Here’s a handy Monthly Car Maintenance Checklist to do your own quick visual car inspection and fluid levels check. You could save a lot of money on future repairs by taking just 10 minutes a month to check your car for issues. A little vehicular pampering can also improve your fuel economy, and safety. Take care of your car, and it will take care of you!
Regular maintenance is necessary to ensure the safety, reliability, drivability, comfort and longevity of your car. Completing this monthly checklist will help you find fixable problems before it’s too late.
The actual schedule for a monthly preventive maintenance checklist varies depending on the year, make, and model of your car, its driving conditions and driver behavior. Auto manufacturers have their own recommended service schedules based on several factors:
- How many miles traveled per day
- Harsh weather conditions
- Mountain terrain, dusty, cracked or de-iced roads
- Heavy stop-and-go vs. long-distance cruising
- Towing heavy loads such as a trailer
Common car maintenance tasks checklist include:
- Car wash and vacuum
- Replace the engine oil and filters
- Inspect/replace fuel filters
- Check or replace windshield wipers
- Check and refill windshield washer fluid
- Tire inspection for pressure and wear
- Tire balancing
- Tire rotation
- Wheel alignment
- Check, clean or replace battery terminals and top off battery fluid
- Check and/or replace brake pads
- Check and/or flush brake fluid
- Check and/or flush transmission fluid
- Check and/or flush power steering fluid
- Check and flush engine coolant
- Inspect/ replace spark plugs
- Inspect/ replace air filter
- Inspect/ replace timing belt and other belts
- Lubricate locks, latches, hinges
- Inspect all lights
- Tighten chassis nuts and bolts
- Check if rubber boots are cracked and need replacement
- Diagnostic test electronics, brake systems, engine system, heating and cooling systems
- Read fault codes from the Engine control unit
This checklist is great for quick checks, but you should schedule regular maintenance with your mechanic at least once a year or with every oil change. Most oil changes include inspections that will cover a lot of the items mentioned above. Keep careful records of what was inspected and when. Know what is being inspected so you can bridge any gaps in your car care regiment.
Here are more quick information tips for car fluids and tires:
The average car tire (Inflated to 35 psi) can lose one psi every month or for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit of temperature change, so it’s important your car maintenance checklist should include checking tire pressure. You can find the recommended level on a sticker on the drivers side door jamb or in the owners manual.
Note: Don’t forget to use the spare!
To prevent uneven wear, rotate tires every 6,000 miles and replace them as they become worn. Have the alignment checked if the car pulls to either side when driving or if you notice uneven tire wear.
Changing and checking your oil is critical to keep today’s engines running properly and efficiently. Follow the manufacturer guidelines for changing the lubricant generally every 3,000 miles or 3-6 months.
Check the oil level with the engine off and the car parked on a level surface, open the hood and remove the dipstick, wipe it clean with a cloth and then return it to the oil reservoir. Take it out again to see whether the level is within the acceptable range marked on the dipstick. If you are adding oil, make sure not to overfill, as it can damage the engine.
Another vital item on the car maintenance checklist is checking the automatic transmission fluid. Look for a reservoir marked ATF (automatic transmission fluid) and follow the same steps you would as monitoring the oil level – except this time, with the engine running. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for change intervals about every 30,000 miles.
Most engine coolant/antifreeze needs to be replaced every 30,000 miles (or every 2-3 years), although newer formulas may last up to 50,000 miles. To check coolant level, turn the car off and make sure first to wait for the engine to cool. Then, locate the coolant reservoir (which usually is a translucent plastic tank) and eyeball the level of the coolant against the full and low indicators.
POWER STEERING FLUID
Power steering fluid should be changed every 50,000 miles or 3 years. If you have a fluid reservoir for power steering fluid, check the level visually; otherwise, follow the dipstick method. Consistent low power steering fluid can indicate a leak, so have your mechanic take a look.
BRAKES AND BRAKE FLUID
Check to ensure that levels of brake fluid are within tolerance. How often you will need to replace brake pads or other components depends on how you drive and the conditions you typically drive in. The warning signs of brake problems include noise and vibration or “grabbing” when you use the brakes. Work on your brakes is a job typically best left to the professionals.
Basic car maintenance suggests changing your air filter every year or every 12,000-15,000 miles. A clean air filter helps your engine “breathe” better, reduce harmful emissions, and improve gas mileage.
Replace your fuel filter annually to prevent debris from clogging your car’s fuel line.