When to Check your Car


How Often Should I Check…

You know that you need to bring your car in for the "big services" at 30,000, 60,000, 90,000. You know that you need to get your oil changed every 3,000 (or 5,000) miles, and that generally you should rotate your tires every other change. You know when it's time to service your brakes or get new tires, because it becomes apparent.

But then there are those other things. Not the big things, but the little things that you're supposed to do in between services to make sure everything is ok. My grandfather insisted that the oil and tires needed to be checked with every fill up, but now that seems charmingly old fashioned, and something I can't imagine doing every time I'm in a gas station. But what's right?

How often should you check your oil?
This one really depends on your car. I have a slow leak and an older car, so I check my oil level every other week. I generally know how much oil I should expect to lose, so if it's much more than that, I know it's time to get into the shop. But if you don't have a reason to expect to lose oil, you should make sure you're checking it once a month. Even if you don't see a telltale oil spot, your car could be burning oil, and you'd want to take care of that before it becomes a big problem.

How often should you check your tire pressure?
Tires are about the same. Unless you have a problem that would require more frequent checks, once a month is plenty. Ideally, you want to check the tires "cold" when the car has been rested for a bit. It's not uncommon to lose a bit of pressure over the course of a month, and it's important to keep those tires properly inflated. More importantly, if you suddenly find yourself losing a lot of pressure, you'll know it's time to get your tires checked.

How often should you check your other fluids?
To be honest, this one never occurred to me. I just assumed it was part of every oil change. But then I found my brake light coming on, and after freaking out, and then googling, I found that my fluid was the tiniest bit low. I looked in my manual, bought a small container for under $2, added enough to reach the line, and the light went right off. I asked at my next oil change, and they said it wasn't surprising, given the age of my car. Generally speaking, you should check your coolant at least twice a year, and realistically, you should check all your other fluids every time the hood is up. It's easy to do, given the easy to read reservoirs on most cars, and it takes almost no time at all.

How often should I replace my wiper blades?
Realistically, you should replace them when you notice a difference in your driving visibility. But even if you don't, the rule of thumb is once every six months.   Easy checks, easy fixes, and they can save plenty of aggravation down the road!

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