The U.S. vehicle market of late has been showing some encouraging signs for your wallet: New vehicle prices are starting to decrease and money expert Clark Howard says we can expect car prices to drop even further in the months ahead.
Until that time comes, Clark has recommended that consumers invest in the upkeep of their current vehicles. What can you do to keep your car on the road?
In this article, we’ll share a maintenance schedule you can follow to keep your car running smoothly.
Use This Handy Car Maintenance Checklist
We’ll also share some tips from mobile mechanic site YourMechanic.com and vehicle valuation site Kelley Blue Book on how long you should wait until you service some key auto parts on your car.
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.”
Vehicle Maintenance Schedule: How Many Miles Before Service?
|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 Maintenance 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, which we’ll talk about next.
3. Inspect (or Replace) Your Tires
Make sure your vehicle has quality tires that are properly inflated. Not only is not having the correct tire pressure a safety issue, but properly inflated tires can improve your gas mileage up to 3%, 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.”
Read our guide on the best places to buy tires.
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.
Watch our quick DIY tutorial on how to change your wiper blades.
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.
See the full maintenance list from Kelley Blue Book.
Taking care of your car is one of the best ways you can save money today. If you don’t feel comfortable performing routine maintenance on your vehicle, Clark wants you to seek out a reputable mechanic.
The key to finding a trustworthy mechanic is to already have a relationship with one before major auto problems arise.
“I want you to have a relationship with a mechanic for routine maintenance,” Clark says, “not when something goes wrong and you’re looking for a shotgun marriage with some shop. I want you to find that shop, that mechanic, you can trust ahead of time.”
On the other hand, if you’re comfortable doing some small maintenance tasks on your vehicle yourself, that’s more money you can save!
Interested in more tips? Read about five DIY auto repairs you can do today.