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Cutting Costs: Proper Maintenance to Extend the Lifetime of Your Vehicle

Updated on January 26, 2010

Keeping your vehicle properly maintained is essential to warding off major repairs, and the cost of keeping the vehicle maintained is much less than fixing it or replacing it.  Complete guidelines for maintaining your vehicle are found in your owner’s manual; however, the basics are the same for every vehicle.

Proper Maintenance

Once a week, inspect your car visually. Look for leaking fluids, low tires, turn signals and lights that do not work. Check the exhaust: is it normal, or is your car billowing white or black smoke? Check out the meaning of any warning light that has come on and schedule the proper maintenance.

Once a month, clean your vehicle’s air filter. This task will increase your gas mileage, while helping the engine to run cleaner. To clean the filter, remove it from the housing, tap it on a hard surface to remove pollutants, then wipe the housing clean with a gasoline dampened rag. Never get the filter wet, as water will ruin it. If possible, place the filter back in the housing in a different position than you found it.

Every three months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first:

  1. Check the fluids and the tire pressure.
  2. Change the engine oil and the filter.
  3. Lubricate the chassis.
  4. Check all the belts and hoses. Tighten belts as needed, and replace any that are not up to par.

Every year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first:

  1. Rotate the tires.
  2. Replace all filters, including air and fuel.
  3. Inspect the cooling system hoses.
  4. Check the wear on the breaks. Replace as needed.
  5. Tune up the ignition system. This includes changing the plugs and checking the rotor and rotor cap, to insure all are firing correctly.
  6. Check the temperature of the engine thermostat.
  7. Check the vehicle for leaks and other problems.

Every two years or 20,000 miles, whichever comes first:

  1. Bleed the brakes to renew the fluid and remove contaminations from normal wear and tear.
  2. Flush the cooling system. Replace with distilled water, to prevent mineral build up, and anti-freeze, as specified in the owner’s manual. If recommended by your owner’s manual or mechanic, also add an over-the-counter corrosion protectant.
  3. Replace the automatic transmission fluid and filter.
  4. Check the pollution control valve; replace if needed.

As you are driving, watch out for things that don’t look, sound or feel right. New noises are often the first indicators of trouble. Don’t ignore unusual sounds. Likewise, if the car begins to vibrate, shake or pull to one side, check it out as soon as possible. Doing so will save you money in the long run, by preventing permanent damage. Don’t feel bad asking your mechanic to inspect the car, when something feels wrong.

(c) Copyright text and photo Christa Dovel 2010


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    • Christa Dovel profile image

      Christa Dovel 7 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

      I'm glad my husband handles most of it too, and a good mechanic is essential if you are not the kind who can do it yourself.

      I can handle the oil and other common things, but the annual and bi-annual things are left for someone else.

    • LiftedUp profile image

      LiftedUp 7 years ago from Plains of Colorado

      How glad I am to have a husband who takes care of all the vehicles on this place. I'd better keep this list, though, in case the car becomes my responsibility at some point! (And I'd better pray for a good mechanic or friend.)

    • Christa Dovel profile image

      Christa Dovel 8 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

      Thank you Amulets.

    • Christa Dovel profile image

      Christa Dovel 8 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

      Hello, hello, It is hard to maintain something you do not own!

    • amulets profile image

      amulets 8 years ago from Singapore

      Hmm.. these tips will be great for my dad since he is driving. I will let him know about your tips. Thanks!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      I am sorry but I haven't got a car.