Safe driving is about more than just the decisions and actions you make behind the wheel. It also requires you to make sure your vehicle is roadworthy at all times. Regular vehicle maintenance will ensure that your car functions well and can handle anything from slamming on the brakes to swerving around a reckless cyclist.
If you don't know much about cars, auto maintenance can feel mystifying. What do you need to do, and when? Here's what you need to know.
First Things First: Check Your Manual
Every car is different, so it's important to read your owner's manual. It's packed with important information about your vehicle, including a recommended maintenance schedule. This advice from the manufacturer will help you keep your car in good condition, so refer to it often. Your manual will also have diagrams that help you find important parts under the hood if you want to take care of any basic maintenance yourself.
Check Fluid Levels
It takes several different types of fluids to keep your car running. Unfortunately, these fluids don't last forever. Check the levels monthly and refill as needed, using the dipsticks and directions included in your vehicle. Be sure to check each of the following for a thorough fluid review:
Power steering fluid
Windshield washer fluid
Change Oil and Filters
Engine oil is one of the most important parts of your car. Without it, your engine will run rough and could even seize up, causing a very expensive breakdown. Regular oil changes are a key component of good car maintenance. Have your oil changed every three months or 3,000 miles (or according to your manual's recommendations).
When you get your oil replaced, ask the mechanic on duty to swap out the engine and cabin air filters as well. This will keep your engine and air conditioner running efficiently, which will add up to fuel savings in the long run.
Inspect Your Tires
Your tires are literally where the rubber meets the road, so it's crucial to keep them in good shape. Tire treads are designed to grip the asphalt and keep you from skidding when you make twists and turns, and they need to be at least 1/16th of an inch deep.
To make sure your tires aren't overly worn down, use a penny to test them. Insert the penny so Lincoln's head slides between the tire treads. If the treads don't touch the top of his head, your tires are balding and need to be replaced ASAP.
Keep It Clean
Believe it or not, a dirty car won't last as long as a clean one. That's because road mud and grit can damage the finish on your car's body, which will allow water to seep through the paint and cause rust. Over time, small rust spots will grow and can cause major damage and structural weaknesses to your car.
To avoid this fate, run your car through the local car wash at least once every month or two. You can also vacuum the upholstery and floor mats at this time. Removing sand and grit will also extend the life of these important components.