Car repairs can be so costly, and the worst part is that extensive repairs always come at the worst time. Whether you’re in between paychecks or had another unexpected bill to pay, when you’re low on cash, you can almost count on something going wrong with your car.
Nobody wants to be stuck with expensive car repairs, and it’s even more stressful when you aren’t expecting it. But your transmission doesn’t always show signs of wear and tear, and your brakes can go from decent to dire in no time flat.
That’s why it’s essential to keep up with your car’s routine maintenance. You can help mitigate some of those major repairs by taking the time to inspect your vehicle once a month. Below are 10 monthly DIY vehicle maintenance checks you should perform to help you get started. You can also help protect your investment with our sponsor, CarShield. Call 800-CAR-6000 and mention the promo code “KIM,” or visit CarShield.com and use the code “KIM” to save 10%.
1. Check brake fluid
One of the most critical maintenance checks is looking at your brake fluid. A sudden drop in brake fluid can signify that brake pads have worn to the point of needing maintenance. Plus, if there’s insufficient brake fluid, air will be introduced into brake lines and your vehicle won’t stop properly.
One of the ways you’ll know you have enough in the reservoir is by checking the levels. You can locate your brake fluid reservoir on your vehicle’s master cylinder (check your owner’s manual if you don’t know where that is).
Brake fluid levels are noted by the “maximum” and “minimum” lines on the reservoir’s exterior. If you see the brake fluid near the “minimum” line, it’s time to get your brakes looked at.
2. Check coolant
If you’ve ever had a car engine overheat, you know the importance of coolant. The radiator cools your engine, and it needs water and coolant to function. You need to check coolant levels each month to ensure your radiator has enough to work with. If it’s running low, your engine is at risk of overheating, which could mean big trouble on the road and expensive repairs at the shop.
Unsure of how to check those levels? The video below will help you out.
3. Check oil level
How often do you check your oil? It would be best if you did it monthly. Oil helps keep your car running by lubricating the engine and fighting friction and heat that can destroy your car. Without oil, your car is toast. Even low levels of oil can ruin your engine over time.
Luckily, it’s straightforward to check your oil. Turn your car off, open the hood, and find the oil dipstick. Pull it out, wipe off any oil, and then reinsert the dipstick all the way back into the tube. Pull it back out and look at both sides of the dipstick to see where the oil level ends.
If the top of the oil is between the two distinct marks on the dipstick, the level is acceptable. If the oil is below the lower line, you need to add more oil to your car.
4. Check your air filter
The air filter is vital to your vehicle’s overall health, but this component often gets overlooked. Take the time to check your air filter each month. Otherwise, that dirty air filter could end up significantly affecting your car’s performance and costing you more in repairs over time.
5. Check your lights
If you have a tail light or headlight that’s out, you’re not only risking a ticket but also your safety. When your car lights aren’t working correctly, you risk being unable to see on the road when it’s dark or there’s inclement weather. You also risk other drivers not seeing you or your brakes, leading to serious accidents on the road.
You can check headlights and tail lights on your own by simply turning on your car and examining them to make sure they’re working. You’ll need a friend to help out with brake lights and turn signals, though. Have them stand behind and in front of the car while you test out the brake lights and turn signals to see if they’re working.
6. Check your tires
Wear and tear on your tires is vital to keep an eye on. Take time each month to check your tires for uneven tread or signs of wear. You also need to check the air pressure in your tires — especially when the weather and temperature fluctuate. Keeping your tires in good shape is an essential part of maintaining your vehicle and staying accident-free.
7. Check windshield washer fluid
Do you regularly check your windshield washer fluid? This fluid is essential year-round, but it’s crucial in the winter when slushy and muddy conditions make it hard to see. The ammonia and alcohol in that washer fluid also help keep ice from forming on your wiper blades, so you need to keep the levels topped off.
You can check windshield fluid levels by opening your car hood and finding your washer fluid reservoir. That reservoir is usually noted by a white, slightly translucent container with a windshield or water symbol on the cap. Check the levels each month and add more when necessary. It will help keep your car in good condition year-round.
8. Check wiper blades
Windshield wipers are an essential part of your car, but they’re often overlooked during quick DIY checks. Take the time to check your wiper blades each month. If your blades are cracked, torn, or showing signs of severe wear, they’re not going to fully remove snow, mud, dust, pollen, or any other substance that lands on your windshield. That can lead to accidents on the road.
9. Clean out junk
How much stuff do you have piled in your trunk and on your backseat right now? Your car isn’t storage, and keeping extra things in it ultimately puts more wear and tear on your vehicle. Try to remove the stuff you have piled up in the nooks and crannies of your car each time you leave your vehicle. This will help keep your car clean and cut down on wear and tear that happens over time.
10. Wash it inside and out
Washing your car isn’t just about showing off that shiny paint job. It’s also about keeping your car’s appearance up over time. Cleaning it regularly is a low-cost way to protect its value and avoid lasting damage from dirt, pollen, tree sap, bugs, and other pollutants, which can damage your paint and finish.
The frequency is up to you, but you should grab a hose and some soap or drive through a car wash at least once a month. While you’re at it, be sure to give the interior a good vacuum and wipe it down, too. This will help keep your car’s interior looking new and help maintain the value of your investment.
Bonus — Invest in CarShield to help keep your car maintenance costs down
CarShield is another way to help keep those budget-busting surprise repair costs at bay. You could save thousands on covered repairs with CarShield. Call 800-CAR-6000 and mention the promo code “KIM,” or visit CarShield.com and use the code “KIM” to save 10%.