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Taking care of your car — a year at a glance

Your car needs a little TLC from you — and not just when you take it in for its scheduled maintenance checkup. With some regular care, you can lengthen the life of your car and detect problems before they go too far… and end up costing you.

Woman washing her car


  • Inspect your car: Matt Allen, owner of Virginia Auto Service in Phoenix, says, “Each day you should briefly look at the car to make sure the tires look OK and there are no broken lights or accessories, including dash warning lights.”
  • Listen to and smell your car: Howard Fleischmann, Sr., owner of Community Tire Pros and Auto Service in Arizona advises drivers to pay attention to the sounds and smells their cars are emitting. Your car may be trying to tell you something’s wrong. He adds, “Your car is your second largest investment. Read your owner’s manual and then you will be able to evaluate issues with your specific vehicle.
  • Pay attention to your vehicle: Ricky Brooks, CEO at Express Oil Change says, If the “check engine” light is on, it may indicate a problem in the vehicle’s emission system, such as a bad oxygen sensor, which will affect fuel economy significantly.”


  • Look for leakage: When you pull out from the spot your car is parked in, take a moment to see what your car has left behind, suggests Fleischmann. Look for drops of anti-freeze, water or oil. If it looks like a large amount of oil, don’t panic, however. “Oil spreads,” says Fleischmann, “so a thimble-full could spread out to about a 6- or 8-inch circle.”
  • Check your tires: ESPN NASCAR pit reporter and co-author of the new handbook Essential Car Care for Women, Jamie Little, says, “You should check your tires every two weeks. Check the tread depth and check your PSI. A rule of thumb for tread depth is just over a half-inch deep. To get the best view for this, turn your wheels out. You can find the recommended PSI on the actual tire, and on some cars it’s located inside the gas cap or on the doorjamb on the driver’s side. You can reference your owner’s manual too. Remember to check the PSI on your spare tire!”


  • Change your oil: Greg Burchette, owner of Bridgewater MOTORWORKS in Bridgewater, New Jersey, says, “Do oil changes every 3,000 miles at a facility that will check your car over for other items that may need maintenance. Example: brakes, wipers, timing belt, etc. Rotate your tires every 6,000 miles or every second oil change. Change your air filter with each oil change. Get the maintenance as recommended by your owner’s manual — this is far cheaper in the long run than waiting for something to break. Check the air pressure in your tires at least once a month.”
  • Clean it up: Little advises, “When it comes to keeping your car clean, I recommend washing and detailing (inside and out) by yourself or by a professional at least once a month.”


  • Take your car in for a checkup: Allen says, “Have an annual inspection performed on your car to make sure there are no mechanical problems and the maintenance is current. This includes checking the brakes, tires, steering and suspension, battery and charging system — including referring to the manufacturer’s required service schedule as well as the vehicle computer system for updates.”

More on car care and safety

10 Things to teach your teen about car maintenance
7 Car care tips for women
What you should look for on a test drive

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