Did you know? Our research shows that, among Dave fans, only one in three said they follow a routine maintenance schedule.
Here’s a short checklist of car maintenance tips that’ll keep your car running smoothly for miles and miles:
- Change the oil. Since oil affects a lot of your car’s functions, oil problems can be some of the costliest car maintenance issues to fix. How often should you change your oil? Most experts suggest getting your oil changed every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, or at least every six months. In any case, you should follow what is recommended by your car manufacturer. It’s better to spend as little as $25–30 to get the oil changed than to risk wearing out your engine.
- Keep the battery clean. If you don’t, the battery could develop a crack or not function properly and leave you stranded. Test your battery twice a year and inspect it for corrosion (which looks like a white or bluish powder). You can buy some battery terminal grease for a few dollars at your local auto parts store to keep corrosion from sapping the life and power out of your battery.
- Replace your air filter. Your air filter keeps pollutants from coming in through the vents, so you’ll want to check the filter every 12 months or 12,000 miles to see if you might need to swap it out.
- Change the windshield wipers. When you’re driving, you need to be able to see the road. Thank you, Captain Obvious. It’s a good idea to check your windshield wipers at the change of each season and replace them when necessary—and clean the windshield inside and out while you’re at it!
- Get the brake pads replaced. Hear a squeaking sound when you hit the brakes? That means you might need to replace your brake pads. While a new set can cost up to $300 for all four wheels, you don’t want to know the price tag of rear-ending that BMW because your brakes failed you.
- Have the tires rotated. Did you know you can extend the life of your tires—and save money on tire replacements—by rotating them every 6,000 to 8,000 miles? And while we’re talking about tires, make sure you check the air pressure in your tires every couple of months and keep the spare tire inflated.
- Have the suspension system checked. Your car's suspension system is responsible for smoothing out the ride and keeping the car in control. Don’t take that for granted! Check the shocks and full suspension system every 15,000 to 30,000 miles.
- Check the coolant. The coolant affects everything from the heater and radiator to the water pump. It’s a good idea to check your coolant twice a year—once before the warm weather hits and again before the cold weather swoops in.
- Check the spark plugs. Is your engine giving you trouble? A common cause (and easy fix) is the spark plugs. Depending on your car and the type of spark plugs you have, you might need to change your spark plugs anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 miles—you’ll want to check your car’s manual for an exact estimate. Swapping out a $15–30 spark plug is a small price to pay to help your car run smoothly and increase gas mileage.
- Have the belts and hoses inspected. Replace your timing belt every 60,000 miles and your serpentine belt every 50,000 miles. It’s recommended you change your hoses every four years or whenever one shows signs of wear. When a radiator hose fails, it could cause your engine to overheat and not run at all. Not good.
- Take your car in for a full-service inspection. Think of car servicing as an in-depth physical that takes a look at the health of your car. A full car servicing with a reputable mechanic will include dozens of systems checks and adjustments designed to help keep your car running smoothly. Check your car owner’s manual for a car servicing schedule, so you’ll know when you need to bring your car to the shop.
How often you’ll have to do these things depends on mileage, but keep this list on hand for reference and you’ll be ahead of most folks!
Did you know? When we asked car owners in our audience what the most stressful part about vehicle maintenance is, 37% of those surveyed said “cost” followed by “unsure if I’m being taken advantage of.”
Where Do I Go for Car Maintenance?
Now, some folks can pop the hood of a car and tell you what’s wrong with it in about 15 seconds. Others can’t tell the difference between an alternator and a radiator. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, it’s helpful to know where to go to take care of an issue and what you can take care of at home. Here’s a rundown:
- Dealership: If a repair falls within the car’s warranty period or if there’s a manufacturer recall on your make and model, then you’ll want to take it to the dealer. They’ll usually take care of those issues free of charge. But for almost everything else, you’ll want to avoid going to the dealer. Not only will it be more expensive, but you’re usually just another number on a computer screen.
- Mechanic: Building a good relationship with a trusted, professional mechanic can save you a lot of headaches down the line. You’ll want to take your car to a mechanic for tune-ups (as recommended by your car manufacturer), fixing mechanical and electrical issues and getting major repairs.
- Tire Store: Nothing is more annoying than having a nail somehow get stuck in your tire. Tire retailers like Firestone or Goodyear are great places to go to fix any problems with your tires—from rotations to replacements. And a lot of tire shops will patch a tire for free because they want you back when it’s time to buy a full set.
- Auto Parts Shop: Places like AutoZone or Advance Auto Parts offer a bunch of free services, like car battery installations and starter and alternator testing.
- Your Own Garage: Yeah, there are some things you can take care of right in your own garage or driveway! Changing your air filters and windshield wipers are pretty easy, and you can learn how to do it after watching a couple of YouTube videos. But safety always comes first. Don’t try to tackle any repairs or replacements you aren’t comfortable doing yourself!
Did you know? When we asked Dave fans where they go for regular service (oil, tires, etc.), 27% said they go to the dealership, even though this is traditionally the most expensive option