How Often Are You Checking These Essentials On Your Car?

Written by a Guest Blogger

It’s easy to forget that our cars need constant care and attention. Vehicles rely on a system of moving parts and mechanics for the car to function. Any small damaged part can have a drastic affect on the car as a whole. Every component serves a function and should be treated with care. Think of the engine as the heart of your car. The surrounding parts are the vital organs and blood that keep the heart pumping. Any small problem elsewhere can cause a strain on the heart.

All the checks on this list are vital to ensure that the heart stays healthy. Caring for the smaller parts ensures that the engine stays efficient and powerful. These small, simple checks will help prevent major problems and costly maintenance. Everything on this list can be done yourself, at home. With a few basic tools and some understanding, these checks are simple. However, if you don’t feel confident, don’t ignore the checks. Take your car to the garage and have a professional do these checks if you’re unsure.


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Staying on top of your maintenance will help your car run healthier for longer. For this reason it will keep you – the driver – safe and secure. You’ll save money on garage bills and avoid embarrassing breakdowns. You’ll also keep the resale value high when it comes to getting a quote for your vehicle. The team at tell us that a healthy engine is one of the key aspects they look for when valuing cars. So, how often are you performing these vital checks?


Oil – Following our ‘heart’ analogy, the oil is the blood that flows through the essential components. Healthy oil allows the moving parts in the engine to flow smoothly and efficiently. Oil serves the smooth running of the pistons. Oil makes sure that metal parts don’t grind over each other and cause extensive damage. Get into the habit of checking the colour and level of the oil regularly. Healthy oil is a light brown colour. If it’s black or dark brown, it’s time to change it. Mechanics suggest changing the oil every 3,000 miles. However, you should be checking the level every other time you fuel up.

Coolant – The coolant is the essential fluid that keeps your engine from overheating. It runs through the radiators and keeps the engine cool. Make a habit of identifying the expansion tank in your engine. You’ll cause serious damage if you pour coolant in the wrong place. The coolant level itself should never decrease, it simply flows around the systems. If it seems to be decreasing, it means there’s a leak. That needs fixing immediately. Where possible, try to check this weekly along with the other fluids mentioned here.

Power steering fluid – This is the essential liquid that eases the process of steering. Anyone who remembers driving a car without power steering knows how difficult it is! When your power steering fluid drains, you’ll feel the steering become heavy. This can be dangerous when you’re used to the smooth, quick flow. Again, check this one weekly.

Transmission fluid – Transmission fluid is fairly reliable and long lasting. Experts suggest changing it every two years, or 30,000 miles. However, if it does begin failing before that, you’ll know about it. Your car will always give you warning signs of potential problems. You could experience grinding sounds, trouble shifting gears and delays in movement. Transmission fluid is at risk of contamination from dirt so make a habit of checking this. Healthy transmission fluid is a bright red colour.


Your tyres can often tell you everything you need to know about the health of your car. Learn to understand what the wear of your tyres are telling you. The most important tyre checks are pressure and tread depth. Every car comes with a recommended tyre pressure. That level is there to keep you safe and ensure the engine runs efficiently. When it is too high, you have less control over the vehicle which can lead to accidents. When it’s too low, the engine has to work much harder to push the vehicle. This works the engine much harder. Finally, make sure the tread depth is well over 2mm (or 2/32nds) thick.


The biggest indication that something is wrong with the alignment is drifting. If your car begins drifting towards another lane, it’s time to get it checked out. However, you should be spotting problems well before this happens. Even small alignment problems can affect your handling and steering response. Your tyres will show the first signs of alignment problems. Look for uneven tread wear or ‘feathering’.


You don’t need us to tell you how important your brakes are. Brakes wear down slowly, so you may not notice the slowing braking times. Instead, get into the habit of checking the physical wear of the brake pads or discs. This one is sometimes best left to a pro. But, if you’re comfortable removing wheels, then it’s an easy DIY check.

Air Filter

In order to function, your engine combines petrol with oxygen. The oxygen is taken from the air around you and is cleaned using the air filter. Naturally, this clogs up with dirt and dust from the road. Every now and then, these need a good clean or complete replacement. They’re easily accessible, found next to the engine in a black box. There’s usually a clip system. Unclip them and slide up to check.


Finally, it’s important to check the lights all around your car. You may not always notice a backlight problem. But, rest assured, a passing police officer will! Not only will you pick up a ticket for broken lights, it’s highly dangerous. Particularly in the winter, functioning lights are essential. Simply turn them all on and do a quick walkaround before driving.

There you have it, folks! A very simple and quick checklist of essentials for your car. Each of these will keep the engine running smoothly. Your car will extend its life and avoid costly breakdowns and maintenance problems. Each of these can be done yourself at home, but if you’re unsure, always seek a professional. Take care!

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Auto Upkeep 4th Edition

Michael Gray

Mike has roots in the automotive service industry. He began diagnosing and fixing cars at a young age in his family’s service station. He has worked in automotive parts supply stores, towing companies, and service facilities. After graduating from St. Cloud State University (MN) with a Bachelor’s degree, he implemented and taught a basic car care program at the high school level. During work on his Master’s degree at Illinois State University (IL), he was a curriculum specialist on a National Science Foundation project where he co-authored ten integrated mathematics, science, and technology books designed for team teaching. Mike has also supervised teachers in Career and Technology Education as a school system administrator.

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