On this page is a list of car maintenance tips. Performing maintenance on your car really isn’t hard. In fact, most of these checks are simple enough for a beginner.
Don’t be afraid to do simple checks on your car. It can save you money on potential repairs if you don’t do routine checks. You want a reliable car, don’t you?
What is the maintenance of a car?
Car maintenance is like a yearly check-up at the doctor’s office. It is performing checks on the car’s fluids and systems.
These systems keep your car on the road. Ignoring them will lead to large repair bills.
If you do regular checks on your vehicle you extend its life. You also ensure it is a safe and reliable ride for you and your family.
Car Maintenance Tips for Beginners
It will be best to do the car maintenance in a garage if possible.
Working in a garage has advantages over the driveway:
1: Your tools are in the garage
2: Protected from bad weather
3: Workbench available
4: Flat and level floor
Now I realize not everyone has a garage. What do you do in such a case?
If you at least have a driveway you can do your car maintenance there. You want the car to be level and not on a slope. This is important for safety and when checking your oil levels.
If you must work on the side of the street be careful of traffic. You don’t want to get hit!
No Tools? No Problem!
I realize not everybody has tools at their disposal. With that in mind, I included a lot of tips which don’t require tools.
I do recommend you get a starter tool set in the future.
A special note on safety: When working near the battery you need to wear safety glasses. Car batteries contain acid which can burn.
When working under a car use jack stands. Do not rely on a jack alone. Jacks can lower without warning. Put the parking brake on before jacking a car up.
Disconnect the negative (-) cable on the car battery. This prevents the air-bag accidentally going off when working. It will likely not happen but you never know.
The Car Maintenance Guide
Under The Hood
Engine Air Filter
The engine air filter has an important job. It cleans the air coming into your car’s engine.
If it gets dirty and clogged it will be ineffective.
A dirty air filter can reduce engine performance. On older cars, it can affect fuel economy.
When should the engine air filter be replaced?
If you can’t see light through the filter it needs to be replaced. Try shining a work-light through it. If you see no light then it’s time to get a new one.
Want to save money? Get a reusable engine air filter.
They are washable and can last the life of the car. When they get dirty just wash them with a cleaning kit.
Engine coolant has one job: keep the engine cool. The coolant can also prevent freezing in cold weather.
Check the level in the coolant expansion tank.
The expansion tank will have a minimum and maximum fill line. It is marked on the side of the tank. If you ever need to add coolant make sure it is the correct type. Check your owner’s manual for the correct coolant type to add.
When adding coolant it has to be mixed with water. The label will have mixing instructions. Generally, they are mixed 50/50 with water. Buying pre-mixed coolant is also an option.
To check the freezing point of coolant you need to use a coolant tester. You only need to do this in areas of freezing temperatures.
Caution: Only open the coolant tank when it is cool. Hot coolant can spray out if you open the cap!
Over time car batteries can weaken. This is a fact of all batteries. The constant use of a car battery will eventually kill it.
The majority of modern batteries last for years until they need to be replaced.
You can test your car battery with an inexpensive tester.
Just connect the leads from the tester to the appropriate battery terminals. The car battery tester will indicate if the battery needs replacing or just a good charge.
Battery tests need to be done yearly. Performing regular checks will ensure your car starts every time.
Did you find corrosion on the battery? Read my battery cleaning guide.
Power Steering Fluid
Without power steering, the steering wheel is difficult to move. You want the fluid level to be full at all times.
Look for full marks on the side of power steering reservoirs. The power steering fluid needs to be at that mark. If the fluid is low top it up with power steering fluid. Check the owner’s manual for the right fluid type for your car.
You can also check the power steering lines for signs of leaking. Just follow the hoses from the reservoir to the steering box. The lines and connections should be clean of oil.
Special Note: Some new vehicles don’t have power steering reservoirs. They are equipped with a sealed electric steering box. Fluid top-ups are not needed in these systems.
An uber important fluid you can easily check is brake fluid.
The brake fluid reservoir will have markings for proper fluid levels.
If the fluid is getting low you may need to service the brake pads. Over time the brake pads will get thinner. This causes the fluid level to become lower in the reservoir.
Over time the belts on engines give signs of wear.
Look for the following signs:
- Cracks, splits or fraying on the top of the belt<?li>
- Cracks or splitting on the underside of belt
- Glazing on the sides of the belt
A telltale sign of belt wear is a high-pitched whining noise when the engine is running.
The hoses under the hood are under constant pressure and heat. Over time this can cause wear and break down of the rubber.
Caution: Make sure the engine is cooled down before touching hoses. Coolant hoses carry hot liquid and can cause burns.
Look for signs of abrasion or cracks along the hoses. Most cracks occur around hose clamps.
Squeeze the hoses around the clamped area. They should be fairly stiff. A bad hose will have soft or mushy spots.
Your car’s engine oil is one of the most important fluids. It keeps the metal parts inside the engine lubricated. Without oil, your engine can seize up and die so check it on a regular basis.
So how do you check the engine oil?
Its pretty simple to do:
- If the vehicle has been running let it sit for at least 5 minutes.
- Make sure the vehicle is on level ground to get an accurate oil level reading.
- Pull out the engine oil dipstick and wipe it clean.
- Re-insert the dipstick back into the dipstick tube all the way.
- Pull out the dipstick and take a look at the oil level.
The marking towards the end of the dipstick is the add mark. If the oil is at or below this level you need to add oil. If the oil is closer to the full mark then the level is good.
Checks Outside The Car
Check that all lights are in working order. You may need a helper to watch the lights for you.
Lights to check:
- Hi/Low beam headlights
- Left and right turn signals
- Daytime running lights
- Fog lights (if equipped)
- Brake lights
- Reverse lights
- Marker lights
- License plate lights
- Cargo lights (if equipped)
- Interior lights
Wiper Blades and Windshield Washer
You need to have wiper blades in good condition. If they don’t clean the windshield properly then you can’t see. You don’t want to cause an accident right?
Inspect the rubber on the wiper blade. If it is cracked or ripped it is time to replace.
Winter weather is really hard on rubber wiper blades. Ice built up will make the blades useless. You should always keep the rubber free from ice and other material.
Top up the windshield washer fluid if needed.
Check the tire pressure in your car often.
The temperature can cause tire pressure to fluctuate. When it is hot the pressure increases. When it is cold the pressure decreases.
The pressure needs to be at the recommended tire pressure for the car. How do you know what tire pressure?
Look for a sticker inside the driver’s door. It will tell you the recommended tire pressure.
Don’t forget to check your spare tire. Having a flat tire with no air in the spare tire sucks!
Are your tires ready for winter? Find out in my car winterizing guide.
Check the tire tread with a tread gauge. The minimum safe tread depth is 3/32”. Anything lower is not safe to drive on.
If the tires on the drive axle are lower than the other tires it’s time to rotate. You want the tires with the better tread on the drive wheels.
As you can see these car maintenance tips are easy. You don’t need a lot of tools to do some maintenance.
Do you have any tips you want to share? Let us know in the comments. If you found this page helpful don’t forget to like and share.