Category Archives: car maintenance

Your Complete Car Maintenance Checklist

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car getting oil change in need of part replacementWant your car to last a long time? Regular maintenance is an important part of keeping your car on the road and reaching “high mileage beauty” status. If you don’t have the time (or expertise) to keep up with regular car checks and maintenance, finding a mechanic you can trust can be just as vital for getting as many miles as possible out of your vehicle. Once you’ve found that mechanic, schedule regular car appointments (and allocate time as needed for do-it-yourself checks) to keep up with your car maintenance checklist.

Regular Car Checks

___Check tire pressure

___Check oil level

___Check windshield washer

___Check headlights and tail lights

___Check transmission fluid (every 3,000 miles)

___Check belts and hoses (every 3,000 miles)

___Check battery and cables (every 3,000 miles)

___Check tire tread for amount of tread and signs of unbalanced car (every 3,000 miles and more often as the tires wear)

Replacement Schedule

___ Oil Change (Change oil every 3-10,000 miles depending on the auto manufacturer recommendations.)

___Cabin Air Filter (Replace every 15-30,000 miles or once a year. Check the owner’s manual for their recommendation.)

___ Air Filter (Replace every 15-30,000 miles depending on driving conditions. If you drive through dusty areas, your air filter is going to need to be replaced every 15,000 miles.)

___ Brakes (Replace every 25-70,000 miles. The exact mileage depends on the type of brakes, driving style, type of vehicle, and amount of braking. Watch for these signs of brake failure and ask your mechanic to check them at every oil change.)

___ Tires (Replace every 30-60,000 miles depending on the type of tires and amount of miles driven)

___ Spark plugs (Replace every 30-100,000 miles depending on the kind of spark plugs)

___Power Steering Fluid (Flush every 30-100,000 fluid. Have the system checked if the fluid is low)

___Automatic Transmission Fluid (Replace every 50-150,000 miles. Check the transmission fluid for condition and consult the owner’s manual to determine exact mileage for replacement.)

___ Battery (Replace every 3-5 years)

___Fuel Pump (Replace every 60-90,000 miles depending on condition. Check it every 30,000 miles.)

Your replacement schedule may be slightly different, depending on the amount of miles and kind of driving you do. For a customized maintenance list for your vehicle, ask your mechanic for their recommendations and follow their schedule closely.  

Back-to-School Car Checklist that Gets You to School

happy collage school girl student portrait in classrom with well-maintained carStudents, you can’t live in denial any more: summer school practices are starting and back-to-school is right around the corner. Time to get ready with all the normal back-to-school activities: buy school supplies, make sure your closet is stocked, get your car ready for the commute.

The last item on the list may not be on your short list of getting ready for school, but it should be; you don’t want to be stranded trying to get back and forth to class or all the extra curricular activities that come with school.

Interior & Exterior

___ Clean out the inside of your car.

___ Vacuum the interior.

___ Add organizers for books and snacks.

___ Wipe down the dash.

___ Wash the exterior.

Car Maintenance

___ Check the battery.

___ Replace the air filter.

___ Schedule an oil change (or check your oil if you had one done recently).

___Check the tire tread and pressure (instructions here).

___ Replace tires (if needed).

___ Have your brakes checked.

___ Pack an emergency car kit (use this emergency car kit list).

If you have a check engine light on, you should also get that resolved before it causes further problems. Check with your mechanic to find out if your spark plugs need to be replaced to prevent engine misfires and that your suspension is ready for the commute to school.

6 Car To Do’s Before You Hit the Road for Christmas

two girls heading out to Christmas after checking carDon’t just pack your suitcases and holiday dishes for your Christmas road trip; add these to-do’s to your holiday task list so you can get to your holiday destination safely and without an emergency tow.

Oil level & change

Before you head out on the road, check the level of your oil to make sure your engine has adequate lubrication for your trip. If your car needs an oil change, don’t procrastinate.  Schedule an appointment so you can head out on the road with fresh oil (which lubricates better than dirty oil).

