car maintenance checklist

Car Maintenance Checklist: Everything You Need to Stay Safe on the Road

Ezra Cabrera | November 8, 2021


    Key Takeaways

    • If it’s your first time to own a car–whether for business or personal use–having a complete car maintenance checklist will ensure your and your passengers’ safety.
    • The frequency of maintaining car care is not set in stone because it depends on a number of factors, such as the condition of the car, its years in operations, the type, and the roads it frequently passes on.
    • Maintaining regular car maintenance is crucial, not only to keep passengers safe but also to save on costs.
    • While many people allocate their budget for insurance, gas and car wash alone, regular maintenance check ups also need to be prioritized. Preventive vehicle care will go a long way in extending the useful life of the car.
    • Small mechanical parts that need repair may come at a cost if you’ll leave them unattended. Make sure to bring your car to an automotive repair shop at least twice a year to ensure its tip top condition.

    Regular car maintenance checks are crucial in ensuring road safety. Not only that, automotive upkeep can help you save on costs and increase fuel efficiency. But before you head to your trusted auto repair shop, make sure you check our car maintenance checklist so you know exactly what to keep an eye on.

    Why You Need Regular Car Maintenance

    No matter what vehicle you own, it’s important that you keep it in its tip top condition. You’ve invested thousands of dollars to buy the car you want or need in your business and it will be such a waste if you won’t take its maintenance seriously. Imagine if you’re a Grubhub driver and all your income goes to repairs–it would be a tad bit expensive, wouldn’t it?

    There are a lot of reasons why maintaining regular vehicle maintenance is crucial. These are:

    1. Ensures the safety of your passengers and other drivers

    When you own a car, you’re not only responsible for your safety. You’re also responsible for your passengers. Think about this: if you’re going on a vacation and you found out that your plane doesn’t undergo regular maintenance checks, would you still feel safe? The same goes for the people who ride your car.

    Surveys have indicated that mechanical failure is one of the most common causes of road accidents, which could be prevented. In fact, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration under the Department of Transportation conducted a survey, which revealed that tires and wheel-related problems were responsible for 35% of all road accidents due to mechanical failure.

    Not only that, engine failure can stall your car in the middle of the road, potentially becoming the reason for another driver’s accident.

    Even though mechanical failures are not the most critical reason for road accidents, it’s still a major contributing factor. Leaving small mechanical inconsistencies may be a sign of a much bigger problem, which you might not know about if you didn’t bother checking them.

    If you do regular maintenance checks, you are highly likely to prevent road accidents as a result of mechanical malfunction.

    2. Extends the life of your vehicle

    Keeping up on your routine car maintenance services will allow your vehicle to perform at its best round-the-clock. Even regular washing shouldn’t be taken for granted. Road salt, sludge or pollution may all build up overtime and you may not see rust appearing in areas you wouldn’t normally check. Not only that, if you want to save on costs and decrease fuel consumption, simple tasks like changing air filters will go a long way to preventing dirt from blocking your car’s air conditioning unit.

    Simple routinary tasks will help you extend the life of your car and steer clear from costly repairs.

    3. Keeps you from paying more on repair costs

    While servicing a car doesn’t assure you that you’ll never encounter any type of failure in the future, it will certainly help you reduce ceiling-high maintenance costs.

    Maintenance checks not only keep you and your passengers safe; it also saves you a lot of money. You already know that owning a car is expensive, but leaving it unattended for a long period of time and assuming that it works perfectly may cost you more in the long run.

    If small problems are diagnosed and rectified immediately, they may result in a much bigger problem. It’s always best to catch issues early to save money long-term.

    How Much Should You Budget for Car Maintenance?

    Regular maintenance check-ups may be anywhere between $500 and $700 per year, which is quite cheap. That means you only need to put away at least $42 every month to make sure your car’s care is covered.

    Take note that the annual or bi-annual budget will depend on a number of factors such as the type and brand of car you own, the current health of your vehicle, and the automotive service technicians you’ll be working with.

    While many people allocate their budget only for insurance, gas and car wash, regular maintenance checkups are often forgotten about. But for those who really want to save on costs, preventive vehicle care should be included in their car care budget.

    Car Maintenance Checklist For Your Next Tune Up

    1. Change your oil

    2. Change your coolant

    3. Install new headlights and taillights

    4. Replace spark plugs

    5. Check and replace old batteries

    6. Inspect car tires every month

    7. Check your shocks and struts

    1. Change Your Oil

    Car experts and mechanics would often advise you to change your oil regularly because waiting too long to do that may result in irreparable damage. Since oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle, having your oil checked and changed once in a while can help your engine to reach its peak performance.

    Changing your oil can help your engine to reduce the amount of heat it produces. It also eliminates any debris that causes your engine to stop working properly. On top of that, an oil change can help prevent noxious engine emissions, which are harmful to the environment.

