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Complete Car Maintenance: Schedule and Checklist

A complete car maintenance checklist includes tasks ranging from mundane routines such as changing the oil to urgent ones like dealing with a flashing engine light.

With people spending more time at home, many car owners are also starting to get more hands-on when it comes to auto maintenance. This is supported by a 2020 study that found that 65% of 1,000 car owners surveyed worked on their cars during the pandemic.

Making sure your car is running smoothly requires some dedication, diligence, and basic car maintenance know-how. Properly maintaining your vehicles also keeps you safe on the road.

If you are planning to get more hands-on with taking care of your car, here is a complete checklist of car maintenance routines that you need to know.

Urgent Auto Maintenance Issues

Blue car

The following car maintenance issues require your immediate attention. It’s best to address these concerns as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your vehicle.

Check Engine Light

The check engine light is usually found on your car’s dashboard, and it only lights up if there’s a severe problem with the engine. If you entered your vehicle and noticed the check engine light turned on, do not start the engine because it might cause even more damage.

If you are driving and noticed the check engine light turn on, slowly guide the car towards the side of the road and switch it off. Have your vehicle towed to the nearest auto service center instead of driving the car there.

It’s possible that the car already has some engine damage, and forcing it to run will not only result in costly repairs but could endanger your life as well.

When it comes to check engine light issues, it’s best to have your vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic to determine which parts can be replaced and which ones can be repaired.   

On average, it should take an hour for your vehicle to be repaired. Depending on the severity of the damage, you can expect to pay around $300 for minor repairs like replacing ignition coils or $3,000 for expensive services like replacing a catalytic converter.

Check Tire Pressure Light

Your car’s tire pressure light will turn on if your vehicle’s tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) detects at least one of your tires has low air pressure. If the tire pressure light is turned on, do not ignore it. One of your tires could be getting a flat, making your vehicle risky to drive. 

You can find the tire pressure light among the gauge cluster in your dashboard as a wheel icon with an exclamation mark or the letters: “TPMS.” What you need to do next is manually find out which tire is low on pressure.

Some sophisticated TPMS can display the exact pressure of each tire and tell the driver which one is out of the recommended pressure range.

If your vehicle doesn’t have this feature, consider using a tire-pressure gauge to check each tire. Once you determine which tires have low-pressure levels, it’s just a matter of inflating them using an air pump at home or taking your car to a service center.

Inflating your car tires shouldn’t be longer than 2 to 3 minutes and usually costs around $2 in service centers and gas stations.

Headlights and Tail Lights

Driving with non-functional headlights and tail lights is against the law in states like Florida. Always check the lights before you drive. If they are not working or are dimmer than usual, be sure to address them immediately.

Here are some common car light issues and what you can do about them:

  • Headlights and tail lights don’t work: One of the common causes of car light issues is burned-out bulbs. Replacing the bulbs should solve the problem. If not, it could be an issue with the wiring and the power. It’s best to have a professional repair the wiring or fuse issues.
  • High beam works but low beams don’t: This is another common issue that can be solved by replacing faulty bulbs. However, it can also be an issue with the high beam switch or relay. If you’re familiar with car electronics, it should be easy to replace the switch and relay. If not, consider having a professional do it for you.
  • Car lights are working but dim: Cleaning the foggy lenses should do the trick, but the bulbs may need to be replaced if the lights are still dim. In some cases, you’ll notice the light randomly going darker. This could be an issue with the charging system, which is often a sign of a bigger problem. Consider letting a technician check if you suspect charging system issues.

Monthly Car Maintenance Checklist

back of a car on the streets

These are the vehicle maintenance routines you need to do each month.

Oil makes it possible for the engine to run smoothly and efficiently.

Check Engine Oil

Every car owner should routinely check engine oil levels at least every month. Oil makes it possible for the engine to run smoothly and efficiently. Without fresh oil, the engine can overheat and seize. This could lead to expensive repairs or accidents on the road.

Fortunately, checking the engine oil is a straightforward process.

  1. Park the car on a flat surface and let the engine cool for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Pop open the hood and locate the dipstick. The dipstick is usually brightly colored and placed towards the passenger side.
  3. Pull the dipstick and check the oil level. You should also check the color and texture of the oil. If it’s smooth and has yellow-greenish color, it should be okay. If it feels rough and looks dark, you will need to change the oil.
  4. Wipe off the dipstick with a cloth or a paper towel, and then take another reading. The second reading is usually the most accurate since most of the oil has settled down. If the levels are below the minimum marker, you will have to add or change the oil. 

Changing oils every month is not a requirement since engine oils can last 5,000 to 7,000 miles before being changed. For an accurate value, check your car’s official manual for the official recommendation on how often you changed it and what type of oil you’ll have to use.

It would only take around 30 to 50 minutes to have your oil changed at a repair shop, and it’s also an excellent opportunity to have your car inspected for other concerns.

Check Essential Fluids: Coolant

Your engine produces a lot of heat, and the coolant’s job is to keep the temperature. Not having the right amount of coolant will force the engine to overheat and eventually break down.

Coolants are often inspected and changed every 50,000 miles. However, checking on your coolants each month can help spot any leaks that you would otherwise not notice.

The coolant’s tank or reservoir can be found under the car’s hood, often on the passenger side. Most of these tanks have markings on them to help you determine the current coolant levels. If the levels are still above the minimum level, you can leave it as is. If not, you must fill up the tank with additional coolant.

Always check your car’s manual first to find where the tank is located and what specific type of coolant you can use.

