Knowing what and when to check on your car can save you money
So, you've just bought a new car, but unfortunately, it didn't come with a maintenance plan. This means you need to take care of your car's health personally. But why is this important, and what is scheduled maintenance? After all, this is a brand new car, and surely the engineers who built it built it to last, right? Well, not only are some components subject to wear and tear, but fluids lose their efficacy after numerous temperature changes and after absorbing contaminants. Things like air filters and oil filters get clogged with gunk, and oil loses its viscosity and ability to absorb heat as it ages and gets used. But fear not - not all maintenance of vehicles is daunting and difficult, and many things can be checked by the layman without any tools. A car maintenance schedule is smart and can also help make these things easier to plan and budget for, while a checklist or schedule for car maintenance can help you make sure that you don't miss anything. In the below guide, we discuss some of the common things and tips for beginners to be aware of when it comes to basic maintenance for your car.
Maintenance takes many forms, but by definition refers to the inspection and/or testing of your car's systems, the servicing or replacing of parts and fluids, and preventative car care to avoid major damage and increase safety. There are two types usually performed: short-term and long-term. However, regularly checking on various aspects of the car randomly can be helpful too. Short-term checks usually refer to things that are quick and easy to fix or replace, while long-term maintenance refers to the items that have a greater tolerance for wear and only need to be reconditioned, replaced, or fixed after extensive use. Both short- and long-term aspects of maintaining your car can have time or mileage limits, after which they must be attended to for optimal engine and vehicle performance. Keeping track of what has been done and when in a service book is also helpful, especially if you sell the car and want to show that it has been well cared for.
Labor-intensive checks that will need to be performed as time goes by may require that you plan ahead and give yourself a weekend to complete the work, especially for those who are beginners. These are generally the things that only need to be considered after a long period of time or lots of use. However, some items need to be looked at regularly as they can degrade quickly. These short-term checks are considered preventative maintenance.
These are things that you won't have to worry about on a day-to-day basis but that will usually require more effort to complete when they do need attention. Here, you will need tools and space to work. You may also need to budget and save for certain items and perhaps make alternative transportation arrangements if you can't get through them in a day.
Depending on where you live, a drastic change in weather conditions will require additional work. Thus, a basic car maintenance checklist specifically for winter can be helpful. This list can include things like winter tires, thinner oil, and anti-freeze that should all be swapped in when the seasons require it, to ensure that you keep your car running safely. You may also need to replace your windshield wipers and check your battery as weather conditions change.
Often, regular service intervals will be enough to keep your car mobile. However, some extenuating factors can necessitate additional work earlier than expected. Sometimes, these factors can also mean that you need to replace things that are not commonly swapped out.
It may be useful to have a car maintenance schedule by time period or mileage on hand, and, if your owner's manual doesn't come with one as standard, you may want to create your own. The below chart is a rough guideline of how often you should get your car maintained, or which common service items need attention. Although you can use this as a template, if you do a lot of hard driving, these intervals should be reduced to ensure reliability. Diesel vehicles can also require more regular maintenance.
|What to check/replace||When to check or replace|
|Oil and filters||Every 5,000-10,000 miles/annually|
|Spark plugs||Every 10,000-60,000 miles/annually|
|Rotate tires||Every 10,000 miles|
|Check brake pads and discs||Every 10,000 miles|
|Check belts and pulleys||Every 30,000 miles|
Important note: the above are estimates only and will vary greatly depending on your specific vehicle. Always consult your owner's manual or get in contact with your dealer if you're unsure of your car's correct maintenance intervals.
Having to deal with maintenance can be therapeutic for some, but for others, it simply represents yet another expense. For this reason, it's a good idea to check what the cost of various common maintenance components are, so that you can budget. Creating a table like the one below, preferably with due dates, can help you be prepared for how much routine car maintenance costs.
Oil and filters
Brake pads and discs
Belts and pulleys
Important note: the above are estimates only and will vary greatly depending on your specific vehicle. Always consult your owner's manual or get in contact with your dealer if you're unsure.
No. Thanks to the advent of technology, plenty of forums and YouTube videos make it easy for you to learn step-by-step how to replace or fix just about anything. If you follow all steps correctly, you should have no problems. It is always advisable to make use of a professional where possible.
Technically yes, but it only really applies to motor oil. This has an ideal viscosity and is designed to perform optimally after heat breaks it down following a few hundred miles of use through the motor. Thus, replacing oil too often can mean that you miss out on your oil working at its best efficiency. In addition, loosening and tightening screws and housings too often can cause stripped bolts or holes, which can lead to more work in the long run, too.
Yes and no. For example, depending on the modernity of your car, it may have software with a service indicator that tells you when you need to perform certain tasks. This can sometimes be reset manually, but often, you will need a special tool to remove the error. Fortunately, these aren't too expensive and can also be rented. Often, you can find an app to download on your smartphone that can perform the same tasks via Bluetooth or a cable.
This varies depending on the car, but in general, you don't want to go more than a year or 10,000 miles without replacing fluids and filters at the very least.