Your Car Maintenance Checklist
Did you know that April is National Car Care Month? It is! And there's no better time of year to start thinking about your vehicle. By caring for your vehicle monthly, using this car maintenance checklist, you will help reduce stress and expenses associated with your vehicle and possibly help conserve energy. People often think car care costs a lot, so I want to share this car maintenance checklist to help you take care of your vehicle without breaking the bank!
- Windshield washer fluid: Have you ever been in a situation where you couldn’t see through your windshield, and then you try to use your windshield washer fluid and wipers only to find out you don’t have any fluid? That can put you in an unsafe position! Make it a routine to check your fluid so that never happens again.
- Wiper blades: When it’s icy out, your windshield wiper blades can get stuck to your window and will tear if you use them before they’re completely defrosted. Buying quality blades and keeping them in good shape will keep you safe, enabling you to see clearly.
- Dashboard warnings: When you see a warning light on your dashboard, take the car to your mechanic immediately. Staying on top of these warnings will ensure that you are safe and may save you money by preventing larger problems from developing.
- Emergency savings: When you have a major car expense, wouldn’t it be nice to have savings to cover it? If you have not already started a general emergency savings account, you may want to start with a car emergency savings account. You can open a special savings account at your local credit union and label it “Emergency Savings Account.” Making affordable monthly deposits will keep you from stressing out over big mechanic bills. You can also cover yourself by purchasing Mechanical Breakdown insurance.
- Car wash: If you live on the back roads of Vermont, you know you will get mud in your rims, which will cause the car to shake when you’re driving. Don’t just wash the outside and inside of your vehicle. Use the hose to clean the inside of your wheels.
Every three to four months
- Oil and filter change: Every 5,000 miles, you should change your oil and oil filter.
- Rotate tires: When you are getting an oil change, have the mechanic rotate the tires. Your tires will last longer and wear better.
- Open the hood: It’s important to get some key items inspected every three to four months, including
- Transmission fluid—This has a dipstick, like the oil, so you can check it to make sure your fluid is at the full line.
- Battery and cables—You will want to make sure your battery doesn’t have any erosion on it and that the connecting cables are not loose.
- Power steering fluid—Again, this has a dipstick like the oil, so you can check to make sure your fluid is at the full line.
- Belts—You will want to make sure your belts don’t have any cracks, bumps, or small holes in them.
- Hoses—Examine all the hoses to ensure there are no cracks.
- Alignment: As mentioned above, you should rotate your tires with every oil change. You should also check your tires annually to make sure they are wearing evenly. If not, your vehicle could be pulled out of alignment.
- Filters: Don’t underestimate the importance of your filters. If you don’t change your filters, your engine won’t be able to bring air into the combustion chambers and your vehicle could lose power. The filters you should change annually include:
- Cabin filter
- Air filter
- Fuel filter
- Oil filter
- Wheel bearings and brakes: Get your wheel bearings and brakes checked at the same time. A wheel bearing is an encased set of steel balls that helps your wheels spin fast by reducing friction. If you have a lift, you can test for wheel bearing issues by raising your car and trying to pull the wheel in and out, with hands on top and bottom of the tire. If your wheel bearing is in good condition, the wheel shouldn’t move. If you’re able to move the wheel in and out, you may have a problem. Fixing these issues in the early stages can save you aggravation and money. For example, if you allow your brakes to wear down, you may end up paying for destroyed rotors as well!
- Flush coolant: If you don’t change your coolant in time, your car could begin to overheat and place stress on the water pump.
- Steering and suspension: It’s a good idea to inspect your steering and suspension regularly, as it will be cheaper and safer to fix the problem before it magnifies.
- Detail your vehicle: Once a year, you should detail your car, inside and out. This will recondition your vehicle and make you feel like you have a new car.
- Emergency savings account: Did you save any money this year? Did you pay more in car expenses then you have allotted? Readjust how much you are putting in your account for expenses annually.