Know Your Basic Car Care
New or old, all vehicles need regular maintenance to run efficiently. But how often should you change your oil? Or how do you know when your tires are ready to be replaced?
Below, we've listed some of the most basic car care guidelines you should know to keep your vehicle operating in tip-top shape.
Oil Change Intervals
One of the biggest myths in car maintenance is how often to change the oil. For years, mechanics recommended oil changes every 3,000 miles. Thanks to modern engine technology, most auto manufacturers now recommend oil changes between 7,500 and 10,000 miles.
To keep your oil clean, consider these tips:
- If you have a newer vehicle, trust the oil life monitor to indicate your next oil change.
- Refer to your vehicle owner's manual for recommended oil change intervals.
- Check your oil level regularly using the dipstick. If it is low, add more oil— if it looks dirty, change it out.
Whether you change your own oil or have it done by a mechanic, be sure to keep track of the mileage. You can make notes of your maintenance in your owner's manual, or keep a small notebook with dates and mileage to help remember when your next oil change should be.
Routine Brake Checks
If you drive in heavy traffic or put a lot of miles on your vehicle each year, it's good to know when your brakes will need a check-up.
Keep an eye out for specific signs your brakes need to be checked. These include:
- High-pitched squealing when braking or stopping.
- Steering wheel vibration when slowing or stopping.
- Metal on metal grinding sounds.
- Slower stopping time or more effort on the brake pedal.
- Pulling to one side when braking or stopping.
- A foul smell when applying the brakes.
Take your car in for a brake check if you hear, see, or smell any of the above. The worst sign of all is not being able to stop, which you should avoid at all costs.
Proper Tire Maintenance
Keeping tires in the best possible shape can save you money and prevent dangerous driving situations. It's important to know how and when to check on the health of your tires.
- Underinflated tires can decrease fuel efficiency and increase risk of damage or blow out.
- Consider checking your tire pressure at least once a month. Use your owner's manual to find the optimal PSI.
- Start with a tire gauge to check the PSI. Follow our guidelines on how to check tire pressure for the proper steps.
- Tread is what keeps your car on the road. Worn tires can slip, especially on wet or icy roads.
- It's wise to check your tread around once a month. Replace your tires when tread indicators are worn to 2/32 of an inch.
- Rotating your tires maintains fuel efficiency and prevents irregular wear and tear.
- Check the owner's manual for recommended rotation intervals.
- Be sure to rotate sooner if you notice any signs of wear.
- Balance & alignment:
- Balancing tires helps keep them from wearing out early. Proper alignment will prevent your vehicle from pulling to one side.
- Balance and alignment can be done during an oil change or whenever you're replacing worn tires.
Other Replaceable Parts
By taking some steps to check certain parts on your own, you can save yourself a significant amount of money down the road. Here are some quick and easy items of maintenance that you can do at home.
- Air filter:
- This should be checked during regular oil changes.
- If you drive in a lot of traffic, live in a windy or dusty area, or travel through a lot of construction, check air filter more often.
- Hoses and belts:
- Rubber parts can wear out with drastic weather changes or high mileage.
- Pop the hood regularly and take a peek for cracks or holes.
- Replace wiper blades:
- Cracked or warped wipers won't work effectively and can hinder visibility.
- Replace in the fall and spring, and more often if you drive through drastic weather.
For more car care tips, check out our full vehicle maintenance guide.