring your attention to it faster than any other physical changes.
9 – Replacing spark plugs
If your car constantly misfires when driving or has a rough start every morning, you should consider changing your spark plugs.
Using a faulty spark plug for long can have undesired consequences like higher fuel consumption or trouble in acceleration.
So, it’s better to replace the plug as soon as the signs present themselves.
10 – Replacing engine air filters
Dust and debris are not your engine’s friends, but these uninvited guests can make their way into the engine with the air it needs for combustion.
Though your car does come with a pre-installed engine air filter, like every other part, this filter has a lifetime and needs to be replaced.
Getting it replaced in time will save you from lasting damage to your engine.
11 – Stick to the kind of fuel your car was designed to use
Just because high octane advertises higher power and better performance, doesn’t it’s what your car needs.
A good rule of thumb: Always use the fuel your car manual dictates you should; your car was built to work best with that kind of fuel, and any other type would most likely not work as efficiently with your car.
12 – Take care of your car’s paint job
Though waxing may sound like a pain, the protection it gives your car from lasting damage to your paint from bird droppings is irreplaceable.
Opting not to would mean leaving a troublesome spot on your car’s paint after the chemicals in bird dropping eat away at it.
13 – Battery maintenance with proper care
You probably know to clean your battery terminals once in a while after corrosion builds up on the terminals.
However, clean your battery only after you’ve disconnected it the proper way (removing the negative terminal).
That way you’ll be safe in case of accidental short circuits.
14 – Fixing your indicator lights as soon as possible
Never leave your indicator lights broken or damaged for too long.
Not only is it illegal to drive without headlights and indicators, but slacking off in this regard could lead to very serious accidents.
15 – Replacing bulbs the right way
When replacing your car light bulbs, it’s important to hold the bulbs from the metal base when installing them, rather than the glass top.
Doing otherwise would lead to a special coating on the glass rubbing off, and cause your bulbs to heat and crack more quickly on use.
16 – Keeping your windshield vipers in tip-top condition
You need to see where you’re driving, and windshield wipers in the rain are the best way to ensure this.
Therefore, keeping them in great condition only makes sense.
Replace their rubbers when you feel like they’re not too effective anymore; you’ll be thanking yourself the next time it rains.
17 – Replacing cabin air filter
An essential part of taking care of the car is to take care of the people inside it.
Replacing your cabin air filter is one of the easiest car maintenance jobs, and you only really need to change it once every year, so it’s not a deal.
To wrap up, keeping your car in great shape is all a matter of being vigilant and attentive to when your car needs care.
Just doing these little things is enough to keep any car working smoothly many years down the road, and will even keep up its resale value should you be so inclined.