Cars break down and unfortunate things happen. That is not unheard of. There is no car in the world that doesn’t break down. Even the most reliable Toyotas have a hard time. A Toyota 4Runner generally offers more reliability than a Dodge Durango. But at the same time, it’s not uncommon for either of them to break down. So, instead of always taking it to the mechanic, there are some common check-ups you can maintain by yourself to make sure your car is up and running.
Of course, unless you are a mechanic, a major issue cannot be fixed by you. But you can care for your car and carry out some basic repairs and checks that everybody must be able to do. You won’t be able to diagnose the problems all by yourself, that is why here are some basic checks you must perform on your car to make sure it is in optimal running condition.
Short term check-ups:
These are the checks that you must perform on your vehicle within short periods of time. Maybe a couple of times within a month, or a few checks every few months should do fine.
- Oil and coolant levels
It is a very good idea to check the oil and coolant levels inside your car, before a long road trip, or a couple of times in a month. Maintaining the proper oil and coolant level is mandatory for the engine to run cool and efficiently and to avoid overheating.
- Air Filter
The air filter is the part of the vehicle that controls the airflow inside the engine and filters out all unnecessary particles and smaller debris. Checking the air filter every once in a while ensures that the engine is performing at its optimum level. If the filter is not working properly, our engine might deliver lower fuel economy and run into further problems of breakdown.
- Tire pressure and tread depth
Tires are the most integral part of your ride. A low-pressure tire can cause some fatal problems, such as the car spinning out of control. To avoid that, use a tire pressure gauge to regularly inspect your tire pressure on all four tires. Most cars come with a tire pressure monitoring system these days and will automatically warn you if your tires are low on pressure. Also, if your tires have too worn out, be sure to switch them out.
- Lights on the exterior of your car
This includes the headlights, turn signals, brake lights, taillights, and other lights on your car’s exterior. You must check the lights of your car at least once a month. If a headlight or tail light stops working properly in the middle of the night, that can cause major issues. Park in front of a blank wall, point your headlights, and check if both have the same intensity and if they are working fine. Also, perform the same check with your turn signals and taillights.
- Oil and Filter
The engine oil, or the motor oil, keeps things lubricated inside your engine since it has a lot of moving parts. It not only lubricates the powertrain but also keeps the engine cool and reduces wear and tear and prevents corrosion. The number of times and the interval within which the engine oil needs to be changed is clearly mentioned in the owner’s manual. It can be different for different vehicles. Do not go overboard and keep changing it within a short amount of time.
- Tire rotation
Tire rotation is the process of physically switching the tires between the four wheels, so as to even out wear and tear among all four tires. Consult the owner’s manual on how often it needs to be done. There are lots of techniques and your specific vehicle might have a different way of tire rotation than some others.
- Wax the vehicle
Waxing your car after a wash is a good way to keep it strong and shiny. It ensures that no rust will be formed, and also keeps the paint in decent shape. Waxing needs to be done once every six months.
Long term check-ups:
These are the check-ups that must be done within a long period of time:
- Transmission fluid
This fluid keeps the transmission lubricated and cool, just like the engine oil. It does not need to be checked frequently, but it does need to be checked periodically to ensure everything is working fine and with lubrication.
- Transfer case fluid
The transfer case fluid is what delivers the power from the transmission to the axles. Every vehicle manufacturer will have their own recommendation, so check it in order to avoid breakdowns and keep it leak-free. This can get a little dirtier.
- Shocks and struts
These parts control the car’s suspension and keep you comfortable inside when you are going over a bump or pothole. This has to be checked by a professional and should be done every 50,000 miles.
- Coolant fluid exchange
The car’s radiator is a crucial part that keeps the engine cool and helps dissipate heat. The radiator is flushed regularly by a coolant fluid to avoid the build-up of contaminants. Consult the owner’s manual to make sure how often it must be changed.
- Spark plugs
The spark plug ignites the air-fuel mixture inside the piston and causes the explosion. Without them functioning properly, the engine may stop working altogether; or it may not run at optimal efficiency. Also, get a professional to check this.
- Serpentine belt
This is an important part to help keep your parts running at optimum efficiency. It is a piece of rubber, so you must be able to tell if there are any defects on it. If there is, replace it.
- Front and rear differential
The differential at the front and/or rear axle of your car divides the torque coming to the wheels. The differential also needs lubrication and is properly maintained. Get a professional to do this check for you.
Here are some checks you must make based on the season:
- Replace windshield wipers
The wipers need to be replaced once every year. During winter, install winter wiper blades.
- Battery performance check
If the temperatures are too high, it might affect the battery performance. Also, if you don’t use your car for a long time, the battery stops working. Keep checking it regularly.
- Change tires
If your area experiences heavy snow, you would have to change to a winter or snow tire. During summer, the tires would need to be switched back. You can also check out some all-weather tires, which might suit your car for the climate of your region.
- Check coolant levels
Check the coolant levels in your radiator during extreme winter months to make sure that the fluid does not freeze. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze to water is recommended to keep the parts at optimum level. But you must check the owner’s manual.