How to check your oil: Turn off your engine and grab a paper towel. Open the hood of your car and locate your dipstick. Pull your dipstick out. Wipe the oil off the dipstick. Put the dipstick back in and pull it out. Make sure your oil level is between the two lines on the dipstick (and not above the max line). If your oil level is low, add oil. Make sure you added enough by checking the oil again when you are done. If your oil level is low every time you check it, tell your mechanic at your next appointment. A low oil level can indicate an oil leak or another issue.

Headlights & taillights check

It happens to everyone: you’re driving around without a headlight or brake light and don’t even know it.  Even if you don’t intend to drive through the dark during your holiday getaway, working headlights and taillights are crucial for safe travel (especially in a snowstorm!).

How to check your headlights & taillights: Put your car in park (if it’s not already).  Turn on your car and your headlights, and check to make sure you two working (and bright) headlights.  Repeat with your taillights and blinkers to make sure they work when you need them.

Tire tread & pressure check

Good tires and adequate tire pressure are essential for safe travel (especially on our slippery Wisconsin winter roads!) and good gas mileage.  Check you tire tread with a penny into the tread of your tire. If you can completely see Abraham Lincoln’s head, you need new tires. Make sure you try this trick in a few different places on the tire. Tires can wear differently, leaving some tires with uneven tread depth.

How to check your tire pressure: Find out what the correct Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) for your car is.  The proper PSI (pounds per square inch-tire pressure) is in your car’s owner manual or on a decal on the bottom of your door frame on the driver’s side.

Get a tire pressure gauge.  Remove the cap from the tire stem. (The tire stem is a small rubber piece sticking up from your tire.)  Insert the tire pressure gauge into the tire stem. You will feel the gauge fit in there correctly. (If you have a gauge with a knob for deflation, you will know if you are using the right end if you DON’T hear air escaping.) The end of your tire pressure gauge will register a number electronically or the white numbers will rise at the other end of the tire pressure gauge.

Brake inspection

Brakes may not be the most exciting part of your car, but it’s certainly one of the most important.  When wet, it’s normal for your car brakes to make an occasional squeal. If the noise continues even when the weather isn’t wet, your brake pads are ready for replacement.  The squealing sound is actually a warning indicator built in by the manufacturer just to let you know that it’s time to get them replaced. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, your brake pedal is going to go to the floor and you’re going to keep going when you don’t want to.

Other signs of bad car or truck brakes include: a grinding noise that goes away you press the brakes, a soft or pulsating brake pedal, or when your car pulls to one side.  If your car is doing the latter, there are other car problems, such as an alignment issue. Schedule an appointment with your mechanic to get a diagnosis so you can get to your Christmas celebration safely.

Check your fluids

Nothing’s worse than not having windshield washer when you need it.  Fill your windshield washer reservoir before you head out for the holidays.  Check your windshield wipers to confirm they can clean your windshield.

If your transmission fluid hasn’t been flushed (ever), schedule an appointment with your mechanic.  Your car uses transmission fluid to shift gears, so a dirty transmission fluid can cause a very expensive transmission failure—and a huge headache when you’re stranded while trying to get to your holiday fun. To keep your transmission shifting, and you on the road, make an appointment to have your transmission fluid flushed every 30-60,000 miles (or as low as 15,000 miles for workhorse vehicles).

Emergency winter car kit

You never know what’s going to happen when you head to your Christmas celebration.  Prepare for the unexpected with an emergency travel kit. Double check to make sure you have the number of a tow truck in your cell phone, and on a card just in case you have a low cell battery.

What should be in your emergency winter kit:

  • Flashlight (with new batteries)
  • Blanket
  • Jack and lug wrench (if not already in your vehicle)
  • Jumper cables
  • Boots
  • Shovel
  • First aid kit
  • Cell phone charger

5 Car Mistakes That Can Leave You Stranded this Winter

building in winter snow storm Our Midwestern winters are snowy, freezing, and cold; it’s not a great time to be stuck on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck. And yet, it could just as easily happen to you—and you could be the unintentional cause. So how can you avoid making one of those inadvertent mistakes with your car?

Filling your radiator with water

This is a recipe for disaster: your radiator fluid is low so you add some water. A month later, you add more. Then more. Then more. Before you know it, winter has set in, you have no radiator fluid, a broken engine block, and a very expensive repair bill. Always make sure that you add antifreeze and water to your car, or ask your mechanic to do so at your next oil change.

