Proactive Vehicle Maintenance Checklist: 12 Point Health Inspection
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- 1. Engine Oil
- 2. Tire Pressure
- 3. Tire Tread
- 4. Coolant Levels
- 5. Windshield Washer Fluid
- 6. Windshield Wipers
- 7. Transmission Fluid
- 8. Headlights, Turn Signals, & Brake/Parking Lights
- 9. Battery Life
- 10. Power Steering Fluid
- 11. Brake Fluid
- 12. OBD 2 Diagnostic Scan
- Bottom Line
- Auto Detailing Services in Washington & Los Angeles
Caring for your car takes effort. Still, being proactive about its maintenance is the best way to avoid pricey repairs (and serious headaches) further down the road.
Regular care maximizes the life and performance of your vehicle. A well-maintained car also spends less time in the shop, which saves you money and time. Most importantly, proactive maintenance protects you from getting into car trouble – and that peace of mind is irreplaceable.
Most car owners are under the impression that they need to be experienced grease monkeys in order to care for their cars. That’s far from the truth.
All you need to do is understand what you need to do and how often. To help you get started, we have created a 12-point vehicle maintenance checklist. If you stick to this to-do list, you’ll stand a better chance of keeping your vehicle in excellent running condition.
1. Engine Oil
Checking the engine oil should be at the top of your vehicle maintenance checklist. Motor oil keeps your engine healthy and prolongs its service life by:
- Lubricating engine parts and reducing wear
- Keeping the engine parts clean
- Cooling the engine
- Acting as a dynamic seal in parts like the combustion chamber
- Cushioning the blow of mechanical shock
- Preventing corrosion
Changing a car’s oil is usually a painless procedure, especially if you take the car to a service center. Usually, old vehicles require an oil change around every 3,000 miles. New ones are a little more updated, and as a result, they only need oil changes every 5,000 to 7,000 miles.
However, mileage isn’t the only thing that dictates when you need to change your engine oil. For instance, if you see the oil change light turn on in your car, it might already be time. Similarly, you should pay attention if you smell oil inside your car or hear the engine knocking. Both can indicate it’s time for an oil change.
Try to check the oil level every time you send your car to the shop. It’s also recommended to keep a bottle of oil with you, especially if you are planning a long road trip. You can easily top the motor oil off should the need arise.
2. Tire Pressure
Check your tires’ pressure regularly, including that of the spare. Doing so before a long drive or prior to pulling a heavy load is a must. Underinflated tires can wear quickly and excessively, as well as lower your gas mileage.
Above all, normal tire pressure is necessary to ensure your safety on the road. Underinflated tires contribute to a serious risk of hydroplaning. They may cause your car to lose contact with the road, which can then result in harmful (or even fatal) accidents.
Typically, car tire pressure is between 32~40 psi (pounds per square inch) when the tires are cold. This may vary depending on your car model and size. Usually, you can find the recommended pressure on a sticker inside the driver’s door or the sidewall of your tires.
Make sure to check the tire pressure every time you stop for gas. If one or more tires are under-inflated, fill them up before getting back on the road.
3. Tire Tread
While checking the pressure of your tires, don’t forget to assess the tire treads for excessive wear and tear. Maintaining the recommended tread depth is crucial for safety and performance. The tread depth provides a better grip and reduces the risk of hydroplaning. Unfortunately, most car owners tend to overlook the tread depth of car tires.
Goodyear recommends monitoring your tire tread depth closely once it reaches 4/32-inch deep. If it is 3/32″, you will need to replace the tires soon. If it is 2/32″ or less, you will need to change the tires immediately.
You can use a gauge to check your tire tread depth. However, the penny test is still one of the easiest ways to check depth. Here’s what you have to do:
- Insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove.
- Keep Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you.
- Look to see if you can see all of Lincoln’s head.
If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, the tread is less than 2/32″ inch. In other words, you should definitely replace the tires right away.
Most tires also come with tread wear indicator bars molded at the bottom of the grooves in several locations. If these bars become visually flush, your tire’s tread depth is less than 2/32″. That’s when it’s time to get new tires.
4. Coolant Levels
Another important task on your vehicle maintenance checklist should be checking coolant levels. Be sure to check these levels every month, especially before taking long road trips. Low coolant levels can cause the engine to heat up and break down.
Coolant change intervals can vary widely depending on your driving habits, the age of your car, and the model. Most automobile experts recommend making the first oil and coolant change after 60,000 miles. Still, make sure to change the coolant every 30,000 miles after that.
5. Windshield Washer Fluid
You will have to keep your windshield wiper fluid full at all times. You never know when and how your windshield will get dirty, which can seriously reduce your visibility on the road.
Typically, you will find the fluid reservoir under the hood. Look for a container with the symbol of windshield/water. If you have a rear windshield wiper, you may have to look for a second container.
