In this article, we’re going to talk about simple checks that you can make on your car at home, and I’d recommend doing this at least every six months, if not more often than that.
Certainly, some of these items you will want to check more often than once every six months, but these are simple checks that you can do at home to make sure your car is in good running condition.
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We’re going to start with the exterior of the vehicle looking at the tires, the brakes, the suspension, and then we will dive under the hood and start looking at filters as well as fluid checks.
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Now there are three things we want to be looking at:
- Tread depth
- Tire pressure
- Tire wearing
1. Tread Depth
Starting with the tread depth, on all tires, you’ll have these wear bar indicators, so you’ll notice them within the grooves. So, what these indicators tell you?
If you roll your finger across from one tread block over to the next and it runs perfectly smooth across, then that means you need to replace your tires.
2. Tire Pressure
Next, it’s important to make sure your tires are properly inflated. You’ll find the tire pressure information on the inside of your door jamb or within your owner’s manual.
You also have to make sure that the tire pressure doesn’t get too low because this can result in uneven wear or fuel economy and increase your chances of hydroplaning.
3. Tread Wear
Finally, we get to tread wear. So, if you look at your tire and you notice that the center of the tire is wearing down more than the outside of the tire then that probably indicates your tire pressure is too high.
If the outsides are worn down, but the center isn’t as much, then your tire pressure is likely to low. And if you notice that one side of a tire is wearing far more than the other side, then it likely means you need your alignment readjusted.
Next, we’re going to inspect the brakes.
You can remove the wheel using the spare tire kit from the back of the vehicle, but often you won’t actually have to remove the wheel. You can simply look through the holes in the wheel and look at your brake pad.
A new brake pad will have around 12 millimeters of pad material remaining, and you want to start thinking about replacing it once that pad material gets down to about 3 millimeters. If you’ve only got 1-2 millimeters left of pad material, you want to replace those brake pads.
Oftentimes when these brake pads get down to about 3 millimeters, they’ll have a metal indicator in there, and you’ll start hearing a screeching sound from your brakes letting you know that it’s time to replace them.
5. Shock Absorber
Moving on to the shock absorber, you want to make sure you don’t see any fluids leaking out of the damper. You also want to look for any visual damage on the shock or the springs and make sure everything looks like it’s in good working condition.
And again, you don’t have to remove the wheels to do this. You can simply rotate your steering wheel to one side – look in from that angle, turn the steering wheel to the other side, and then look in from a different angle.
Now let’s take a look underneath the hood.
6. Engine Oil
The first thing we’re going to look at is the engine oil. So you’re going to want to find the dipstick, and as you pull it out, we’re going to wipe down the entire thing using a towel, so we’re going to clean it off that way. We can get a good reading once we insert it back in, and then we’re going to pull that out and read it.
Looking at the dipstick once it’s pulled out after you’ve cleaned it off and then stuck it back in and then pulled it out once more, you will see that there are two little indicators. You want your oil level to be somewhere between these two, and you can see in the example below that it’s right at the end, right at the high fill line.
If it’s right towards the bottom or if you don’t see any oil, you might want to add about half a quart to the engine and then recheck the engine oil level using the dipstick and add as needed. You want to make sure though that it lies between these two indicators.
Now, as far as how frequently you should be changing the oil, refer to your owner’s manual, and one thing you also may want to look for is if you see a milkiness in the oil’s color that can indicate the coolant is getting in within your engine oil. That’s a big problem; you don’t want to have that happening, so make sure that it’s either clear or starting to get darkish (this comes from the oil holding contaminants before you change it out).
Depending on your vehicle, you’re going to have different fluids that you need to check.
- Brake fluid: You’ll see a max minimum indicator line on the brake fluid reservoir, and so you want to make sure that the brake fluid is between those two lines.
- Coolant fluid: You’ll see the same thing on your coolant reservoir, so somewhere near your radiator or coming from your radiator, you’ll have an expansion tank, and you’ll see a min and a max line. You want to make sure that the coolant falls between the min and the max range.
Next, we move on to filters.
There are two filters which we’re going to want to inspect:
- Engine air filter: Often, these don’t require tools to gain access to. You can shake out some of that debris and then put that back in or replace it with a new filter.
- Cabin air filter: You’ll generally find this behind the glovebox, and it usually won’t require any tools to remove. You can tap some of the debris out or perhaps consider replacing the filter if there’s a good amount of debris stuck in there.
9. Wiper Blades
It’s also a good idea to check out your wiper blades. You want to make sure that it’s a nice smooth continuous surface that doesn’t have any cracks in it and that the rubber isn’t starting to deteriorate.
And finally, you want to make sure that all your lights are working correctly. Your headlights, your indicators and then, for your brake lights you can either have a friend check the brake lights while you press on the brake pedal or you can set up a mirror, perhaps use your phone and record them and make sure that all of your brake lights are working.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with some useful information on how to maintain your car, easy stuff to check over on your car, but it can save you a headache in the long run, and it could save you some money as well if you catch a problem early.