Let’s just be honest, cars are a lot of work to understand and maintain. We’re just happy to have one to get around, go on road trips or to escape to for peace and quiet. But we can’t do all of those things if we don’t take care of it like we should. Not to worry—get your pen and paper and prepare your checklist. Here's what you need to know about your car and what to do to take care of it.
Keeping the exterior and interior clean
Let’s start with the outside, because there’s nothing like knowing your car is freshly waxed and washed. Getting your car cleaned on a regular basis is just as important as keeping your bed and bathroom clean. You're probably in your car as much as you are in your bedroom, if not more. It's very easy to keep everything in your car to the point where you can't see your floor mats, but it's unsanitary and a hazard for robbery.
Make a budget for your car to get it washed and waxed at least once or twice a month, vacuum the inside regularly, and invest in Rain-X products for your windows. Getting in the habit of this will maintain the way your car looks, as well as keep up its resale value. Keeping the interior clean and decluttered is just as important as the exterior. “Don't have too much cluttering up your dash and hanging from your windshield mirror,” Andrew Harris, a senior at Texas A&M University, explains. “Sure it's cute, but don't let it get to where your collection of chains and decorations are blocking your visibility.”
Changing fluids and filters
This part of car maintenance is probably the most important section of taking care of your car: being aware of when to change different fluids and filters. You may have thought getting your oil changed was the main thing to be aware of, but unfortunately there's a lot more in your car that is just as important. Pepboys, a full-service and tire automotive aftermarket chain, has a great schedule of when to get something changed according to mileage. Make sure you are getting the right fluids put in your car, and know if your car can go to any service station or has to be taken to your car dealer. Your car should also have up to four filters: in-cabin air filter (which is in your glove box, who knew?), engine/oil filter, fuel and transmission filters. These should be changed to continue to keep particles from damaging important parts in your car. Malik, an auto repair specialist at National Tire & Battery (NTB) in Atlanta, GA, says, “You should change your filters every 12,000 miles, and the usual prices start at $16.00-$30.00.”
Tires and brakes
Along with getting a regular oil change, you should ask to get your tires rotated at the same time. Getting your tires rotated ensures even tire wear and helps to extend the life of your tires. Tire pressure goes hand in hand with rotation as well. Luckily cars have indicators to let you know when something is wrong. Whenever you see your tire pressure light come on, you should check the air pressure of all four tires immediately. Not checking it results in flat tires, blowouts, or the tires becoming so worn down that you'll end up buying new ones. “One tip I learned for checking if your tires have enough tread is to use a penny,” Reilly Tuccinard, a senior at University of South Carolina, says. “Flip it upside down so that the head of the penny is in the tread of the tire. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head then the tread of your tire is worn down and it’s probably time to replace it.”
Connected to your tires are your brakes. If you're a heavy-foot driver like myself, your brakes probably get worn down a lot faster. If you feel your car taking longer to stop, your brakes are getting lower and lower when pressed, or you hear the rotors being scraped against each other, it's time to get brand new brake pads. You should have them inspected between 25,000-50,000 miles, but if anything feels or sounds off take your car to get serviced ASAP. You don't want to put this off and have a car accident happen as a result.
Preparing for the weather
Depending on where you live and drive, you may or may not have to worry a lot about preparing your car for winter weather—especially snow. But in cases of really cold weather, keeping a winter supply box (along with a regular emergency box) in your trunk will come in handy for those emergencies when it decides to randomly snow, or an entire snow-pocalypse happens. You can also invest in winter windshield wiper fluid that won't freeze your windshield while driving. For the summer heat: parking in the shade, using window shades and opening the sunroof stops your car from getting too hot. Also, keep your engine’s temperature balanced by taking note of the cooling system.
Other tips to remember
There's so much to keep in mind when it comes to your car, but taking the time to become serious about maintaining it will make it easier to remember, and your car will definitely thank you for it. Along with the main sections above, there are a few more things to note on your list: check to see if there are any recalls on your car; save your maintenance receipts to keep up with budgets and how much it takes to service your car; keep your manuals, insurance and important information about your car in your glove box; remember important indicators on your dashboard to know when something is wrong and no reckless driving! “Have jumper cables on you in case you or a friend needs a jump. There are even portable battery car jumps out nowadays so you don't need a friend's car or a AAA subscription for a jump—you can do it yourself!,” Andrew says. If you have checked off all of these things and have kept up with your list on a regular, congrats! You're officially an amazing owner of a car.