Replacing the fluid is easy enough. It’s probably the easiest task on your vehicle maintenance checklist. Just remove the cap, replace the fluid and close the cap tightly again. Now you are all set to get back on the road.
6. Windshield Wipers
Taking care of your windshield wipers is equally important. As windshield wipers are made out of rubber, they tend to deteriorate over time. Generally, you will need to replace them once every year or when they get damaged. However, you should always change wipers ahead of your area’s rainy season.
It’s easy enough to change the wiper blades yourself. Most cars require no tools to change them. Still, if you’d rather pass the job onto a professional, you can ask a mechanic to do it when you take your car to the shop next time.
7. Transmission Fluid
Transmission fluid works as both oil and hydraulic fluid. It lubricates, cleans, and supports the moving parts of the gear. At the same time, it also cools the transmission. As the transmission fluid deteriorates over time, you need to change it regularly.
Most manufacturers recommend changing it every 30,000 to 60,000 miles for manual transmission. For automatic transmissions, you can change it every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. Of course, there is no harm in changing it early – especially if your car endures pretty heavy use.
8. Headlights, Turn Signals, & Brake/Parking Lights
All lights on your vehicle must be working at all times. Broken lights will get you pulled over, not to mention cause accidents. Check all of your car’s lights once every month. Turn on the ignition and see if your headlights are working.
Leave your car engine running and walk around the car to check if your parking lights, turn signals, and brake lights are working. You will need a friend or family member standing next to the car to check if the brake lights are working.
Get broken lights fixed from a reliable car service provider immediately. Avoid ever getting on the road with a broken light.
9. Battery Life
The last thing you want to deal with is a dead car battery as you are about to drive to an important meeting. Unfortunately, car batteries always deteriorate over time. Depending on your driving habits and battery brand, a car battery will typically last three to five years.
The easiest way to assess the performance of your battery is to check its voltage. If your car battery has a voltage between 12.4 and 12.7 volts, it’s in good working condition. If the reading goes below 12.4 volts, you need to recharge your battery immediately.
Although you may not have to change the battery every month, you will need to check its performance. Whenever you take your car to the shop, add a battery performance check to your vehicle maintenance checklist.
10. Power Steering Fluid
Power steering is a hydraulic system. Power steering fluid lubricates the moving parts of this hydraulic system, making it easier for you to steer your car. You will need to change this fluid from time to time. The interval for changing power steering fluid is around 50,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first.
If you hear a groaning sound coming from your power steering system, especially when turning your car, it’s a sign that your power steering fluid needs a change. Increased difficulty in turning your car is also an indicator of the same. If you see these signs, take your car to the shop immediately.
Different cars use different power steering fluids. You need to choose the right type of fluid for your specific make and model. That’s why it’s a job best left to the pros. While getting the fluid changed, ask your mechanic to check the steering system for leaks or broken parts.
11. Brake Fluid
Brake fluid makes sure your braking system works efficiently. It lubricates the moving parts of your brake system. However, braking fluid also gathers dust debris over time, losing its efficiency. To keep your braking system working in excellent condition, you need to change the brake fluid before it’s too late.
Most car manufacturers recommend changing the brake fluid every four to five years. However, the rule of thumb is to have your car detailing expert or mechanic check the brake fluid whenever you go for an oil change. As an expert, your mechanic can advise if your brake fluid needs changing.
Moreover, if you notice your brakes are acting wired or hear weird noises coming from your brakes, take your car to the shop immediately. The problem could be low brake fluid levels. Have your mechanic or car detailing service center take a look and change the brake fluid if necessary.
12. OBD 2 Diagnostic Scan
No vehicle maintenance checklist is complete without an OBD 2 diagnostic scan. OBD stands for On-Board Diagnostics. It is a computerized system that monitors the performance of vitals such as the emission and the engine.
An OBD 2 diagnostic scan gives you a detailed analysis of:
- Air Temperature,
- Crankshaft and Camshaft
- Engine RPM
- Road Speed
Consider this preventive health checkup of your car. It tells you exactly what is wrong with your vehicle. Whenever you go for an oil change, asking your mechanic to run an OBD 2 diagnostic scan is a good idea.
Proactive maintenance brings many benefits to car owners. It increases your car’s service life and performance, but it also saves money, time, and energy.
Unless you love sending your vehicle to the shop every month, we recommend taking proactive maintenance seriously. We hope this 12-point vehicle maintenance checklist can help you figure a few things out in this regard.
That said, you don’t have to do everything yourself. Let the Big’s Mobile team help you with your vehicle maintenance – or take over when things get out of hand. We have the tools and the expertise to take a thorough look at your car and bring it back into tip-top shape. To take advantage of our health inspection process, call (425) 243-9155 or reach out online today.
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