The cost of a new car can stretch even a healthy budget, so keeping your current vehicle in excellent mechanical and physical condition should be a top priority. When you create a car maintenance schedule, you will remember to take care of the crucial tasks that prolong the life of your car.
A consistent record of vehicle upkeep will also keep warranties active, reduce the need for significant repairs, and increase the resale value, so it's worth performing long- and short-term maintenance duties, from checking fluid levels to regular detailing.
Here is a car maintenance checklist and timeline of car maintenance tasks to keep your vehicle in peak condition.
Vehicle Maintenance Schedule
Here are the critical categories of maintenance you'll want to schedule to keep your car running and looking its best. Always refer to your vehicle's owner's manual for specific recommendations when you create a car maintenance schedule.
Make it a point to check these vehicle components every month:
- Tire pressure - check the air pressure in all tires and add air when below the recommended level. Replace tires that suffer from continual leaks, show any signs of damage, have poor tread depth, or are past their mileage or year expiration date.
- Windshield wiper blades - inspect the rubber on the windshield wipers for cracks or tears and check that they clean the windshield without leaving behind streaks or gaps that can impair visibility during rain, sleet, or snow. Replace worn or ineffective blades immediately.
- Air filter - A dirty air filter will decrease fuel efficiency, increase emissions, and let damaging particulates into your engine. Check the owner's manual for location, inspection, and replacement instructions.
Once a month, run your car through a car wash, keeping the paint job fresh and allowing you to clean the undercarriage to prevent rust from road grime and salts.
Every 3 Months or 3,000 Miles
- Engine oil - Check/top off the level in the miles between oil changes, and always check with a mechanic if the oil light illuminates. Change oil per the manufacturer's recommendation and consider the benefits of using synthetic oil.
- Coolant - Ensure the reservoir level is between the full and minimum lines.
- Brake fluid - Low brake fluid causes serious safety issues. Ensure the level is between the minimum and maximum fill lines or if you cannot find markings, fill to 2/3 to 3/4 full.
- Windshield washer fluid - Top off fluid to the max fill line (check weekly or monthly if you clean windows often).
- Power steering fluid - Maintain level to correct marks and check immediately if the steering wheel becomes hard to turn.
- Transmission fluid - If your vehicle has a dipstick, ensure the fluid is light in color and does not smell burnt.
HOSES - Open the hood and manually inspect the hoses by searching the length for signs of fluid leaks and squeezing the material. The rubber should be smooth, without bulges or cracks, and have a slight give. Hoses with very stiff rubber or any signs of wear and tear need immediate replacement.
If the hoses are difficult to access, inspection is often best left to a professional service center as part of a routine maintenance assessment.
BELTS - The serpentine belt, also known as the drive belt, is partially visible in the engine compartment. Look for cracking, fraying, or a shiny, glazed surface that indicates it's time for a replacement.
If your car has a timing belt, you will change that according to mileage or age.
DETAILING - To keep your car looking sharp and smelling fresh, you should deep clean the interior and exterior every few months. Set up professional detailing or DIY the work yourself if you have the correct equipment, like a steam cleaner for the upholstery and carpets or commercial-grade waxes and sealants.
Every 6 Months or 5,000 Miles
To keep your vehicle performing up to standards, make sure you add these crucial tasks to your list when you create a car maintenance schedule:
- Oil and Filter Change - Most vehicles that take conventional oil are on a 5,000-mile change for oil.
- Battery - Check the battery output diagnostics, cables, and terminals for corrosion or damage. And if you own a Tesla EV, take it to a Tesla authorized body shop that has specially-trained technicians who will handle your car with care.
- Engine and Cabin Air Filters - Check for dirt accumulation (most will need replacement every 6 to 12 months)
- Tire Rotation - Ensure you get the full life out of your tires by rotating them twice a year
- Lights - Check that all parking, turning, head, and other lights are working to the correct brightness and that lenses are clear and not cloudy
- Spark Plugs - Have a service technician check and replace faulty spark plugs according to the manufacturer's recommendations or when engine power lessens.
Long-Term Vehicle Maintenance Schedule
- Fuel Filter - Manufacturers recommend replacing the fuel filter every 20,000 to 40,000 miles.
- Coolant Flush - Manufacturers recommend flushing the cooling system and replacing the coolant every three years or 100,000 miles.
- Shocks and Struts - A visual inspection should occur by a professional every 50,000 miles or whenever you notice a decrease in handling when driving.
- Transfer Case Fluid in AWD or 4WD Vehicles - Ensure that the fluid is full and there are no leaks. This inspection is a difficult DIY, and better to leave it to the experts.
- Front and Rear Differential - There is one differential in front and rear-wheel drive vehicles, but in 4WD and AWD vehicles, there's a front and rear differential and sometimes a center differential. Let a professional check and change the fluid every 30,000 to 50,000 miles to ensure proper lubrication.
- Transmission Fluid Flush - Flush the system and replace the fluid every 30,000 to 50,000 miles to keep the vehicle shifting smoothly.
- Brakes - Have your brakes inspected once a year or anytime you notice squealing or grinding when braking or when stopping distances increase. Replace pads and rotors as necessary.
- Timing Belt - Replace the belt every 60,000 to 100,000 miles to avoid serious damage to your car or failure of the belt.
Create an Expert Car Maintenance Plan
The best way to create a maintenance schedule is to work with a reputable auto service center, like D1 auto body, which has expert technicians who can tailor your checklist to your vehicle model and age.
When you keep up with regular maintenance, your vehicle can keep running smoothly and will reduce the need for expensive repairs. So find a car-care expert and create a car maintenance schedule today!