Driving carefully and responsibly goes a long way toward staying safe on the road, but it’s important to remember that you and your vehicle are a “team.” Keeping your vehicle safe for the road is the other half of the equation.
Even small oversights can pose a significant risk, so let’s take a look at the essential steps you need to take to maintain your vehicle.
1. Follow the Recommended Maintenance Schedule
Many car manufacturers recommend a so-called 30-60-90 maintenance schedule — meaning your vehicle should be inspected at 30,000, 60,000, and 90,000 miles. Here’s how that usually works:
- Your air and fuel filters should be replaced at or before 30,000 miles.
- Your car battery, brake fluid, brake pads, brake rotors, coolant, and transmission fluid should be replaced at or before 60,000 miles.
- Replace your hoses, power steering fluid, spark plugs, and timing belt at or before 90,000 miles.
Every make and model is different, so it’s crucial to check the manual. However, all drivers committed to keeping their vehicles safe for the road should schedule regular maintenance.
2. Change Your Oil and Oil Filters, and Rotate Your Tires
You can’t wait for scheduled maintenance to take care of these important tasks, which require your attention more often.
You’ll usually need to change the oil every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, and keep an eye on your engine’s oil levels by taking a peek every few weeks. Check that everything is in order before a big road trip, too!
When it comes to tires, you’ll want to check your thread depth and tire pressure regularly — and have your tires replaced when they are worn out. Tires should generally be rotated every 6,000 miles or so.
3. Check and Replace the Lights on Your Vehicle
All lights on your vehicle should work properly, including turn signals. Make checking your lights a habit, and replace any lights that have burned out immediately. Your headlights are essential for visibility, your turn signals warn others, and your brake lights play an essential role in avoiding car crashes.
4. Keep Your Windshield Clean and Replace Your Windshield Wipers as Needed
Many drivers don’t see keeping the windshield clean as a “car maintenance task,” but it absolutely is. You can’t keep a good eye on the road if your windshield is dusty and dirty, after all, and that has important safety implications.
It’s also vital to check the condition of your windshield wipers regularly and to replace damaged or cracked wipers immediately.
5. Keep an Eye on Your Fuel Economy
Monitoring your fuel economy is good for more than understanding your car’s performance. A sudden drop can also serve as an early alert system indicating that you have engine trouble or your tires need inflating.
6. Clean Your Vehicle Often
Running your vehicle through an automatic car wash is a great step, but a good manual car wash is even better. Washing your car doesn’t just prevent rust, which is important enough on its own. It also helps you spot minor problems you may not have noticed otherwise.
While we’re at it, make sure your vehicle’s interior is clean and clutter-free, too. Dirty car interiors can cause health problems like those related to mold exposure, but a cluttered car can also be incredibly distracting. Exactly what you don’t want as a responsible driver!
7. Never Ignore Warning Signs
Never ignore strange noises, warning lights, vibrations, and anything else that’s new and unusual about your car. These warning signs may indicate serious problems that need to be fixed immediately. They may also alert you to minor problems that can turn into major challenges if you don’t deal with them now.