Prices for new and used vehicles are reaching peak highs right now, according to a recent news release from Kelley Blue Book.
As money expert Clark Howard put it, “It’s a brutal time to be a buyer of a new or used vehicle.”
So here’s our advice for keeping your current vehicle in good shape so you don’t have to buy a new one right now.
Use This Handy Car Maintenance Checklist
In this article, I’ll list a maintenance schedule you can follow to keep your car running smoothly. I’ll also share some tips on how long you should wait until you service some key auto parts on your car.
The mobile mechanic site YourMechanic.com has identified some time frames for inspection or replacement for different parts of your car.
I’ve compiled this table based on information from YourMechanic in addition to the Kelley Blue Book news release linked above.
Want To Stay on the Road? Follow This Basic Vehicle Maintenance Schedule
|Oil Change||Every 3,000 to 5,000 miles|
|Alignment||Every 6,000 to 8,000 miles|
|Tire Rotation||Every 6,000 miles|
|Wiper Blade||Every 6 to 12 Months|
|Brake pads||Every 25,000 to 70,000 miles|
5 Tips To Keep Your Car Running Smoothly
Now let’s explore each of these maintenance jobs in more detail and how they can benefit your car:
1. Change Your Oil
Getting an oil change is one of the most practical things you can do for preventive maintenance when it comes to your vehicle’s engine.
How often should you get your oil changed? About every 3,000 miles is the consensus between Kelley’s Blue Book and YourMechanic.
But the latter source also says that while between 3,000 to 4,000 miles may be a good benchmark for older cars that use regular oil, vehicles that use synthetic oil can stand to go anywhere between 7,5000-10,000 miles between oil changes.
To be sure, consult the owner’s manual for your vehicle.
2. Get a Wheel Alignment
From time to time, your car may need its alignment adjusted to make it more stable. As its name suggests, a front-end alignment involves only the front two wheels. A wheel alignment adjusts all four of your car’s wheels.
“A properly aligned vehicle will allow your car to steer straightly, maintain its suspension geometry, and most importantly, maximize the life of your tires,” it says in Kelley Blue Book’s news release.
How often does your vehicle need a wheel alignment? According to Kelley Blue Book, “every six months or 6,000 miles, whichever comes first.”
For specifics, check your vehicle’s manual, which may include recommended service times.
An alignment can also help cut down on the wear and tear of your tires. Speaking of which …
3. Inspect (or Replace) Your Tires
Make sure your vehicle has quality tires that are properly inflated. Not only is it a safety issue, but tires with the correct air pressure can increase your fuel economy, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
You should also inspect the tread on your tires regularly.
You can use the penny test: Place a penny between the ribs of the tire tread. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explains, “If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tire has less than 2/32” of tread and you are ready for new tires.”
Also, your tires need to be rotated periodically; YourMechanic advises they be done every 6,000 to 8,000 miles.
How often should you replace your tires? According to the NHTSA, “Some vehicle and tire manufacturers recommend replacing tires that are six to 10 years old, regardless of treadwear.”
The key to getting a good deal on tires? Shopping around.
“Buying tires has never been so cost-competitive, so it’s very important to comparison shop,” Clark says. “Service after the sale is really important, especially if you live in a city with lots of potholes.”
4. Inspect (or Replace) Your Wiper Blades
Your windshield wipers should be routinely inspected and replaced at regular intervals.
How often should wiper blades be replaced? While some sources say every six to 12 months, a lot depends on how well they’re doing their job. If it’s hard to see because your wipers aren’t clearing the windshield, it’s time to replace the blades.
Do you have an auto parts store near you? AutoZone, Advance Auto Parts and O’Reilly Auto Parts offer free wiper replacement when you buy them there.
5. Change the Brakes
It’s very important to get your brakes checked regularly so that you can stay on top of any problems that occur.
Motorists could experience issues with any component of the brake assembly, including the pads, shoes, calipers or rotors.
How often should you replace your car’s brake pads? While it largely depends on the manufacturer, brake pads last about 30,000 to 70,000 miles, according to Kelley Blue Book.
If you have an older vehicle, you might be concerned about pouring more money into it. But Clark says the odometer has less bearing on how a vehicle performs these days than in the past.
“Cars just keep getting better, and better, and better,” he says. “Today, because of tremendous improvements in technology and intense competition, the quality of cars is so so so much better.”
You don’t have to hire a mechanic to do some basic tasks to care for your car.