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Believe it or not, millennials are more likely than any other generation to get regular maintenance performed on their cars. This generation may catch a lot of hate for "killing" industries, but one thing's for sure, they know how to take care of their cars. So if you want to be as good of a car owner as millennials, follow one rule. Every time you treat yo’ yourself, you really should treat yo’ car as well. What I mean by this is, always be sure you're checking up on a different part of your car. Check the oil, check your tires, check fluids, breaks, windows etc. If you are always checking in with your car, you will be sure to find damage before it gets bad and breaks the bank. If that’s not something you’re into, follow general maintenance timelines for your vehicle.
General Routine Maintenance
First, let's go over general car maintenance. This does not mean that every few months your entire car gets tested for problems. Who has time for that? General maintenance happens for specific parts of your vehicle at different points during the life of a car. Some maintenance is done by the amount of time passed while some is done by counting the amount of miles driven. Now, there is no hard and clear number for each part of your car, that is all very personal and circumstantial. Although with our day and age, you might consider using best car maintenance apps to help you remember. If you live in a rough terrain, or your commute is a bit long, chances are your routine maintenance will happen more often than others. But I will give you the signs to look for so you know what your preventive maintenance schedule will look like.
I have a small 2014 Nissan Versa Note. I got it right before I graduated college. It has been a great starter car and very reliable. After five years of driving, there has been some wear and tear all over, but specifically on my tires. I’ve been dreading this day for a while, because I knew it was soon to pop up on my maintenance checklist. I can see that the tread is wearing low, and I don’t want to pay for four new tires. So when do I actually need to get my tires replaced? Well, Nissan says tires can last for six years. That’s a general rule for many brands, but not always accurate. And sometimes you might not have a choice to do it ahead of time—a tire can blowout at any given moment so it's best you educate yourself on how to change a tire. A simple test I do is place a penny in the tread of my tires. If you can see Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires because your tread is too worn. If Lincoln’s head is covered, you’re good to keep driving! Just to be safe, you should measure your tread once a month.
There are lots of disagreements in the industry about oil changes. Leading experts can’t seem to agree on when oil should be replaced. Like I said, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to maintenance activities, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. I get my oil changed three to four times a year. This mainly depends on how much I’m driving. But even without driving too much, I like to go in at least three times a year, or every four months. I’ve had a car that leaked oil and I didn’t realize it was a problem because my light was broken. Eventually my engine was fried, and the car was useless to me. So stick to the four month rule and play it safe. Go in to your dealership or a trusted mechanic every four months to get your oil changed. Plus if you’re taking your car in that often, chances are they could also find other problems before they get too big.
Cooling and Heating Hoses
Let’s talk hoses. The hoses that keep your engine temperature where it should be are called cooling and heating hoses. These hoses are the most susceptible to damage. This is scary because if your engine’s cooling system fails, your car overheats and that can essentially kill your engine. This is definitely a car maintenance tip every driver should know. If your engine dies, you have a total system failure. To keep a hose failure from happening, check your hose once a year, and replace them after four years. And, just to be safe, keep an eye on the temperature gage on your dashboard. If that gets too high (anywhere above the middle of the gage), pull over and call a mechanic. But to avoid a hose failure, just replace them when the manufacturer says too. That’s around the four year mark. Don’t be too worried, a hose replacement will only run you about $40.
Blood is to a human as a car battery is to a vehicle. Basically, it’s very important. Your battery keeps all your equipment and systems running. However, you will be happy to know that your battery is one of the easiest parts of your vehicle to keep healthy. And you can do all the work on it yourself. Hip-hip-hooray!
Once a month take a look at your battery. Make sure there is no corrosion at the terminals and that all the connections are solid. If there is corrosion, a simple way to clear that off is to mix equal parts baking soda and water. Once you’ve made the paste, use a toothbrush to apply it, wait a few minutes then use a wire brush to clean everything off. Keep in mind that batteries start to decline after four years, so remember that as you’re reviewing your monthly maintenance check list.
There a multiple types of filters in your car. There is an air filter, an oil filter, an engine filter, and engine air filters. The list goes on and on. However, the types of filters you will hear about most are air filters and oil filters. Those two filters need the most love and attention of them all.
The dealership I bought my car from offers the best maintenance services around, so I go there for all of my check ups. But the one thing that really irks me is that they try to get me to change my air filter. I deny their offer every time. I’ve done my own research and know air filters can last up to three years, and I can (and have) easily replace my own filter.
The nice thing about oil filters is that you don’t really have to do any work besides get an oil change. The cost of an oil filter is always included in the cost of an oil change. So as long as your regular maintenance program includes oil changes, you will be good to go!
Cleaning my car (inside and out) is definitely part of my regularly scheduled maintenance tasks. Most experts recommend washing your car every two weeks. But, if you get your car washed once a month and get it detailed twice a year, your four-wheeled investment will be given a lot more life.
Washing is one of the maintenance tasks that prevents contaminants like dust, pollen, dirt, bug guts, pollutants and more from adhering to your vehicle.
Regular washes (and internal deep cleanses) also keep the resale value of your car high! If it looks good, it will sell well. So if you worried about car washes taking money out of your pocket, you could be risking more money in the future by not making the most of it now.
Brake and Transmission Fluids
We talked about oil changes and how important those are to the health of your car. Besides gas, there are many other important fluids you need to be aware of. The first one is transmission fluid. They keep all the gears running smoothly. It is a lubricant for all the parts of, you guessed it, your transmission. This fluid needs to be changed every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. If you're using your car heavily (say you’re driving across the country all the time), you need it done every 15 thousand miles.
Another fluid that’s important to remember is brake fluid. Brake fluid is responsible for, you guessed it again, your braking system. Without brake fluid, your brakes could not work at all. To stay safe, you should change your brake fluid every 30,000 miles or two years.
So we’ve talked about brake fluid, but what about your actual brakes? I don’t need to go into an explanation about how important your brakes are. You use them every day, so you know. But I will tell you that they will have to be changed at least one time during the life of your car. The hard part about changing brakes is that there are no timelines. Each driver and car are so different and unique. Some people have brakes that last 80,000 miles, while others have brakes that only last 25,000 miles. But just like measuring tire tread, if your brake pads are below one fourth of an inch, you should probably get new ones. New technology, like predictive maintenance, can also let you know when your brakes could fail and when to get them changed.
Windshield Wipers and Fluid
Let’s get straight to it here. Windshield wipers need to be replaced every 6-12 months. If you live in a climate where there are four seasons, chances are you are using those wipers every day, and they can wear out fast. If you’re in a climate, say Southern California, where it rarely rains and it’s sunny and beautiful every day, your wipers will last much longer. But the rule of thumb isn’t necessarily 6-12 months, that’s just a recommendation. Once you start to notice streaky wipes, or weird sounds coming from your wipers, then it’s time to wipe your wipers away.
As for windshield wiper fluid, this is the easiest one of them all. Open your hood, look for the windshield wiper container, and open the cap. If you can see fluid, you’re fine! If you can’t see fluid, just poor some in. You should check on your wiper fluid every three months.
If you’re still not sure what to do for any of these parts, get out the guide book that came with your car. Inside you will find helpful information regarding systematic inspections as well as when it's required to get routine maintenance performed.