You’ve just bought yourself a new car. Take some time to enjoy it! Chances are, it will drive just beautifully for a long time to come. But even if your car is still riding perfectly months from now, you can’t forget about routine maintenance! While on-board computers and other sophisticated electronics have made cars run better and last longer than ever before, there are still some items that will require regular attention throughout the life of your car.
The most important thing you can do to keep your car running smoothly is to read and follow the recommendations in your car manual. Many maintenance specifics will depend on the particular make and model of your car, so when in doubt—check your manual!
- Get periodic oil changes. Luckily for us and our wallets, cars can run a lot longer in between oil changes than they used to, especially if using synthetic oils. Check your owner’s manual to find out your recommended change interval, typically between 7,500 and 10,000 miles. Most experts agree that the conventional wisdom of having an oil change every 3,000 miles is no longer necessary.
- Check your fluid levels. Besides oil, there are several fluid levels you need to pay attention to for top performance and safety. These include the radiator fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, air conditioning coolant and washer fluid. Check recommendations in your manual because some may need flushing too.
- Listen to your brakes. Fortunately, your brakes often will let you know when it’s time for a service call. Be aware of these signs that your brakes need attention, especially if you often drive in heavy traffic or put a lot of miles on your vehicle: squealing, grinding, longer stopping times and steering wheel vibration. Have them inspected periodically for wear and tear.
- Check your tires regularly. Check your tire pressures every few months and keep them inflated up to the level recommended in your user guide or posted on your driver’s side door jamb. Inspect your tire tread for excessive wear using the indicators shown on your tire, especially if you notice any slippage on wet surfaces. Also, rotate your tires at least twice per year to help them wear more evenly and last longer. Finally, be sure your car is balanced and aligned properly; if it is pulling to one side, it probably needs some attention.
- Replace worn-out items. Some parts of your car are not meant to last forever, and routine replacement will help keep your car running more efficiently and safely. These include wiper blades; hoses and belts, which you can often inspect visually; and air filters, particularly if you often drive in heavy traffic or around construction sites.
The internet is chock-full of car maintenance information on sites such as Edmunds.com, cargurus.com and AAA, as well as on user forums and chat sites. Also, find a local dealer or service advisor to answer questions and resolve problems—they are both “in the know” and ready to help.