hand holding wrenches by the open hood of a red car

It’s not uncommon for most people to forget about car maintenance after buying their new or used vehicle. That’s probably because it’s easy to just keep on driving until the car tells us something is wrong. For example, you know it’s time to fix your car when that pesky “check engine” light keeps on blinking at you.

While it is true that many people actually remember to change the oil on occasion, there are several other things that also need to be done. Unfortunately, when left untreated, this can lead to having broken parts and spending extra money to repair the things that just needed a little maintenance in the beginning.

Every new car or truck comes with an owners manual. Those owners manuals come with a list of routine maintenance items that need to be done at specific mileages in order to keep the warranty in place. The great thing about living during a time when technology drives everything, manuals are easy to locate when you buy a used car that doesn’t happen to have the owners manual. You can either get this list printed out for you at any repair shop or dealership so you know what needs to be done and when, or you can typically get online and find a PDF copy of the entire owners manual.

There are many maintenance items that you can easily do yourself, but there are a few that may be better left to the pros. However, before you try to complete these jobs yourself, be sure to read about them first so you know what you are getting into! If all else fails, check on YouTube for additional demonstrations on how to complete the task you are attempting.

labeled automotive parts under the hood of a car


Basic Car Maintenance Checklist

1. Oil Change

A common question that arises is, should I change my oil myself. This article will help you decide whether to do it yourself or leave this job to a mechanic. Most people can learn how to do oil changes if they have the right tools and a little mechanical knowledge. Here are a few things you need to know before getting started.

Oil Change Frequency

It doesn’t matter if you ask 20 people how often you should change your oil, a large majority would quote the standard “every 3,000 miles” while the others would have their own very different viewpoints. Find out the truth about how often you should be changing your oil. Often times, you can simply look in your owners manual for the manufacturer recommendations.

How to Check Your Oil

Everyone needs to know how to check their own oil. It should be taught, if not in school, at home. This guide will show you how to do it correctly from start to finish. I’ve included pictures to make it easy to see what I’m talking about.

How to Change Your Oil

Step by step oil change guides will show you every step of the process. You should see the whole process from start to finish so you know exactly what is involved including the tools you need such as, how to jack up the car, where the important parts are located, and a few other little known tricks. This YouTube video by ChrisFix provides a great tutorial on how to change your oil yourself.

How to Change Oil Filter

If you are changing the oil, then you need to change the filter as well. Read through this article on how to replace your oil that was written up by MyAutoRepairAdvice.com. You will learn all of the techniques needed to get the job done properly.

How to Top Off Your Oil

Whether you’ve just changed the oil or you’ve noticed that your oil is low, it is a simple operation to top off your oil.

After you know where the oil cap dipstick are, you are finally ready to put oil in your car. You simply need to remove the oil cap, put a funnel into the opening and slowly pour oil into the engine.

It is very important that you don’t overfill the engine. When topping off the engine, don’t put too much in at a time. Put a little bit in, stop, and then check to oil level with the dipstick. Continue adding oil and checking its level until you have the proper amount in the engine.

When you are pouring the oil into the engine, it is often easiest to you a funnel. Be sure to pour into the funnel slowly. If you pour too fast, the oil can leak out of the oil fill hole and get all over the engine. This will usually cause it to leak down onto the exhaust manifold (which is very hot) and burn off while you are stopped at a red light. This produces a smell that is rather unpleasant and could possibly cause a fire!

Make certain to hold the funnel while you are pouring. Many times the funnel will not just stay where you put it and you could end up with oil all over the engine.

One of the best ways to put oil into your vehicle without a funnel is to pour it with the oil bottle on its side. This will let the oil flow more smoothly and will minimize spillage.

Try to make sure the oil is warm before you pour it in. Rather than pouring it cold, you may find it useful to keep the oil inside the house before putting it in the engine. This will help the oil flow out of the bottle and into the engine much easier. That’s all there is to it! Now you know where and how to put oil in a car.

2. Fuel Filter

The first question you should ask yourself is whether this is something I should even do myself? Fuel filters used to be easy to change. They were easy to get to and you just needed one or two tools — and those were super cheap. Now, though, times have changed. Most fuel filters are under the vehicle, you need special tools (typically expensive) to change the filters. With all that being said you can still do this job yourself, but you should make sure you are confident in doing it.

3. Air Filter

Is it difficult to change an air filter? The short answer is no. Most new cars have the air filters located in a place that is easy to get to. That being said, some are more challenging. While this is a fairly basic car maintenance job that you can complete on your own, you should read this first. There are a few things you need to know before you proceed.

When to Change Air Filter

Don’t listen to your crazy family member or friends who don’t know what they are talking about when they tell you to change your air filter every five years. Just like oil change frequency, everyone has an opinion! Essentially, your engine needs clean air in order to run efficiently and to last as long as possible. If the air cleaner isn’t doing its job, it will restrict the air flow or allow dirty air into the engine, causing premature wear on the internal workings of the motor.

So, when does the air filter need to be changed? That is a somewhat difficult question to answer because it can be affected by numerous variables. The first place you should start is with the factory recommendations in your owners manual. Your driving habits will dictate how often to change your air filter. The easiest way to decide is to look at the air filter to see how dirty it is. If you drive primarily on roads, you may be able to change your filter once every two years. However, if you drive long distances and on frequently dusty roads, you may need to change it once a year or more. Whatever the frequency, it’s a small price to pay for maintaining a healthy vehicle.

How to Change Air Filter

This is usually an easy job, but there are some things that you can mess up. The most important step is to ensure purchasing the correct filter for your specific vehicle. After you have the air filter, find a nice place to work on your car and open the hood. The air filter box is typically located near the front of the vehicle, either on the right side or left side — not in the center. This box will have screws, bolts or clips that keep the two halves together.

hands opening the air box on a car where the air filter is locatedRemove the old filter, and clean out anything that may be inside the air box. Sometimes grass, weeds, dust, and other contaminants will clog up the filter box and intake tube. Before installing the new filter, compare it with the old one to make sure they are the same dimensions. Once you have the air box cleaned out, install the new filter with the metal grid side facing down. Make sure it is seated firmly in place and put the top securely on the air box.

Push the top half onto the bottom half and make sure everything aligns correctly. If yours is secured with screws, make sure that the screw holes align. If it has tabs make sure they are fully pushed in. When you get them on correctly the top half of the air box will align with the bottom half.

Basic car maintenance is something that you need to put into your monthly budget and keep in the front of your mind. Rather than closing one eye and then running into expensive problems later on, sticking to your car maintenance schedule will save you a lot of time, money and trouble in the long run.

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