If you're like most Americans, the car you own is probably your second most-valuable piece of property, after your house. Add in gas and general auto insurance, and you can see why your car is such a large investment. Just like a house, a car requires maintenance from time-to-time to keep everything running smoothly. There's a lot to remember with car maintenance, but we've put together a list of some of the most important things to do - and how often to do them.
Your brakes are the most important safety feature on your car, so don't take any chances with them. If you notice anything different about your brakes, it's time to see an auto-mechanic. Your brakes work by applying pressure to the wheel, stopping it from turning. So, as the pads that touch the wheel wear out, you might notice a spongy feeling to your pedal or experience more resistance, which feels like stiffness. Either one is a potential problem, and might turn into a more expensive issue if you don't fix it right away. A constant scraping noise is also reason for concern, although a squealing sound may not be. Check your brakes often to avoid an accident on the road and higher general auto insurance rates.
Your tires are - hopefully - the only part of your car coming into constant contact with the road, so it is very important to keep them in good shape. Over-inflated, under-inflated, or misaligned tires will reduce your car's efficiency, sucking away your gas-mileage. Every six months or so, check on your tire pressure and get your alignment checked when you normally service your vehicle. Additionally, front and rear tires wear out differently, so get them rotated regularly. Check your owner's manual to find out how often your car needs its tires rotated.
Internal combustion engines run most efficiently at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, according to How Stuff Works. Your car has an internal cooling system designed to keep the engine at the proper temperature, but over time, this needs maintenance as well. Every two years, you should flush your radiator and add new coolant to keep things running smoothly. Periodically, you should check to make sure that the hoses and belts in your car are in good shape. These components should always be firm to the touch. Weather conditions can wear both out, creating cracks, loose connections, or a malleable feel, all of which mean that it's time to get them replaced.
A clogged air filter will lower your car's efficiency, burning more gas. How often should you replace your air filter? That depends on where you're driving. Just driving a car around town in neutral weather will mean that you don't need to replace it that often, but if you're driving on dirt roads or through tough winter conditions, it will get dirty quickly. According to 2CarPros, you should change your air filter every 3,000 miles, but some people feel that this is a bit excessive if you're not driving in bad conditions. The best bet is to regularly check your air filter and change it when it looks dirty.
Gone are the days when a car needed an oil change every 3,000 miles. New engine technology and synthetic oils mean that newer cars need far fewer oil changes. According to MSN Autos, there is a lot of variance in how often modern cars need new oil - from 5,000 miles to 15,000 miles. Check your owner's manual to find out about your specific make and model.
If you're careful about maintaining your car, you'll find that it runs smoothly for years to come. The better you treat your car, the less likely you are to get in an accident, meaning a better auto insurance quote and more importantly, more safety for you and your family.