Basic Car Maintainence

Performing routine maintenance can extend the life of your vehicle. You can avoid costly repairs and even improve your vehicles fuel economy. Preventive maintenance can prevent a minor issue from becoming a major one. You can perform service on your vehicle at a very low cost. The following guide can save car owners time and money. Before performing any of the maintenance always consult your vehicles owner manual. If at anytime you are unsure of any repairs consult an automobile professional.

Engine Oil

  1. Engine oil is used to lubricate your engines major parts.
  2. It cleans and keeps the engine cool by protecting it from excessive heat

How to check oil levels :

Remove the dipstick and
wiping it clean

Replace the dipstick and pull out
again to check the level.

If your oil is low add on the
specified oil grade and weight.

Engine oil should be changed every three months or 3,000 miles. Always replace the filter with every oil change to prevent dirt and oil from polluting the new oil.

To change your oil, you must be on level ground. You have to jack up your car to get underneath. You may want to place something underneath the car to catch the oil increase the oil spills.

Before you change your oil you need the following:


Oil Recycle

Oil Filter

Oil and
a new Filter



  1. 1.

    Remove the drain plug

  2. 2.

    Remove the old oil and drain it in a container. Once all the oil has been drained, replace the plug securely.

  3. 3.

    Remove the old oil filter. It’s either underneath or on top of your car.

  1. 4.

    Lubricate the new oil filter and fill it with oil. Securely apply the filter clockwise.

  2. 5.

    Remove the oil cap in the engine

  3. 6.

    Use the funnel to fill the engine with oil. Tightly replace the cap.


You can later drop the oil-recycling container at gas stations.

Brake Fluid Levels

Sufficient brake fluid levels are essential for safe operation.

Air and moisture breaks down break fluid. Brake fluid should be checked monthly.

Brake Fluid reservoir

In newer vehicles the reservoir is usually translucent and the levels can be checked without removing the lid. In older vehicles you may need to use a screwdriver to remove the retainer clamp

brake master cylinder (Refer to your service manual if needed.)

Locate the brake master cylinder it’s usually towards the back of the engine.

How to change brake fluid :

Brake fluid should be free of dirt

Add only the grade approved in your owners manual if levels are low to the “full” line.

inspect for leaks and wear and tear

If you need more than 2oz of fluid.

Transmission Fluid Levels

Not all transmissions use the same type of transmission fluids.

  1. 1

    Automatic transmission vehicles use automatic transmission fluid.

  2. 1

    Stick shift vehicles use gear oil.

Signs you may need to add transmission fluids are:

Slow shift of an
automatic transmission.

A hard to shift stick shift.

You should check transmission with your vehicle in park and with the engine running.

Your vehicle should be warm before proceeding.

How to check transmission fluid:

Remove the transmission’s dipstick. Wipe the dipstick with
a clean cloth

Reinsert the stick.

and remove to check the level of the transmission fluid.

If additional fluid is need

your only approved transmission fluid.

Change transmission fluid every 24,000 miles, two years or has instructed by your owners manual.

Windshield Wiper Fluid

  1. 1

    Keeps your windshield free of debris and those pesky bugs.

  2. 1

    Prolongs the life of windshield wiper blades by keeping them lubricated.

Check windshield wiper fluid monthly to maintain visibility on the road. Use only windshield wiper fluid to fill the reservoir.


Regular changing of antifreeze is a vital component to keeping your vehicle running smoothly.

  1. 1

    Protects the radiator and other engine parts from corrosion and rust.

  2. 1

    Transfers heat for the engine.

Without periodically changing and flushing the antifreeze/coolant the mixture can actually corrode the inside of the radiator.

How to check coolant fluid:

To check your fluid level your engine must be cool. If the engine is hot while checking or changing the antifreeze you may become severely burned.

Your antifreeze should be green if it is regular life and red if it is the extended life antifreeze. Only add new fluid if it isn’t discolored and hasn’t lost its heating and freezing capability.

If you must add more antifreeze use a 50/50 antifreeze/coolant and water mixture.

If it is discolored or dirty it should be flushed and replaced.

  1. 1

    To drain your radiator open the valve. Once the radiator is empty close the valve and remove the radiator top.

  2. 2

    Drain the antifreeze into a coolant catcher or a two-gallon container.

  3. 3

    Flush the radiator with a radiator flush solution (can be purchased in any automotive store) using a funnel.

  1. 4

    Follow the solution with water until full.

  2. 5

    Start your car and run the vehicle for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes turn the car off and let the car completely cool.

  3. 6

    Re-drain the radiator into the same container or new one if needed. Refill the radiator with a fresh 50/50 solution. Make sure all caps are completely tightened. Make sure to dispose of the used antifreeze properly.

Power Steering Fluid

A car with power steering depends on that system to work correctly. With out power steering the car will be difficult to steer and dangerous.

How to Check power steering fluid:


You can check this fluid if your car is hot or cold if the car has a marking for it. Otherwise check it while its cold.


