Easy Maintenance Tips
Most seasonal car maintenance requires the help of a professional mechanic, but we’re going to share six do-it-yourself tips that will help keep your vehicle in good shape and save you money.
1. Change Your Air Filter
It’s a good practice to change your engine air filter at LEAST twice a year. An extremely dirty filter can restrict airflow and cause deterioration in fuel economy (and overall performance). Replacing your air filter is an easy job that anyone can do. Depending on which brand you use, you’ll spend somewhere between $12 and $55.
2. Replace Your Wiper Blades
Wiper blades should be replaced annually. They’re used more often in the fall and winter, so it’s best to have a fresh set before the weather changes. Wiper blades are cheap (usually between $10 and $20) and extremely easy to change. Make sure you know what size to get – many cars use a longer wiper blade on the driver side. Check your owner manual or the in-store sizing guide to be sure you get the right blades.
3. Check Your Spare Tire
If you get a flat tire and your spare ends up being flat, you’re going to have to resort to calling a tow truck. Grab a tire pressure gauge (around $10) and check the pressure in your spare. Check the side of the tire to see what the inflation pressure should be. Also, if you’ve got a pickup or SUV, your spare tire will usually be suspended below the vehicle on a cable. Check to be sure that the mechanism is working properly and hasn’t seized up.
Tire pressure will drop one pound per square inch (PSI) for every 10 degree drop in the temperature, so when it gets colder, you’ll need to check all of your tires on a weekly basis.
4. Check Your Battery
Most electrical problems and issues with ignition are the result of corroded or loose battery connections. If you’ve got some corrosion on your terminals, you can buy a brush for about $4 at any auto parts store. Remove the cables and clean the terminals completely, then reconnect the cables.
5. Check Your External Lights
One of the most important DIY maintenance tasks you can do is to check your car’s lights. Replacement bulbs (other than headlights) are cheap, and in most cars, can be changed out easily. Headlights can run from $15 to $30 for a single bulb.
6. Check Your Fluids
Check your levels, and make sure that your washer fluid is full. Washer fluid will run you anywhere from $2 to $4.
It’s a good idea to check your antifreeze level too. Antifreeze will run in the neighborhood of $10 to $16 per gallon.
Finally, check your brake fluid reservoir. According to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, it’s normal for the fluid to go down a bit as your breaks wear. Depending on the type of brake fluid you use, you’ll spend anywhere from $3.50 to $18 per bottle. If you notice a large decrease in fluid level, you should get it checked out by a mechanic, it could signal a leak or another issue with the brakes.