“You’re one of those guys who likes to shine his machine
You make me take off my shoes before you let me get in
I can’t believe you kiss your car good night
C’mon baby tell me, you must be jokin’, right
Oh, oh, so you think you’re something special
Oh, oh, you think you’re something else
Okay, so you’ve got a car
That don’t impress me much”
– Shania Twain, “That Don’t Impress Me Much”
You may have met one of those people at some point in your life – heck, you might have been one of those people before life got in the way. The thing about regular car maintenance is that it doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but it does require a degree of diligence.
Taking small, consistent steps to keep your vehicle clean and maintained will help it run better for longer and help you sell it faster when the time comes.
Your tires are the only things that touch the road (or at least they should be the only thing… if they’re not, you’ve got bigger problems on your hands), so you need to be sure that they are well maintained.
As a lazy car owner, you don’t need to polish and blacken your tires regularly (although it does make them look quite spiffy), but you should pay close attention to them. Check your tire pressure at least once a month by using a gauge to ensure that each tire is properly inflated. If your TPMS indicator light comes on, you need to act quickly because that means that you are already dangerously underinflated.
You also need to check that the treads have at least 2/32 of an inch. The penny test can help here. Stick a penny into the tread in several places around the circumference of the tire, head first. If you always see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head, your treads are low enough that they need replacing. You should also look at the sidewalls for cracks or punctures. Additionally, you should consider rotating your tires about every six to eight thousand miles, which is roughly every oil change.
Not only could a missing headlight get you pulled over, but it is also incredibly dangerous. You won’t be able to see the road in front of you as well as you should, and other drivers might underestimate the size of your vehicle or not see you altogether.
Once a month, you should turn on your headlights, hazards, brights, and blinkers to make sure that all of them are working correctly. If you have a free Saturday afternoon, you might also consider getting a headlight cover repair/defogging kit from your local auto parts store. Having a clean headlight cover will not only help you see better, but it will improve your vehicle’s overall appearance.
- Coolant: Coolant is an incredibly important fluid because it takes the heat away from the engine so that your vehicle doesn’t overheat. Your service station should check and top off your coolant with every oil change, but if you notice a leak, you should take it into a mechanic quickly. Additionally, if you have driven your vehicle more than 100,000 miles, you should ask the mechanic at your local auto repair shop to flush the coolant completely to prevent rust build-up in your engine.
- Windshield Wiper Fluid: Windshield wiper fluid is one of those things that you might not think about until you need it, and then you might be up a creek if you don’t have enough. It’s best to avoid potentially dangerous situations by checking your wiper fluid levels (and the condition of your wipers) at least at every oil change and for every season. Some wiper fluid is better for scrubbing bugs off of the windshield if you do a lot of summertime off-roading, but that won’t stand up to the freezing Utah winters. For the colder times of the year, you may need to mix some antifreeze into your wiper solution so that it doesn’t freeze in your tank or on the windshield itself.
- Oil: If you’re wondering whether or not you need an oil change, you might want to check out this article, but the nice thing about vehicles nowadays is that you can go a little farther than in days gone by. That’s not to say that you should skimp on adding oil and getting it changed regularly. Your car’s oil keeps your engine healthy and lubricated. Follow your vehicle’s manufacturer’s instructions for what kind of oil you need and how often you should change it, or visit a trusted, local mechanic.
Under the Hood
- Battery: Check on your battery each time you get an oil change, and if you notice any corrosion, clean it off. It may look a little intimidating when corrosion is crusted all around your battery terminals, but don’t worry too much. First and foremost, make sure your car is turned off and then don some mechanics gloves. Mix about a tablespoon of baking soda into a cup of water, and dip a toothbrush or a wire brush into the mixture and scrub away the corrosion. If you find corrosion often, you may need to replace your battery.
- Spark plugs: You should also check on or replace your sparkplugs at least once a year to ensure that your vehicle is starting its day with its best wheel forward.
Last, but not least, we recommend that you keep a car kit in your trunk at all times that has small containers of your essential fluids (oil, coolant, wiper fluid) as well as emergency vehicle essentials, such as:
- Jumper cables
- Road flares
- Reflective triangles
- Mechanic’s glove
- First aid kit
- Drinking water
- Duct tape
- Bottled water and non-perishable snacks
It is always better to be prepared and do preventative maintenance whenever possible. Even when you’re feeling lazy, these few things to look out for won’t take much time and could save you a lot of money.