There are nearly five million registered vehicles in Minnesota. Sadly, many drivers don’t take proper precautions and preventative measures when it comes to their vehicles - many people wait for a problem to take their car to a mechanic. Proper maintenance may not seem like a big deal, but it can help you avoid costly repairs, catch major problems early, and lengthen the life of your car.
A few easy things car owners can do to be proactive are getting scheduled inspections, changing the oil on time, and checking the tire pressure regularly. Many people try to keep up with these measures, but just don’t know when or how often to check for issues. We’ve made a list of common vehicle maintenance steps and noted when you should be checking for these issues on your car:
Read Your Owner’s ManualThis is the first step no matter how old your car is, or when you bought it. The owner’s manual contains your suggested regular maintenance schedule for your car. You will also see how often your manufacturer suggests changing your oil, filters, timing belts, and more. Check to see which kind of oil you should be using in your car. If you are using the wrong oil, you could be causing costly damage to your vehicle.
Checking Your Car’s FluidsIt is important to learn how to check the fluid levels in your car. Even if your manual does not say to regularly look at fluid levels, do not be afraid to check for yourself. If you are running low, add more or get it changed. Most importantly, never ignore a leak.
- Engine OilCheck it: Once a month. The old saying was to check your oil every time you fill up with gas, but this is a bit of an overkill. Unless you are not driving your car often or you have an existing issue, once a month is plenty.
Change it: Check your owner’s manual; it varies by manufacturer and model.
- Transmission FluidCheck it: Once a month.
Change it: Every 50,000-100,000
- CoolantCheck it: At least twice a year; once in the summer, once in the winter.
Change it: Every 2-3 years.
- Brake FluidCheck it: When you change your oil.
Change it: Every two years.
- Power Steering FluidCheck it: Once a month.
Change it: Check your manual. Typically, you will not need to replace power steering fluid levels, but some manufacturers recommend topping it off.
Check Your BatteryThe average car battery life is two to five years. In Minnesota, batteries typically last longer, because batteries are more chemically active under heat, and (as Minnesotans are well aware) we have rather frigid winters - hooray for the cold! It’s always a smart idea to know where your battery is located and to check for leaks or mineral build-up. If you run across some build-up, you can clean it with a battery cleaning brush and some baking soda. You should also keep track of the date your battery was purchased (it’s written on the battery). If it doesn’t seem to be performing well, you can refer to the date to see if you are in need of a charge or battery replacement.
Change Your Spark PlugsMake sure to check for worn-out spark plugs or build-up every 30,000 miles. Typically, a spark plug’s lifespan is around 100,000 miles. Improperly functioning spark plugs are usually a sign that your engine is not working properly. Checking and replacing the spark plugs is not as difficult as it sounds. You can usually follow your owner’s manual to change them yourself pretty easily.
Making sure your car is safe to drive and keeping up on the maintenance schedule is a very important task for all car owners. Your car is a huge investment and something you rely heavily on for your day-to-day travel and tasks. It’s up to you to keep it running properly for now and hopefully, many years to come.
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