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How Often Do Cars Need Maintenance?

Finance | 03/08/2023 22:09

It’s no secret that owning a car is a big responsibility. Not only do you need to think about how you will pay for your car, but you also need to think about how you will take care of your car. While cars do not require the maintenance that they used to, you still need to make sure you are keeping an eye on how your car is running and perform regular maintenance. Sticking to a maintenance schedule is a great way to keep your car running smoothly (and keep you on the road). But how often do cars need maintenance?


Here is how often cars need maintenance and how you can develop a car maintenance schedule that works for you.

What type of car maintenance do I need to do?

Performing regular car maintenance will help you prevent many problems, while also helping you detect issues before they develop into more serious issues. When we talk about car maintenance, we are talking about quite a number of things. In general, you want to ensure that your fluids are replaced and/or topped off, your safety mechanisms are working properly (such as windshield wipers and brake pads), and that the engine is running and functioning properly.  While we will get into more details later, car maintenance includes:

  • Changing your oil

  • Changing your cabin filters

  • Maintaining proper tire pressure

  • Replacing windshield wipers

  • Checking the shocks, struts, and springs (the suspension system)

  • Checking spark plugs

  • Checking emissions

  • And much more


When a car is new, it requires very little maintenance. But after about 36,000 miles you should start considering either taking your car in to get serviced regularly or performing your own maintenance and sticking to a schedule.


Dealerships and service departments will tell you that you need to service your car constantly, but in reality you should consult your owner’s manual and keep an eye on your car to determine when and how often maintenance should be performed. Your owner’s manual is written for your car specifically and gives realistic timetables for maintenance. Service departments have one main goal: to make money. And shaming you into getting oil changes and tire rotations as frequently as possible is a great way for them to do this.

What signs will tell me I need car maintenance?


More than anything, you should pay attention to your car to determine when maintenance is required. Here are some common indications that your car needs some attention.

Your Dashboard Lights Come On

The dashboard lights on your car are your first indicators that something needs attention. These lights may include:

  • Check Engine Light

  • Battery Light

  • Temperature Warning Light

  • Oil Pressure Warning

  • Anti Lock Braking Light (ABS)

  • Brake System Warning

  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

  • And more


If any of these lights are on, it could be something minor, or it could indicate a much more serious issue. 

Your Braking Feels Off

You know how your car drives, so you should notice when something just feels “off”. And when that something is your braking system, you definitely should not wait around to get it checked out. 

Your Fuel Efficiency is Slipping

If you notice that your car is suddenly less fuel efficient, it could be a sign of bad sensors or leaky fuel injectors.

Your Shifting Feels Off

Automatic transmissions should shift smoothly and seamlessly, so if you notice a lurching or clunking, it might be a serious problem with your transmission system.


Other Signs to Look For

Again, you should know how your car drives. So you should notice when there is a noticeable shift. Aside from the signs above, you should also keep an eye out for a lack of acceleration, excessive or abnormal vibrations, and trouble starting your vehicle. 


What is a sample car maintenance schedule?


While you should always consult your owner’s manual for specific maintenance timelines, there are some rough guidelines you can follow to create a car maintenance schedule that works for you.

Service Immediately

If you notice any of the issues from above, you should bring your car in immediately to be diagnosed. If you have a check engine light, your mechanic can run a diagnostic test to determine the issue. Code readers will tell your mechanic what the issue is, and they can advise you on the best solution. Additionally, you should have your car serviced immediately for blown headlights or taillights and any tire pressure warnings. 


Monthly Maintenance

Every month, you should do check up for your car where you look at the following:

  • Fog lights, turn signals, brake lights, and parking lights. Have a friend help you determine that they are all in good working order. A missing light is not only dangerous, but it can get you pulled over and you may be required to pay a fine.

  • Check all of your fluids. This means your oil, coolant, power steering fluid, and windshield fluid should be topped off.

  • Tire pressure. You want to keep an eye on your tire pressure and your tire tread. Ensuring that your tires are properly inflated will help your tires to last longer and will keep you safer on the road. Make sure that your tread isn’t too worn away, as that will make for unsafe driving conditions.


Three Month Maintenance

Every three months you should do a check up that is a little bit more in depth. This should include checking the following:

  • Your oil and oil filter. This will vary depending on your car and how much you drive, but 3 months/ 3,000 miles is a good benchmark for an oil change (if you use synthetic oil, you can go closer to 8,000 miles before needing a change). 

  • Belts and hoses. Do a quick visual inspection of the belts and hoses under the hood to ensure nothing is torn or fraying.

  • Battery and cables. Check all of the cables to ensure there are tight connections. 

  • Wiper blades. If your windshield wiper blades are torn, frayed, or leaving streaks, it’s a good idea to replace them so they do not become a problem and impair your vision.


Six Month Maintenance

There are a few maintenance steps you should perform twice a year. Every six months be sure to check the following:

  • Exhaust system. Give a visual inspection to your exhaust system, checking for any damage or corrosion. Pay extra attention to this if your muffler seems louder than usual.

  • Battery. Check your battery's performance twice a year, especially once it is older than three years. This is when they can start losing their juice a bit. Auto parts stores have voltmeters for you to check your battery’s performance.

  • Rotate your tires. Tire rotation is important to ensure that your tires are wearing evenly and will last longer. Your owners manual will instruct you on how often to rotate them and the correct pattern in which to rotate your tires.

  • Lubricate the chassis. Some cars require you to lubricate the chassis from time to time. Your owner’s manual will instruct how often you should do this.

Yearly Maintenance

Once a year your car will require the following maintenance.

  • Check the brakes. You should obviously get the brakes serviced if you ever feel that something is off and your brakes aren’t performing properly. But every year you should inspect the brake system even if there seem to be no issues. This includes checking the brake fluid, the rotors, brake pads, and brake linings to make sure everything is in working order.

  • Replace your cabin air filters. Cabin air filters help to keep the air in your car clean, so replacing them every year is good practice. 

  • Replace your coolant and antifreeze. These fluids should be drained and replaced every year to keep your engine in good working order.

Two Year Maintenance

Every two years your car will require the following maintenance.

  • Check the transmission fluid. Transmission fluid should be replaced every 30,000 to 60,000 miles and should be topped off as needed.

  • Check your spark plugs. Spark plugs can usually last up to 100,000 miles, but it’s a good idea to check them every now and then. If you notice your car is having trouble starting, this may indicate a failing spark plug. 

Other Maintenance to Keep an Eye On.

Additionally, there are some car maintenance issues that are longer term that you will need to keep in mind. These include:

  • Replacing the timing belt (typically between 60,000 and 100,000 miles)

  • Replace the battery (typically every five years)

  • Replace your tires (typically every 6-10 years)

  • Check on the transfer case fluid (consult your owners manual to determine when to have this done)


And that is how often cars need maintenance.


Car ownership comes with a lot of responsibilities, and maintenance is at the top of that list. Car payments are another thing that are on the top of that list, and if you are making payments on your financed car there’s a good chance you are overpaying every month. Contact Auto Approve today to find out just how much money you could be saving!


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