1. Get to know your owner’s manual. Your car is unique, and so are some of its needs. Check your manual to learn about recommended service intervals and other requirements. And, keep it handy whenever you do maintenance. Before you know it, you’ll have a better understanding of your car than you ever thought possible.
2. Look at your tires every month. This means both the air pressure and the tread. Keeping your tires properly inflated will help improve your gas mileage, and having enough tread is crucial, particularly during inclement weather. Here’s a quick tread test: Insert a coin into the tread with Lincoln’s head upside down. Can you see his entire head? It’s time to replace your tires.
3. Check your fluids. Your manual should help you locate various gauges or dipsticks to check your fluids, including antifreeze/coolant (roughly every 12 months), power steering (about every 3 months), automatic transmission (approximately every 3 months) and wiper fluid (regularly). If you’re low, follow the instructions to add more.
4. Don’t forget your oil. We’re including this separately from other fluids, because it’s just that important. Get it changed as recommended, but check the level at least once a month, or every other time you fill up with gas. For the most accurate reading, wait at least 5 minutes after you’ve turned off the engine. Also, take note of what it looks like — is it clean or murky? The latter could indicate a problem.
5. How are the lights? Headlights are important, but don’t ignore your other lights, such as taillights, turn signals and reverse lights. Keep them clean and replace bulbs as needed.
Of course, no matter how familiar you become with your car, you’ll still want to leave the heavy lifting to the pros. Have your car serviced at the intervals the manufacturer recommends? And, don’t forget perhaps the ultimate preventative maintenance — making sure you have car insurance. It won’t necessarily keep your car on the road, but it will help you get back on the road in the event of an accident.