Conducting periodic maintenance will ensure its performance capabilities and life of your vehicle. The following are general recommended intervals for your passenger vehicle, SUV, minivan and pickup truck and are based on oil changes performed every 3,000 miles. Always read your owner's manual for other recommendations.
Every month check the following:
o Engine light - if the engine light remains lit after the vehicle is started; check the owner's manual for possible malfunctions. The vehicle may have an emissions or sensor problem. If it is blinking, it indicates a more serious problem and needs immediate attention.
o Lights -Inside and outside the vehicle. Check the fuses first, then the light bulbs. Buy the recommended size and type for your vehicle at your local auto parts shop. If you are unsure of the type, the helpers at the auto parts shop can locate the right light or fuse.
o Proper tire inflation and condition - Not only does the correct pressure help ensure the life of the tire, but also your gas mileage. Check tread and general condition of each tire including the spare. The tires should be free of bulges, cracks and uneven wear. Any of these imperfections are a sign of needed replacement.
o Windshield washer fluid - Some vehicles have two reservoirs. If the fluid is low, do not replace with regular tap water. Fill with only windshield washer fluid from your local auto parts shop.
Every 3 months or 3000 miles (whichever comes first) check the following:
o Automatic Transmission Fluid - Check the fluid with the engine running and transmission in park. If the dipstick indicates it is low, add the manufacturer's recommended type until the dipstick indicates it is full. If the fluid type is unknown or difficult to read on the dipstick, contact your local auto parts shop and ask for help. ATF only needs to be changed every 2 years or 24,000 miles.
o Battery and Cables - Battery cables should be clean and securely mounted. If the battery is three years old or more, it should be tested and checked and replaced if necessary. Visit Parts Plus Auto store to buy a battery if necessary.
o Belts - Check V and serpentine belts for wear and tear. They should not have visible signs of cracking, fraying, or glazing this indicates excessive wear and needs replacement. The timing belt is typically replaced every 60,000 to 90,000 miles and can be bought or ordered from an auto parts shop.
o Air and oil filters - inspect engine air filters at every oil change and replace annually or sooner if the filter is oil soaked or shows signs of excessive wear. Oil filters should be changed and replaced at every oil change to maximize an engine's performance.
o Fuel Filter - Inspect. For vehicles with carburetors, the filter should be replaced annually while those with fuel injection only needs replaced every two years or 24,000 miles.
o Hoses - Inspect and change when cracked, leaking, rusted or restricted.
o Power steering fluid - Check when the car is warm and if topping off is required regularly, then it is time to get it checked for leaks.
o Follow monthly checks as well
Every 6 months or 6000 miles in addition to regular monthly maintenance and 3 month checks:
o Chassis lubrication - Most newer model vehicles do not require this check although steering and suspension components may need lubrication.
o Exhaust - Inspect for leaks, cracks and damaged supports or hangers. A leaking exhaust is dangerous and needs maintenance immediately.
o Polish - Use only automotive polish instead of regular dish soap to prevent removing the original polish from the vehicle. Automobiles only need waxed and polished twice a year.
o Wiper blades - Replace if chipped, cracked, streaking or excessively worn.
Every 9 months or 9000 miles - same as 3 and 6-month maintenance checks.
Every 12 months or 12,000 miles check the following:
o Brakes - Check entire brake system including rotors, drums and brake linings. Most replacement parts are sold at the auto parts shop.
o Cabin air filter - Replace once a year or in places where air contaminants are worse or when heating and cooling is not working properly.
o Coolant (antifreeze) - Change annually when the engine is cold; mix with a 50/50 solution as recommended by the owner's manual. Some brands are premixed and are sold at auto parts shops.
o Steering and Suspension - Inspect the entire system and replace as needed. Symptoms of a replacement needed are uneven tire wear and excessive bouncing after bumps.
Keep a schedule of monthly maintenance in your car, so you will know what service is required at your vehicle's next check up. Many owners' manuals have a place to write down service dates and maintenance performed.