by Rob, Cars for Keeps
So, you understand the importance of routine auto maintenance, you’re ready to start treating your vehicle like the potential investment it is, but you don’t know where – or when – to start. What exactly IS routine maintenance, and how often does it need to be performed?
Because not all auto components wear down at the same rate, true “routine maintenance” is a little more complicated than it seems. Routine maintenance for a timing belt, for example, is having it changed every 60-70,000 miles, while routine maintenance for your engine oil requires changing it every 4-7,000 miles. That’s a big difference!
To make understanding routine auto maintenance a little easier on drivers, we’ve put together the following schedule.
Monthly Auto Maintenance
Brake, power steering, transmission, antifreeze and windshield washer fluids. While none of these may need to be changed each month, it’s a good idea to have them checked to make sure they’re not dirty, sludgy or running low. These fluids – particularly brake, power steering and transmission – are important to your vehicle’s safety, and making sure they’re clean and topped up can prevent far more serious problems down the road.
Tire air pressure. Did you know that under inflated tires can cause your vehicle to not only run less efficiently, but also have unsafe “splashy” steering? Checking your tires for proper inflation is fast, simple and free, so monthly checkups are definitely worth it!
Head & tail lights. Sure, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to check to make sure all your vehicle’s lights are working properly – but it still needs to be done! Faulty lights pose safety risks – not to mention the risk of getting ticketed – so it’s a good idea to either check or have these checked monthly.
The Free Cars for Keeps Pit Stop takes care of these whenever you need it.
3 Month Maintenance
Oil changes. Three months is a general guideline, and necessary intervals can vary from vehicle to vehicle. Older autos often require oil changes more often – every 3,000 miles or so – while some newer vehicles may be able to go as far as 7,000 miles before an oil change is necessary. Check your vehicle’s manual, or ask your auto technician about your vehicle model. Of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have your oil changed every 3 months – just ask our High Mile Club members!
Chassis lubrication. Again, it may not be necessary to have this performed as often as three months, but it depends on your vehicle’s model and age. Many newer autos are “lubed for life”, while some older cars still require it. The chassis’ steering and suspension components may, however, require periodic replacement to prevent further damage, so it’s a good idea to have the chassis inspected every 3 months just in case.
Battery maintenance and cleaning. Just because your battery isn’t dead doesn’t mean something isn’t wrong. Dirty or corroded batter cable posts can create a poor connection, causing faulty ignition start or inefficient power use.
6 Month Maintenance
Air filters. Air filters essentially help vehicles “breathe” clean air. When these filters become dirty or clogged over time, they make it more difficult for engines to get the oxygen they need, causing inefficient mileage and poor performance. Different air filter brands last for different periods of time, so it’s best to have them checked at least twice every year.
Wiper Blades. Do we need to say it?! Wiper blades inevitably become stiff and cracked over time – typically about six months – causing chattering and streaking, which can cause dangerously poor visibility during inclement weather. Have these replaced twice each year.
Engine tuning. Faulty spark plugs and gummed up fuel injectors – both engine components – can reduce fuel efficiency as much as thirty percent. Most people won’t notice the change because today’s computers keep things adjusted right up to the point of failure (when the computer can no longer adjust for them) the best way to make sure all spark plugs and engine components are working properly is to have them checked every one year.
Engine belts. While most engine belts don’t need to be replaced each year, it’s a good idea to have an auto technician take a look at those that are accessible, and to keep tabs on how long less accessible belts have been installed. V-belts typically need to be replaced every four years or 35,000 miles, serpentine belts every four years or 50,000 (or sooner), and timing belts every five years or 60,000 miles – whichever comes first. Over time, these belts become stiff, loose and cracked or worn, and if they break while your vehicle is running, they can cause serious damage.
Shock absorbers and struts. Worn shock absorbers and struts can not only make for a bumpier ride, but they can cause fuel inefficiency, misalignment and a host of other safety problems. For best performance, have these inspected by an auto technician each year.
Wheel Alignment. The average price of a newly mounted and balanced tire with a new valve stem is roughly $125 per tire. That’s $500 for the set of four. If your wheel alignment is out, you could lose that $500 in short order. That’s why you should, at the very least, check wheel alignment before venturing out on a new set of tires. So how could you lose money by not having an alignment done? By significantly decreasing the life of your new tires. The steering and suspension of your vehicle has wear points. They are bushings, ball & socket joints, and miscellaneous mechanical links. When the steering and suspension system is new and adjusted according to factory specs, the rate at which the tires wear is minimized and the vehicle corners and handles smoothly. Over time, the steering and suspension systems are jostled and hammered (compliments of America’s highways). This produces wear in the parts listed above, causing the alignment to go out from factory specs. This results in poor cornering and handling, and a significant increase in tire wear.
Cabin Air Filter(s). The filter in your dashboard is much like your furnace filter… If you drove your furnace through bugs & other road debris. Gross. If it’s plugged, the passenger compartment might as well be a sealed cabin—and with a carload of friends the glass will fog in minutes. Filter life depends on the air quality in your area, but a year, or 12,000 to 15,000 miles, typically is the recommended replacement interval.
Of course, the best way to make sure all your vehicle’s routine maintenance needs are taken care of is to sit down with your auto technician(s) and create an annual auto maintenance schedule. We can help you by scheduling maintenance at intervals which are customized to your vehicle’s age and specific maintenance needs.