Ignoring the signs of a failing battery

engine and car batteryDoes your car start rough? Are you sporadically stranded because of a random dead battery? Or are you driving around with a 5-year-old battery? All of these problems are signs of a failing battery. Make an appointment with your mechanic right away to find out if your battery is the cause of your rough starts (there could be other causes as well), and to get that old battery out so you’re not stuck with a dead battery.

Skipping oil changes

If you normally do your own oil changes, this is understandable. After all, who wants to get frostbite from changing your oil? However this omission, though understandable, can lead to big engine problems that can leave you stranded at the worst times. If you don’t want to deal with frozen finger this winter—and you don’t want to damage your car—schedule monthly oil changes at a local repair shop until the temperature rises.

Ignoring warning lights

warning dash lightsFor one of our friends, disaster almost hit when she ignored her brake warning light. A few minutes later, she was sliding through an intersection, and it wasn’t from the ice. The takeaway? Don’t ignore your dash warning lights—and don’t assume they mean nothing. We’ve wrote about the most common warning lights in our recent post, and what you should do about them.

Not checking your tire pressure

Low tire pressure can cause your tire to go flat—making a few minutes of cold fingers worth it so you don’t have to change your tire in the middle of a snow bank. To check your tire pressure, first find out what is the right tire pressure for your car. You can find it on the sticker at the bottom of your driver’s side door frame. Unscrew the cap on your tire stem, and push the top of the tire pressure gauge into the stem. Depending on the type of pressure gauge you have, the amount of tire pressure should show up digitally or via looking at the numbers on the white bar that pops up. Worn tires can also cause impromptu flats so have your tires checked by a mechanic. They can help you determine if it’s time to get new tires on your car so you don’t end up freezing and calling for a tow.

7 New Year’s Resolutions Your Car Wishes You Would Make

car mechanic working on carWhat would your car say about you? Are you conscientious car owner, careful to schedule every maintenance appointment? Or do you only take care of your car when absolutely needed? If you’re the latter, we’ve compiled a list of New Year’s resolutions your car wished you would make for the New Year—for both your sakes. Here are the resolutions your car wished you would add to your list of resolutions, and keep:

I will get regular oil changes.

Your car needs regular oil changes to ensure that your engine is properly lubricated. Dirty oil from infrequent oil changes can damage your engine parts and cost you more money than a car with regular oil changes. Talk to your mechanic about how often your oil needs to be changed, schedule regular oil changes for your vehicle, and stick to your schedule.

I will check my tire pressure.

TPMS light on dashYour tires could be five pounds low, and you may not even know it. If you have a newer car, your TPMS sensor light does not typically activate until your tires are 20% (or more) underweight. The good news is it only takes a few minutes to check your tire pressure (we’ve posted directions here) and only costs you a few dollars to buy a tire pressure gauge. But wait, there’s more good news: checking your tire pressure can help your gas mileage, ensure you’re driving safely, and giving you a smoother ride.

I will get my brakes replaced.

worn brake pades & rotorsSometimes your brakes start to wear down and you don’t even know it. Other times, your brakes are squealing, growling, or making other signs that they’ve had it. Whatever signs you’re getting that you need new brakes, seize the day and get them done. You’ll be a lot safer in the New Year with new brakes.

I will pay attention to my battery.

Believe it or not, a car battery is under the most stress during the summer; but a battery can give out any time during the year. There are ways you can tell your car battery is dying, so pay attention to your car battery to make sure you’re not stranded when you’ve got places to go.

I will check my fluids regularly.

winshield washer fluidCheck your oil and windshield fluid on a regular basis. A low oil level in your car can damage your engine and wear your oil out faster; both consequences cost you more money throughout the life of your car. If you are worried that either of these fluids are leaking, or you have other suspicious spots under your car (find out what kind of fluid those spots are here), schedule an appointment so your mechanic can diagnose and fix the problem before it causes problems.

I will buy new tires.

