Car Maintenance Schedules: What To Check And Change, And How Often

A proper maintenance schedule will keep your car running at peak performance for many years.

Basic automobile maintenance consists of knowing what to check, and when, as well as what needs to be changed. For the most part there are some things that need to be checked everyday and some every week. Then, of course, you should change certain things on a set schedule, or sooner based on your observations.

Every Day

Do a visual inspection of your car every day.

* Look at the tires to make sure that none have gone flat overnight.

* Look under the car to check for fluid leaks.

* Inspect the body and windows for damage that may have occurred overnight.

* Make sure every light outside the car works.

* Check and adjust your mirrors.

Every Week

* Check the air pressure in your tires. Make sure the pressure conforms to the manufacture's specifications. Also look for signs of tread wear. Take a penny, place it head down inside of one of the grooves in the tread; if the tread comes to below the top of Lincoln's head, it's time to change the tires. Also, if there are bits of wire protruding from the tread (the wire is from the belt) change the tires.

* Check the oil via the dipstick. When you remove the stick, the level should be between "add" and "safe". Make sure the oil on the dipstick is golden brown and the consistency of pancake syrup. If it is black or tar-like, change it. If it looks good, but you may be a little low, pour some into the space provided on the top of the engine. Be sure you replace the cap before starting the engine.

* Check the coolant level. It should be at the appropriate level for your vehicle, as indicated on the reservoir. If you need more, pour it into the reservoir, be sure to use coolant, though, water will work in a pinch. If you must use water, be sure that you get coolant in your engine at your first convenience. If you have an older car, the fluid should cover the fins on the radiator when the engine is off. Be sure to replace the radiator cap before you start the car.

* Check the brake and transmission fluids. The reservoir for each of these is usually transparent, so you can also verify the condition of the fluid at the same time. The brake fluid should be an amber color, while transmission fluid should be red. If you have an older car, you would check the brake fluid at the master cylinder, each side of which should be full. Be sure to close the lid securely after checking the fluid. The transmission fluid (on an automatic transmission) is checked via a long dipstick, it should read between "add" and "safe". If you are in need of more transmission fluid, pour it in down the dipstick tube. A long funnel works well for this. Be sure to use the appropriate fluid for your transmission, they aren't all created equally.

* Check the power steering fluid. It should be a red color, though some are clear. In an older car the power steering fluid is checked via a dipstick. It should read "safe". If you need more fluid, put it in, very slowly, it won't take much.

* Verify that all the belts and hoses are in good working order and not frayed or worn. Any belt or hose that is frayed or worn should be replaced immediately.

Scheduled Maintenance

Scheduled maintenance occurs based on mileage, and should be done when due, no matter what.

3,000 miles (or three months) - change the oil and oil filter, along with the air filter element.

6,000 miles (or six months) - replace the fuel filter (if applicable)

12,000 miles (or twelve months) - check spark plug wires for wear, replace as necessary. Replace the PCV valve if applicable.

18,000 miles (or eighteen months) - replace spark plugs.

24,000 miles (or two years) - drain and refill the radiator with appropriate coolant.

100,000 miles - replace the timing belt or chain.

A good visual inspection and scheduled maintenance will keep your car performing at peak condition for a very long time.

© High Speed Ventures 2011