April is National Car Care Month, and that means taking a moment to do a few things that can save you thousands of dollars. The month was designated for April by the Car Care Council, as a way to remind drivers of the need to take care of their second most expensive purchase. Cars that are poorly maintained are unsafe, pollute more, cost the driver more money, and have lower resale values.
“Preventative vehicle maintenance pays off all year, every year,” Rich White, executive director of the non-profit Car Care Council, said in a press release. The council offers several tips on vehicle maintenance, in order to foster a more informed public.
Whether you take your car to a mechanic or prefer to “do it yourself” using manuals from haynes.com, here are some simple ways you can “Be Car Care Aware” every month.
Every month, check the tire pressure in your tires, and the overall condition of your tires. Have a friend or family member stand outside your vehicle and watch as you individually test all the exterior lights. Add washer fluid, as needed. Also, clean your ride, inside and out.
Every 3 Months
Now is a good time to check the engine oil. Yes, the days of the three month oil change interval are long gone, but at least take a look and make sure the oil level is where it should be. Check the level of the automatic transmission too, if yours has a dipstick. If it is a sealed unit, don’t worry about it unless you see red drips under your vehicle. If you have a manual transmission, you most likely do not need to check your fluid level. If you are feeling adventurous, most vehicles with a stick shift want you to remove the fill plug and reach a finger inside. If you can feel fluid, you’re good to go. Also check the power steering fluid, and the brake fluid. Be careful with that last one, as it is really bad for paint. Also have a look at the exhaust system and fuel filter.
Every 6 Months
Twice a year, check the chassis lubrication and replace the windshield wipers. The former should be done by a certified technician. The later item, windshield wipers, is easy enough that anyone can do it. Wiper replacement takes no tools, and all of about one minute to replace. The auto parts store that sells the wipers will usually put them on for you, if you ask nicely.
Every 12 Months
Once a year, or 12,000 miles, check the brakes, spark plugs, coolant and steering and suspension. Sure, you can take a look at all these systems yourself, but it is probably faster to let a trained technician do it for you. Most repair shops will do this as a complimentary service, and then you can decide to let them fix it, or do it yourself. While you might choose to do it later, having the technician examine your vehicle will alert you to the problem and give you time to budget for it, or give you piece of mind if your vehicle passes their examination.