How bad are your current tires? Can you see the tread wear indicator bars? Are you adding air to your tires every time (or every other time) you drive? If your tires are showing signs of replacement, it’s time to bite the bullet and purchase the right tires for your car (read our tips on how to choose the right tires here). Contact your local tire shop to find out what deals they offer on tires, and to schedule an appointment to get them mounted—and get you on the road.

I will find out what that nagging car problem is.

check engine light on dashIs your check engine light on? Does your car pull to the left or right? Ignoring warning lights on your dash can seem harmless, but can cause long-term damage to your car and cost you a lot of money. Don’t procrastinate with this New Year’s resolution; schedule an appointment today to get your car looked at and that nagging problem taken care of. When you car is running better, and you don’t have to worry about being stranded, you and your car can both breathe a sigh of relief.

10 Car Care Tips That Keep Your Car On The Road

120Whether you’re a first-time car owner determined to protect your “baby,” a car owner looking to extend the life of your brand-new vehicle or a budget-conscious driver determined to keep your car on the road forever, we’re not going to lie to you: keeping your car going past the 200,000 mark (and beyond) takes work. So what’s the secret to keeping your odometer spinning and your car on the road? The answer is an investment of time and maintenance throughout the life of your car and these 10 car care tips:

  1. Never miss an oil change.
  2. Rotate your tires every 5-8,000 miles.
  3. Don’t ignore a Check Engine light.
  4. Put your car on a car maintenance schedule that keeps it running great.
  5. Listen to your car; don’t ignore common car noises. (They could signal trouble!)
  6. Invest in new brakes to avoid an accident.
  7. Watch for leaks under your car, and get leaks repaired (if needed) as soon as possible.
  8. Make sure your air filter doesn’t get dirty and restrict air flow.
  9. Watch for signs your spark plugs need to be changed.
  10. DON’T PROCRASTINATE; schedule appointment promptly with a mechanic you trust to do all the maintenance and repairs.

Remember, your car is going to need a lifetime of maintenance and parts replacement if you want to keep your car on the road. Even with routine car maintenance, your spark plugs are going to reach their end-life and brake pads wear down. For all that car work, make sure your “baby” is in the right hands. Find a local mechanic with convenient appointment times and the knowledge to keep your car on the road for a long, long time.

Car Maintenance You Shouldn’t Put Off

You don’t want to get in an accident. You don’t want your car to breakdown. You don’t want to go in the ditch, and you certainly don’t want to pay for a tow truck to come get you. So why are you putting off regular car maintenance?

Though car maintenance appointments may seem like a hassle, car maintenance is IMPORTANT—both for extending the life of your car and keeping money in your pocketbook. Putting off regular car maintenance can damage other parts of your car or cause engine or transmission failure, all of which cost you more money throughout the life of your car. So what car maintenance should you stay on top of?

  1. Oil changes. An engine without regular oil changes is an engine that costs their owner thousands of dollars over the life of the car. The cost of regular oil changes and time spent saves car owners money and inconvenience when your car breaks down. Ask your car mechanic how often you need an oil change, as the amount of miles can vary depending on the type of oil used.
  2. Tires checked and rotated. Regular rotation of your tires ensures that tires wear evenly, and can even prevent surprise flat tires. An inspection of your tires can also find holes that allow air to leak slowly.
  3. Brakes. It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet. If the squeak doesn’t go away, or if the noise is a grinding noise, your vehicle needs attention. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck.
  4. Disgusting air filter. We won’t tell you how disgusting your air filter can get, but we will tell you that part of your regular car maintenance should include replacing or cleaning that gross air filter. A dirty air filter can choke your engine of air, causing performance issues and damage over the life of your car.

In addition, track the age of your spark plugs and battery, two car parts that are integral to a smooth-starting and running car. Spark plugs should be changed every 30,000-100,000 miles, depending on the kind of spark plugs in your car. Car batteries can show signs of age every 3-5 years, and usually give car owners clues that it’s time for car battery replacement. If you don’t know the age of your spark plugs or car battery, have your mechanic check your spark plugs and battery at your next oil change appointment. Don’t put the appointment off. Schedule an appointment for your car today for the sake of you and your pocketbook.