Your vehicle isn’t a one-time purchase. It’s a complex machine full of moving parts, which requires ongoing care if you want it to last. Despite this, most car owners neglect preventative maintenance, with 86 percent of drivers delaying maintenance for minor issues, and some drivers avoiding the habit altogether.
There are several reasons for this, including a general ignorance of what maintenance is, why it’s so important, and the most important ways to maintain a car. Hopefully, this article can address that ignorance with knowledge and facts about preventative maintenance.
Why Maintenance Is So Important
Preventative maintenance is universally a good thing for your car, and should be done every 3-5,000 miles. But why is this regular checkup so important?
The general idea here is to keep your car running efficiently, and spot small problems before they become big problems. In a machine with moving parts, small problems like friction, misalignment, and wear can quickly escalate to become more significant—and preventative maintenance prevents that devastating outcome.
- Safety. Some problems introduce themselves so gradually, they’re almost imperceptible—yet they could significantly compromise the safety of your vehicle. Getting your vehicle maintained regularly can help you keep your car as safe as possible.
- Longevity. Proactively maintaining your vehicle can also help it last longer, staving off car-killing problems and ultimately getting several extra years out of every car you own.
- Cost. You might be annoyed at the cost of regular maintenance, but that pales in comparison to the costs of fixing issues with your car once they become more pronounced. You might spend a few hundred dollars a year, but that’s better than spending a few thousand to fix problems that have become exacerbated.
How to Maintain Your Car
So what specific maintenance tasks are necessary to keep your car in healthy working order?
- Change the oil. Changing the oil in your car every 3-5,000 (or as recommended in your owner’s manual) is the best regular change you can make for your vehicle. Oil is what helps lubricate and cool your engine, but over time, it can become dirty and less effective. Old oil can create more friction in your engine, leading to more wear and tear in other parts, but keeping it fresh will help your car keep moving efficiently.
- Rotate the tires. Your tires also have a lifespan; once the tread wears out, your vehicle will become much more difficult to control, resulting in a safety issue. However, your tires wear out at different rates, so it’s important to rotate them once or twice a year. When your tread has worn down too far, you’ll need to replace the tires altogether.
- Monitor your tire pressure. Speaking of tires, it’s important that you keep them at the recommended level of air pressure; if it’s too low or too high, you may not be able to control your vehicle properly, or you might put yourself at greater risk of getting a puncture or blowout. Fortunately, this is one act of maintenance a non-expert can do comfortably; simply get an air pressure gauge, take a reading, and fill up with air at the nearest gas station if need be.
- Examine the brakes. Your car’s brakes are the most important safety feature in the car, but brake pads tend to wear out over time, and other elements of your braking system can be subject to wear and tear. Brake pads wear at almost imperceptible speeds, but when worn out, your stopping power will be lowered, and it will take you longer to come to a complete stop.
- Check your fluids. Your vehicle is home to several types of fluids, including power steering fluid, automatic transmission fluid, and windshield wiper fluid. Some of these are more important than others, and in new models of cars, these systems may be advanced enough to be self-contained (and without need of regular changing). In any case, it’s a good idea to check these fluid levels (to evaluate for leaks) and change them if need be.
- Check belts and hoses. Your drive belts should be replaced every two to three years, for most vehicle models. The timing belt (or chain) should also be replaced every several years or so. If any of these belts break, it could cause serious engine problems.
Even if you don’t know much about cars, you should at least understand these general concepts—and know enough to take your car to the mechanic’s shop regularly. Schedule an auto checkup at least once every six months, or every 3-5,000 miles, and potentially more often if your vehicle is older or needs extra care. It’s the best thing you can do for your car.