Outside of your housing costs, your vehicle is probably your second biggest expense. A recent study showed that the average loan for a new car was $31,099, with an average monthly payment of $515.
Think used cars are a better deal? Even used car purchases average $21,375, with a payment per month of $398.
That’s a lot of money flowing out each month.
If you keep your vehicle in good shape, you can minimize additional expenses to keep your car running. But without a car maintenance plan in place, you’ll experience problems soon after you drive it home for the first time.
What does it take to create an effective plan? What does it take to avoid car maintenance problems and ensure your car is ready whenever you are? Put these basic tasks into your schedule to keep your car running its best all year long.
Wash Your Car
It almost sounds too simple, doesn’t it? How can washing your car help you keep your car problem-free?
Let’s start by looking at what your car goes through just driving you around town each day. In the winter, mag chloride and road salts are dumped onto the road before any threatening storm. Mix in a little moisture, and they stick like glue all over your car. But don’t think it gets better in the summer. Bird droppings, sap, pollen, bug splats, and more find a way to get into every nook and cranny of your vehicle.
All of that can corrode the paint, damage the undercarriage of your car, and destroy the integrity of many of your vehicle’s safety systems.
Luckily, the solution is easy. Wash your car at least twice per month to get all the muck away from the essential parts and systems. This will keep it shining and looking as good as possible for wherever the road takes you. And let’s be honest, it just feels better driving a nice looking car, doesn’t it?
Your car has a number of fluids in it to keep it running its best. Some you know well – hello, gasoline. If your car has gas, it goes. Without it, it stops. We’re all naturally trained to watch the tiny gauge on our dashboards, driving into a gas station before the needle touches the “E”.
But cars don’t run on gasoline alone. There are many other fluids used to ensure a vehicle is operating correctly. According to a Popular Mechanics article, there are six fluids you should check on a regular basis:
Motor Oil – your engine is the hub, controlling every aspect of your car. Motor oil keeps everything lubricated and working smoothly.
Coolant – your vehicle builds up a lot of heat as it operates. Coolant helps absorb heat produced by the engine, and moves it through the radiator to keep your car from overheating.
Power Steering Fluid – want to keep your steering wheel turning effortlessly? Ensure your power steering fluid is topped up and that no leaks are in the system.
Brake Fluid – without brake fluid, when you press down on the brake pedal, your car won’t stop the way it should. While this isn’t a fluid you top off like motor oil, it is something a mechanic should check if you have trouble braking.
Transmission fluid – it has a similar purpose as oil, designed to cool the parts inside your transmission.
Windshield washer fluid – this is mandatory fluid here in Colorado to ensure you see where you’re driving.
Maintain your tires
Tires aren’t something you put on and forget. They keep your car rolling in all kinds of conditions. But as they operate in freezing temperatures and triple-digit weather, they change. They’ll lose pressure even if they’re operating correctly. That’s why it’s mandatory that you check tire pressure regularly.
Do you know how much air to put into your tires? Don’t look at your tires for the answer. Instead, check your owner’s manual or search for a sticker on the driver’s door jamb. You’ll find advice on what the proper tire pressure levels are.
You’ll also find recommendations on rotating your tires. This ensures they wear evenly, which gives you maximum wearability out of each set of tires you buy.
Change air filter
Some of the biggest car maintenance problems develop because car owners avoid doing the simplest of things. Changing out your air filter is one of them.
It can be done in a matter of seconds, but the implications can be long-lasting. An air filter is designed to keep harmful dirt and debris away from your engine. By changing it out regularly, you’re keeping the engine’s performance at its best. You’re also ensuring the engine works properly, and fuel economy is maximized.
Often, an air filter is changed out during a normal oil change. Ask to ensure yours is changed.
Check belts and hoses
Belts and hoses are in constant motion, helping keep all of your systems operating the way they should. As they wear, they put you at more risk of being stranded as they crack, leak, or break.
For example, if a serpentine belt breaks, it can cause failure in a number of your car’s systems, including power steering or your air conditioning. If a radiator hose develops a leak, it can lose coolant that is necessary to keep your engine from overheating.
The cost of a new belt or hose is far less than the damage caused by having them fail. It can be the difference between a simple car maintenance item, or a full-blown failure with an extensive repair bill.
What’s the easiest way to tell if your car has a problem with belts and hoses? Pay attention to your car. Does it make funny sounds? Does your car act differently? Do you smell something odd? Pay attention and consult a mechanic as needed.
With just a little effort, your car will continue to run well from the moment you drive it home for the first time. It’ll keep you and your family safe as you move through your busy days. If you have a question about your vehicle, just ask.