Auto Maintenance 101

Automotive, Home & Family
on October 23, 2011

Time spent developing a maintenance schedule for your vehicle can save time and money down the road. These tips will help.

The experts. Who better to ask about how to maintain your car than the people who built it? Luckily, the people who built it wrote a manual and put it in your glove box or slid it in that little drawer underneath the passenger seat. Most manuals have a predetermined maintenance schedule to help you take care of the automobile. Although your local service dealer is probably an expert on your vehicle, he or she also receives a commission for any repair work. Edmunds recommends you consult the owner’s manual for routine maintenance such as oil changes and tune-ups, suggesting that what a service adviser, neighborhood mechanic or oil change franchise tells you might conflict with what the owner’s manual says.

Inspections. Use the following guidelines for three-month, six-month and yearly inspections:

  • Every three months, inspect coolant levels, lug nuts, oil, washer fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid.
  • At six months, in addition to the three-month inspection items, check the tire depth, brake pads and spark plugs. Clean the battery and change the windshield wipers.
  • A yearly checkup should include, in addition to the three-month and six-month items, a fuel pressure regulator inspection and a timing belt inspection. Flush the radiator, replace the spark plugs, replace fuel filters, do routine antilock brake sensor maintenance and replace the brake pads.

Keep in mind that these are just guidelines. For specific maintenance schedules, consult the owner’s manual. In addition, how often you drive your vehicle plays a role in how often these tasks should be completed.

Full vehicle warranties. Most new cars come with a warranty that covers major repairs within a certain time frame, usually three years or 36,000 miles. Vehicle warranties do not, however, cover routine maintenance, but that doesn’t mean that you should not conduct routine maintenance.

Visiting the mechanic. When scheduling a routine maintenance visit, make yourself fully aware of the manufacturer’s recommendations for routine maintenance schedules. Bring it with you and show it to your service adviser, if necessary. If your vehicle needs work that is not covered by the warranty, call several places to get quotes.

Getting to know your car maintenance schedule takes very little time but can save you a lot of money.