    2. Change Your Coolant

    Coolants are designed to remove any excess heat from your car’s engine. Your vehicle’s exhaust and cooling systems keep your engine cool; your coolant’s job is to absorb heat from the engine and keep your water from boiling whenever you use your car. Aside from that, the coolant ensures that your engine’s metal parts don’t rust overtime.

    When you regularly change your coolant, you give your engine the proper lubrication for it to run properly. It is also the key component in preventing rust from building up in the water pump, therefore your cooling systems will work more efficiently.

    3. Install New Headlights and Taillights

    Automotive technicians abide by the “rule of two” when maintaining any type of vehicle. This simply means that you should always replace important parts in pairs–from tires to wiper blades. Your headlights and taillights are no exception.

    That said, make it a point to replace old headlights and taillights. Vehicle lighting plays a crucial role in keeping yourself and your passengers safe especially when you’re driving at night. Headlight bulbs begin to project significantly less light in as early as two years so make sure that they are bright enough to keep everyone safe while on the road.

    Also, don’t skimp on installing new lights for your turn signals. This will keep other motorists safe by knowing what direction you’re headed.

    4. Replace Spark Plugs

    Something as small as a spark plug is often left unattended, but replacing it once in a while will make a huge difference in your vehicle. Spark plugs create a spark to ignite the air and fuel into your car’s engine cylinders. This process allows your car to create combustion.

    When your spark plugs are worn out, it may become difficult for you to start your vehicle. Cranking your engine multiple times hoping for it to start might drain your battery. With a good set of spark plugs, you’ll need lesser voltage to start your engine.

    While spark plugs are durable enough to withstand all types of weather, the general requirement is to replace it every 30,000 to 90,000 miles, depending on the type of car you drive. Some experienced drivers would do this by themselves, but if you’re a first-time car owner it’s best that you take caution and bring your car to an auto service shop.

    5. Check and Replace Old Batteries

    Very few people pay attention to the car’s battery. As long as the car starts, then there shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong. Car battery is one of the most critical parts that should never be ignored. It provides power for your car, may it be your engine, lights, or air conditioning. But over time, batteries will gradually deteriorate until they can no longer power up your engine.

    The life span of your car’s battery will depend on your vehicle condition and how often you check the battery’s health. A good battery lasts for up to five years, but it’s important that you include it in your car maintenance checklist.

    Take note that cars in colder regions may expect the lifespan of their car battery to be much lower. So if you start to notice that your starter motor cranks the engine slowly or your headlights no longer operate, it’s probably time to replace old batteries.

    6. Inspect car tires every month

    One of the most basic tasks on your car maintenance checklist is to check your car tires. Check the pressure in your tires as often as every month, especially when you’re up for a long drive or when you’re about to carry extra load.

    You don’t necessarily need to go to an automotive repair shop to inspect your car tires. Gasoline stations and vulcanizing shops can do the job for you. Note that during colder months, your tire pressure will normally drop one pound with every 10 degree decrease in pressure.

    7. Don’t forget to check your shocks and struts

    Your car’s shocks and struts are responsible for keeping control over impact and rebound whenever your vehicle passes over bumps or rocky roads. They are important components in your car’s auto steering system.

    Essentially, shocks and struts should be inspected by an expert every 20,000 to 50,000 miles. If you have driven over 50,000 miles, it might be best to replace it, but this will need to be assessed further by mechanics.

    Shocks and struts are critical to safe operation, allowing you to prevent any excessive swaying or bouncing when the vehicle is moving. If you are frequently driving your car over rough terrain, you should always keep an eye on your shock absorbers.

    Did This Car Maintenance Checklist Help You?

    If you’re a first-time car owner or you simply don’t have the time to inspect your vehicle, it’s best that you leave it up to the experts. Doing regular car maintenance checks only need to be done once or twice a year depending on your need and the current condition of your car. If you feel something strange about how your car sounds or feels while on the road, don’t hesitate to call your trusted mechanic.

    Note that this car maintenance checklist aims to provide you with the most basic tasks you need to look out for. For any other car issues, you may want to talk to your mechanic and inspect your vehicle on a 360-degree level.

    If you lack the funds to keep up with your car repairs or you simply want another vehicle for your business, you can take out an automotive business loan. You can use this financing for payroll, car maintenance, and other expenses related to your business.

    About the Author

    Ezra Neiel Cabrera has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a major in Entrepreneurial Marketing. Over the last 3 years, she has been writing business-centric articles to help small business owners grow and expand. Ezra mainly writes for SMB Compass, but you can find some of her work in All Business, Small Biz Daily, LaunchHouse, Marketing2Business, and Clutch, among others. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in bed eating cookies and binge-watching Netflix.