Check Essential Fluids: Windshield Wiper

Checking and replenishing windshield wiper fluid is an underrated but vital part of car maintenance. Without it, your wipers will have a hard time cleaning the windshield and will eventually impair your line of sight when driving.

Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest fluids to replenish. You can buy jugs of wiper fluids from local auto supply stores and gas stations. On most cars, the reservoir for wiper fluid can be found at the back of the engine bay and right below the windshield. Simply pour the fluid into the reservoir until it is full.

Every 3 Months or 3,000 Miles

luxury car wheels

These are the auto maintenance routines you need to do every three months or after 3,000 miles:

Check Engine and AC Filters

There are two kinds of filters that you should never ignore when it comes to vehicle maintenance: the engine air filter and the AC filter.

  • Engine air filter: This is located at the car’s front and prevents dirt or debris from getting into the engine. The engine air filter is prone to blockage, which affects the systems that are cooling down the engines. Be sure to check these filters at least once every three months to clean them and make sure nothing is blocking the airflow to the engine.
  • AC Filters: This filter blocks various pollutants from going into your car’s HVAC system. Unfortunately, AC filters also have a habit of being blocked by dirt and grime. This usually causes bad odor and warm air to come out from the AC system. Make sure to check these filters for possible blockages and have them cleaned by a professional if necessary. 

Your tires need to be inspected as often as possible.>

Check Tire Pressure and Treads

Your tires need to be inspected as often as possible. However, you need to examine your tires at least once every three months thoroughly. This includes checking the pressure, the general look of the tires, and current tread conditions.

Tire pressure: Using a tire pressure gauge is an affordable and effective way of checking tire pressure. Check the pressure of all the tires, including spares. Most passenger cars have a recommended pressure of 32 to 35 psi but refer to the official manual for the recommended pressure for your vehicle.

Tire condition: Inspect each of your tires and note any uneven wear patterns and apparent damages to the sidewalls. If you spot any significant signs of damage, have it replaced immediately. Continued use may cause the damaged tire to burst and put you or your passengers in danger.

Tire treads: Treads help your car maintain its grip on the road. Having worn-out treads can be dangerous, especially during rainy and snowy days. The easiest way to check your treads is by doing a penny test. Take a penny and place it in the treads with Lincoln’s head upside down. If Lincoln’s head is covered, your tires are still in good shape. If you can see the head, it’s time to replace the tires.     

Check Tire Pressure and Treads   

Your tires need to be inspected as often as possible. However, you need to examine your tires at least once every three months thoroughly. This includes checking the pressure, the general look of the tires, and current tread conditions.

  • Tire pressure: Using a tire pressure gauge is an affordable and effective way of checking tire pressure. Check the pressure of all the tires, including spares. Most passenger cars have a recommended pressure of 32 to 35 psi but refer to the official manual for the recommended pressure for your vehicle.
  • Tire condition: Inspect each of your tires and note any uneven wear patterns and apparent damages to the sidewalls. If you spot any significant signs of damage, have it replaced immediately. Continued use may cause the damaged tire to burst and put you or your passengers in danger.
  • Tire treads: Treads help your car maintain its grip on the road. Having worn-out treads can be dangerous, especially during rainy and snowy days. The easiest way to check your treads is by doing a penny test. Take a penny and place it in the treads with Lincoln’s head upside down. If Lincoln’s head is covered, your tires are still in good shape. If you can see the head, it’s time to replace the tires.     

Check Essential Fluids: Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid makes it possible for you to maneuver your car at any speed easily. It would be significantly harder for you to drive if your vehicle didn’t have enough fluid. Unlike other essential fluids, there’s a specific timeframe as to when you’ll need to replenish them.

However, it’s recommended to check on the power steering fluid every three months. The power steering fluid can be found inside a reservoir in the engine bay. It often comes with a dipstick of its own, and you can use that to check its current level.

If the power steering fluid is low, simply pour more until it’s at the right level. You must use the recommended type of steering fluid stated in the manual. Adding the wrong kind of fluid can damage your vehicle.

If you feel like you’ve been adding fluid frequently, a leak may be present. Have your car inspected by a professional as soon as possible to get the leak repaired.   

Your car’s braking components are the most critical safety system it has.

 

Check Your Brakes

Your car’s braking components are the most critical safety system it has. It’s only wise to have it checked at least every few months. One of the best ways to check your brakes is to go out and take your car out on a short drive.

While you’re driving, try to observe the following:

  • Listen to the brakes: While driving, try stepping on the brakes and check if you hear any noise. Most brake pads are designed to produce a screeching sound if they are very worn out. The more you use the brakes, the louder the sound gets.
  • Feel the steering wheel: Brake pads that are worn out cause noticeable vibrations on the steering wheel and the pedal, especially if you’re braking. If you feel any vibrations, it’s time to have your brakes changed .
  • The warning light is on: Some cars have a brake warning light that turns on if there are issues with the brakes. If the light is turned on, your brake fluid may simply be running low. However, it’s best to have your brakes inspected by a professional regardless.

Bottom Line

Car dashboard

Many expensive repairs and replacements can be easily avoided by simply performing regular maintenance. Sticking to your car maintenance schedule can help extend the life of your vehicle. More importantly, it can keep you and your family safe on the road.   

Auto Works of Brandon offers top-notch car maintenance services for all makes and models, including European and import vehicles like Audi or BMW.

If your vehicle requires a tune-up, contact us today to schedule an appointment. Our highly experienced team will help your car achieve peak performance.

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Car Maintenance
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