If you want to celebrate more milestones with your vehicle’s odometer, then the only thing you need to remember is maintenance, maintenance, and maintenance. The secret to a vehicle’s longevity is always its history of being well taken care of. Whether you’re looking at a new truck you need to last a long time until you can afford another big car loan, or a new-to-you used vehicle you’d like to transport your college-going child safely — a well-maintained vehicle is the solution.
Repairs can add up, especially when a small mistake leads to a big fix. Forget to change the oil a few times and you could be looking at a new engine. Don’t keep an eye on the fluid levels and you could need a new transmission. Leave your tires to get bare and you could skid off the road and need a new front end!
There are some standard maintenance items you should have checked by a professional regularly. If you have the know-how, you can check them yourself, but often the use of a lift and the time and vehicle experience of a certified mechanic is worth the expense.
The timing of these maintenance items will vary from vehicle to vehicle, and could even depend on how much you drive your car or truck. The way to figure out the recommended timing of repairs and checks is to go for that handy item we all have in our glove box: The owner’s manual. Look to the manual for a maintenance schedule for regular checks and optimum performance.
Items to be checked regularly
- Steering and suspension
- Oil and lubrication/fluids
- Air filters
- Electrical systems
- Tires and wheels
Critical parts to budget for
- Brake shoes and pads
- Steering control arms
- Springs, shock absorbers and struts
- Belts and hoses
- Windshield wiper blades
Items to check before your road trip
Lastly, before a major road trip, you should have certain items inspected on your vehicle. It might seem silly at first, but if you add inspection to your regular routine, it will save you a breakdown in the middle of nowhere. If possible, carry spare items to do quick fixes on the road, such as belts, light bulbs, and small tools.
- System gauges, warning lights and buzzers/alerts
- Windshield wipers and washer fluid
- Heater, defroster, and/or air conditioning
- Mirrors (rear view and side mirrors)
- Lights (including clearance and ID lights on some large vehicles)
- Turn signals and hazard lights
- Tires and wheels
- Cargo tie-downs and securing devices
- Emergency equipment including a fire extinguisher, flares and reflectors, a first-aid kit, snow chains, and emergency survival gear and food and water.
Not only does regular maintenance help you avoid costly repairs, it can also help you keep in tune with your vehicle (no pun intended). By recognizing when a certain vehicular sound or vibration is normal, and what is a sign of an emergency, you can avoid surprises on the road. As you become more familiar with your vehicle through regular service and inspections, you can adjust parts to better suit your vehicle’s needs, such as adjusting fluids to fit performance or tires to suit your typical driving conditions. A regularly maintained car with documentation also becomes an easy one to sell at a good price later on, so save those records!
Lastly, don’t forget a good car wash and wax to protect the paint job on your vehicle, and your well-maintained transportation will shine from inside and out.