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  • Learn to check your car’s fluids periodically
  • Check your brakes every 3-6 months
  • Never, ever ignore a check engine light

Despite what your dealer or Steve’s Scammy Auto Shop will tell you, there’s quite a lot you can do to keep your car out of the shop. And on the cheap, too. We’ve put together a list of eight car maintenance tips, from windshield wipers, to check engine lights, that’ll help keep your car out of Steve’s greedy clutches and on the road.

What happens if you don’t wash your car regularly?

A man washes his car
Car maintenance can be as easy as washing | Liam McBurney via Getty Images

Our first easy car maintenance item is somewhat of a roundabout way of keeping your car out of the aforementioned mechanic’s shop. By keeping your car clean, you keep your paint clean, which means it won’t oxidize over the years. Cruddy paint can hurt your resale value, and it’ll make it harder to spot any damage. Plus, you get that same nice dopamine hit you get from cleaning your room.

Should I read my owner’s manual?

Now, something as simple as reading your owner’s manual might seem like a no-brainer. However, you’d be surprised what car maintenance tips and features the creators of your beautiful ride have inside. We didn’t even know our Mini Cooper JCW had a heated steering wheel until we read the manual. Plus, helpful tips like tire pressures and gas octane recommendations can be found within.

Checking your wheels and tires is the easiest car maintenance there is

In keeping with the tire-related train of thought, it’s best to give yours a look. And, while you’re at it, the wheels too. If you suspect a leaky tire, a sponge with soapy water run over the tire is an easy, free car maintenance item you can perform yourself. Additionally, winter roads mean potholes, and that could mean a cracked wheel. Best to check them every so often.

Don’t wait to check your check engine light

A car's gauge cluster, free of check engine lights, reads 100,000 miles
Free of check engine lights, a car can last as long as you want | Universal Education via Getty Images

Another obvious one. Don’t let your check engine light sit, or you’ll be asking your mechanic for more car maintenance tips from the comfort of a shop waiting chair. For the DIY-ers, scan tools can be a pricey, yet effective tool for the shade-tree mechanic.

Visually inspecting your engine is car maintenance made easy

The engine bay of a Volkswagen GTI
The engine bay of a Volkswagen GTI | Hauke-Christian Dittrich via Getty Images

This is our favorite car maintenance tip. Give your engine a visual once-over from time to time. Odds are, you’ll learn a thing or two about how combustion engines work, and how to spot problems.

How do you know when your brakes need to be checked?

Perhaps the most obvious car maintenance tip on our list. Check your brakes every 3-6 months, and keep a lookout for any squeaks, rattles, or poor braking performance. Alternatively, new vehicles will warn you with a light on the dash when you’ve hit the wear sensor. For those of us driving old cars, most shops will give them a look when your tires are rotated or your oil is changed.

How often should I replace my wipers?

Windshield wipers cross a windscreen on a rainy night
Fresh wipers can help preserve your windscreen | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand via Getty Images

Knowing when to change your wipers is more about saving your hide than it is money. A good set of wipers in working order can literally save your life. That’s doubly true in winter, where driving conditions are at their worst. If your wipers are squeaking, rattling, or streaking, it’s time to change them.

Car maintenance can be as easy as checking your fluids

A man and his son check the oil levels on their Volkswagen
Checking oil levels takes mere minutes and a single rag | Tim Brakemeier via Getty Images

Finally, make sure to check those fluids. Most are clearly labeled, from oil to power steering, to wiper fluid. If you’re not sure of the locations, your owner’s manual (or YouTube) can tell you. Most will have a fill-to line, and checking is as easy as using your eyes or using a rag to catch whatever comes off the dipstick.

Ideally, any of these eight car maintenance tips will save you money and downtime in the shop. However, the real benefit here is the friends we made… no, the lessons you’ll learn about how your car works.


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