Easy Car Maintenance Tips You Can Do Now

When you first turn 16, all you can think about is how fun it’s going to be to sit behind a steering wheel, rev up the engine, and take all of your friends to cool places without needing to ask your parents. Of course, if your first automobile was an old clunker, you learned the hard way that maintaining a vehicle can be a pain in the neck. If you don’t watch your dashboard, check under the hood every few weeks, or pay attention to weird sounds in the engine, it won’t be long before you wind up stranded on the side of the highway, phoning up AAA.

Nobody wants to be in that position, but all too many individuals don’t take the necessary time and care to prevent such catastrophes from occurring. Surprisingly enough, though, car maintenance usually isn’t as hard as it’s cracked up to be. Here are a few easy to learn, easy to incorporate tips that will save you countless hours of stress.

Keep Your Tires Inflated

Everybody’s had a flat tire, but it’s surprising how few people learn from the experience. One of the biggest causes of tire problems is when people don’t properly monitor the air in their tires, or refill it. This gets particularly bad in the winter months, when colder air causes tires to deflate faster. A lot of the time, it seems like people just expect the air to stay consistent in the tires, at all times, and that’s simply not how it works.

However, you don’t have to get a tire pressure gauge to monitor the air in your tires. Many gas stations have air pumps that will allow you to both check your tires, and refill them, for about $1 buck. It takes no less than two minutes, and you can easily incorporate it into your gas routine. In general, it’s recommended that you check the air in your tires about once a month, particularly once the air starts getting colder.

Also, while we’re talking about tires, here’s a friendly reminder that whenever you do fill up the air, also pay attention to the tread. The most common way to check the tread on your tires is something called the “penny test,” where you place a penny between the ribs, pointing Lincoln’s head down. The top of his head should disappear between the ribs, but if his whole head is visible, it’s probably time to get a new tire.

Change Your Oil

If you go somewhere to get your oil changed, doing so can often feel like a pointless endeavor. In reality, though, getting timely oil changes is a matter of life and death for your vehicle. Making sure you stay on top of those oil changes will also ensure a longer life for your car, and avoid costly repairs down the road. Doing an oil change is surprisingly easy, and even the layperson could do it at home. If you feel more comfortable getting it done for you, though, all you need to know is that you should always make sure to have your oil changed every 3000 miles. Most of the time, the place you go to get your oil changes will leave a little sticker on your windshield, with the recommended mileage to hit before coming back.

On the other hand, if trying to memorize these numbers is stressing you out, you can also take the hard work away by getting a device like the FIXD car diagnostic tool: this sensor will plug into your OBD-II reader, and when you download the app, it will automatically send you push notifications about whenever your car is ready for routine maintenance… such as, you know, oil changes.

Monitor Your Fluid Levels

Yeah, yeah, it’s a pain in the butt. Your dad always told you to look at the fluid levels, and you always lied and told him that you did. But it’s time to actually take his advice seriously, because it could—no joke—save you thousands of bucks. If you’ve ever wondered which fluid levels “matter” (key: they all do), and which ones don’t, here are the things you want to keep a careful eye on:

  • Oil. As we explained before, this is a big, big deal.
  • Brake fluid. You don’t want to crash into anything, right? Right.
  • Power steering fluid. If you’ve never tried driving a car without the assistance of power steering, it’s just as awful as it sounds.
  • Radiator fluid. Regularly overheating your engine is basically like stabbing your car in the throat, and then expecting it to give a speech. Don’t do it!
  • Air conditioning coolant. Keep things cool!
  • Transmission fluid. Keep things smooth!
  • Washer fluid. Yeah, it sounds like a waste of time. But the next time a bird plants something on your windshield while you’re soaring down the highway, don’t blame us if you don’t have any fluid to wash that stuff off.

When you do check your fluids, generally try to do so on a level surface, and at some point after your car has been turned off for a while: I.E., Saturday morning. Seriously, don’t wait until your car breaks down before you buy coolant.

Make Sure You Have the Right Tools for a Breakdown

No matter what preventative measures you take, sometimes, breakdowns still happen. It’s simply the reality of driving a car. Rather than try to pray away these situations, though, it’s best to be prepared when they come up. Because of that, these are the tools that every driver should always, always keep stocked in their trunk, no matter what:

  • Jumper cables. If you accidentally leave your lights on all night, and kill the battery, these will get you jump started in no time.
  • A spare tire. Even if you do check the tread and watch the air, sometimes accidents happen, and tires blow. If you have a spare, it saves you a AAA call.
  • A jack and a lug wrench. These are the tools you need to both jack up the car, and remove the old tire.
  • Duct tape. Hey, if you’re in a fix...
  • Tow straps. Yes, great for putting stuff on top of the car, but also good if you roll into a ditch and need to be pulled out, or if you stop in the middle of the highway and need to get somewhere safe, fast, before a tow truck can arrive.
  • Flashlight or headlamp. Cell phones can die. Always have one on hand. Be prepared.