As the saying goes, take care of your car, and your car will take care of you. If you’re diligent about keeping up with your vehicle’s regular maintenance needs, you’re likely to get more miles – and a safer ride – out of your trusty wheels.
1. Motor oil
The old rule about changing your car’s motor oil every 3,000 miles or three months is just that: old. Many vehicles now run on synthetic oil, which can last from 7,500 to 10,000 miles between changes.1 Check your owners manual for the type of oil you should use as well as proper oil levels. You can also contact your local mechanic or dealership for guidance.
Underinflated tires aren’t only a safety hazard; they also decrease your gas mileage by about 0.2 percent for every pound per square inch (psi) drop in pressure.2 Consult your owners manual for the proper pressure. It’s best to check tire pressure – including your spare’s – once a month. Be sure to inspect the tire treads as well, as they provide traction with the road. If your treads wear thin or are full of debris, the tires won’t perform as designed, reducing your car’s overall safety. Your owners manual will also tell you how frequently you should rotate your tires.
Concerned that your tires are wearing out? Fortunately, you can test this yourself. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards require that at least six tire wear indicators, or tire wear bears, are molded into the grooves. Run your finger across them to see if they have become flush with the outer tread. If so, that indicates there is no more than 2/32" of tread depth remaining, which is the minimum in most states.3 Or, insert a penny, head down and facing you, into some of the treads. If part of Lincoln’s head disappears into the tread, then your tire is still good. But if you can still see all of it, then it’s time to replace those tires.4
Properly functioning brakes are essential to vehicle safety. If the brake pads are wearing thin, you might hear a grinding or squealing noise when you apply the brakes. Your brake pedal may vibrate when pressed, the car might pull to one side or it might take longer to stop. If you notice any of these warning signs, make an appointment with your repair shop.
4. Windshield wipers and fluid
Windshield wiper blades have an average lifespan of no more than a year.5 If your wipers are leaving streaks and impairing your view, or if they scrape across the windshield, wipe them clean and check for cracks or tears – the rubber part might need replacing. You also should check your wiper fluid level periodically, especially after a drive down a dusty road or a long trip.