Used car prices have recently increased by as much as 52%. And because of that, most car owners are even more motivated to keep their oil levels, transmission fluids, tire pressure, and other vital car components in good shape.
Replacing a car that breaks down can be costly, so most people want to ensure that their current vehicle can serve them until car prices stabilize and it becomes possible to get something newer for a reasonable price.
But if you don't have prior experience, figuring out how to maintain your car isn't easy. And for many people, the cost of maintaining a car in good shape can seem like a lofty expense that they could do without.
Luckily, there are simple ways to avoid common trips to car service centers if you know how to properly maintain your car on your own.
Below, let's explore the difference between maintenance and repairs, the most important tips for maintaining your car in good shape, and the common misconceptions you might have about the process.
Maintenance and Repairs
The difference between doing maintenance on your car and getting repairs done may not be entirely clear. Both involve making sure your car's components are in good working order for everything to function as it should.
However, the key difference between the two is that one is reactive, and the other is proactive.
For example, once you notice a car problem that's hard to ignore, such as trouble braking, lights in your dashboard, or a strange noise, that usually means something has already gone wrong and that you'll need to deal with it before the problem gets too bad. When there's already a problem, that falls under repairs as you're reacting to a problem that's already impacting the car's performance or fuel efficiency.
Meanwhile, if you want to prevent the above scenario, you would perform car maintenance, which involves doing things that will help you save on auto repairs in the long run. Some examples of car maintenance include changing the oil filters, brake pads, and engine oil, looking for uneven wear in tires, maintaining coolant levels, and air filters, and a variety of other tasks that should be on your maintenance schedule.
Keeping track of the most critical automotive maintenance components will not only ensure your car runs smoothly but will also help prevent more severe and expensive repairs from being necessary. And it's especially important when you have a relatively new car since the car needs to be taken care of from the start if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises like the Check Engine light or other potentially costly repairs.
Tips for Maintaining Your New Car Properly
Figuring out how to maintain your car can seem like an overwhelming task. With so many different parts of the vehicle requiring regular maintenance, you may not even be sure where to begin.
The good news is that most maintenance tasks are relatively easy to track, and many can even be done on your own.
Here's a list of some of the most important maintenance tips you should be aware of.
Regularly change the engine oil. The engine is the most expensive and essential component in a car, so it makes sense to ensure it's in good condition at all times. And for your engine to run smoothly, you need to replace your engine oil every 8,000-10,000 miles as part of your maintenance checklist if you want a clean engine with good performance.
Check the key fluids. Checking engine oil levels is just one of the things you should watch out for. It's also important to keep track of other vital fluids in your car, such as the brake fluid, coolant, and transmission fluid. If one of these fluids gets depleted, your car's performance will suffer, and it might even put you in a dangerous situation on the road.
Change your air filters. Your engine needs air to function correctly. But as your air filter gets older, it won't do as good of a job at filtering unwanted particles, which can then get into the engine and cause issues that will be hard to fix. You should check the filter's condition at least once or twice per year, and they typically need to be replaced at around the 12,000-mile mark.
Look at your brake condition. Your brakes are exposed to a lot of friction every time you're out driving. That's why it's crucial to check your brake components for noticeable wear and replace them at regular intervals if you want to enjoy a safe and comfortable driving experience.
Regularly change the timing belt. The timing belt is a car component that most owners don't even consider. And when it's working well, it's hard to even know it's there. But if a timing belt were to fail, it would not only render your car undrivable but would also cause significant engine damage that would be very expensive to fix.
Inspect your windshield wipers. When figuring out how to maintain your car, the windshield wipers can seem like an afterthought. But having wipers that work well is not just crucial during a heavy storm but for protecting your car's windshield as well. A little-known fact is that when you keep using old wipers, it can eventually cause irreversible damage to your windshield.
Make sure all the lights work. One of the easiest ways to keep your car in good working order is to regularly inspect it for any lights that might not work as they should. By taking a few seconds to evaluate each light, you will increase the safety of your journey and reduce the risk of getting a ticket.
Keep your car clean. Finally, a simple yet essential part of learning how to maintain your car is developing your own cleaning routine that you stick to every week. By keeping the exterior and interior of your car clean, you will be able to better preserve components like rubber seals, as well as protect the vehicle from rusting that could occur from exposure to road salt.
Car Maintenance Misconceptions
Even though most people would agree that regular vehicle maintenance is essential, many don't know how to properly maintain a car and still believe in common misconceptions about how a car should be taken care of.
To help you avoid these common pitfalls, let's look at a few popular misconceptions that you may have heard.
You Don't Need to Maintain a New Car
One of the most popular misconceptions you might have heard is that new cars require no maintenance. The idea is that since the car is brand new, it shouldn't need any work done and can be driven for a long time without issues.
The problem with this philosophy is that when you fail to maintain the car from the beginning, it will result in serious issues developing much sooner. And that will make increasing the resale value of your car in the future much more challenging, even if your vehicle is still relatively new.
You Don't Need to Worry About Your Battery for Years
Most people tend not to think about their car battery until they encounter a problem. That's especially true for those who have replaced the battery themselves at some point in the past.
But even though today's batteries are designed to last a long time, the climate and driving habits can impact how long you can use them.
If you want to avoid dealing with a dead battery at the worst possible time, test its capacity regularly and replace it every 4-5 years.
The Brake Fluid Doesn’t Need to be Replaced
Even though most drivers are familiar with the need to regularly replace the coolant or engine oil, far fewer are aware of the need to perform brake fluid maintenance at regular intervals as well.
And, considering that a working brake system is crucial to road safety, it makes sense to give it the proper attention it requires.
While you don't need to worry about getting your brake system inspected too often, it's good to have it checked by a professional at least every 3-4 years. That way, they can replace the fluid if needed and ensure that the entire brake system works properly.
You should also consult your repair shop about whether your car needs a replacement of the power steering fluid and the transmission fluid, as having these items on your maintenance schedule for periodic checks can make a big difference in your car's longevity.
Figuring out how to maintain your car isn't as simple as checking the oil levels every few months. But at the same time, almost anyone can perform basic maintenance tasks or at least remember to take their car for regular checkups, which can prevent accelerated wear of key components.
By following the tips listed above, you'll have a much easier time keeping your car in good condition and avoiding costly repairs that could force you to sell the vehicle. And when you do decide it's time to sell, a well-maintained car will fetch a much better price, especially if you work with a reputable junk car buyer.