Look for a reservoir that says steering on it. If the reservoir is clear you can check the level from the outside of it.

Otherwise you’ll have to remove a dipstick and wipe with a clean cloth, check the level. Before removing the cap wipe it down to remove all dirt.


If the level is low check for leaks around the reservoir and pump. If no leaks fill the reservoir to full mark and replace the cap tightly.


Replace belts and hoses if they are cracked, glazed or frayed.

Replace the timing belt according to your scheduled service for your vehicle.

This belt is a rubber belt and is not easily seen

The timing belt should be replaced at indicated mileage before there is any wear or tear. If this belt breaks the car engine will not work.

Water Pump

The timing belt should be replaced at indicated mileage before there is any wear or tear. If this belt breaks the car engine will not work.

Replace Worn Windshield Wipers

When adding windshield fluid take the time to inspect your blades.

Use some windshield wiper fluid to wipe and clean the blades.

Wiper blades should be replaced if cracked, torn, chattering or not wiping properly. Wipers may need to be replaced yearly.

Measure wipers before discarding to make sure you get the proper size. The wipers maybe different sizes for the driver and passenger sides.

Inspect and Replace Lights

Your lights are a vital part of your car. Lights are a crucial part of the safety of the vehicle.

Lights may not control the way your car steers or drives, but they are important your visibility.

Inspecting your lights is relatively easy. Replacing them is just as easy.
You don’t have to have an arsenal of tools to replace a light bulb. You may only need a
Phillips screwdriver. Its not much different than changing a light bulb in a lamp on your ceiling.

How to check your headlights:


Turn on your lights and observe the light. For the taillights have someone stand behind your vehicle has you press on the brakes or use the turn signals.


Remove the lens from the dead light with Phillips. Pull on the light bulb assembly. Do not pull to hard. You’ll want to slightly turn the plug holding the light bulb to release the light bulb.


Replace the old bulb with the new one and replace the lens. Keep bulbs in your car at times for light emergencies. You may need to refer to the service manual for replacing your lights.

Corrosion on the Battery

Be extremely careful when handling a battery.

Have two wrenches ready depending on how your battery is connected.

How to clean a battery:


Remove the negative cable first and then the positive cable.


Use a corrosion removal cleaner and a wired brush to clean your battery. Or you can make your own by combining baking soda and water to make a corrosion solution.


You’ll squirt the liquid on the terminals and the battery post. Wait for several minutes or according to the corrosion removal instructions. Rinse the cleaner off with water. Connect your positive cable and then your negative cable.

If you don’t feel comfortable to clean your battery with a cleaner you could just use the wired brush to achieve the same results.

Use a small bristle brush to get in the nook and crannies. To keep your battery cleaned and less susceptible to corrosion use terminal protectors. They come in two one red and the other green. The red is placed on the positive post and the green on the negative.


Check your tire pressure monthly.

  1. 1

    You can ensure your tires are meeting the manufactures requirements by reading the sticker on the inside of the driver’s side door or the car manual.

  2. 1

    Check for visual wear and tear, as well. You will be looking for exposed tread bars, tread depth and shoulder wear.

How to check tires:



You can check for tread depth by using a penny to measure the tread depth. Place the penny Abe’s head down in the groove of the trade. If you can see the words “In God We Trust”, new tires are in order. If you notice exposed tread bars its time for a replacement.


Rotate tires every 5,000 to 8000 miles more frequently if your vehicle is two-wheel drive.

Inspect brakes

To inspect your brakes you can either look through the spaces of your wheels or you may have to remove your tires.

Your brakes should be shiny and uniform.

Your pads should be more than 1/8” in height.

The rubber brake lines should be soft and not cracked. If they are cracked they must be replaced.

Your brakes may in need of replacement if it displays any of these warning signs:

Noise when brakes
are pressed.

Steering wheel is unstable when brakes are pressed.

Your vehicle needs at 2oz or more of brake fluid.

If you depress your brakes and the petal slowly goes to floor.

The brake disks have rough spots and deep groves.

Dashboard Lights:


All your warning lights are connected to a sensor. The most significant light is the engine light. If this light comes you should schedule a service appointment. If this light comes on there is a problem with the engine. Since there are over a hundred sensors in your engine it could difficult for you to isolate the problem.

The dashboard lights may include:

Check oil

Noise when brakes
are pressed.


Steering wheel is unstable when brakes are pressed.


Your vehicle needs at 2oz or more of brake fluid.


Air pressures


In many states inspections are required. In 18 states inspections are required on a yearly or biannual basis. Inspections must be performed at either state operated facilities or private state approved facilities.

In other states such as Alabama and Maryland inspections are only required before sale or transfer of ownership. Vehicles are inspected to make certain that vehicles meet safety and emissions regulations.

Generally a vehicle inspection consists of inspecting the following:

Tire inflation and tread

Brake Testing


Fuel System

Exhaust System


Seat Belts

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