14 Key Services to Include in Your Monthly Car Maintenance Plan

If you have at least one car – and most Americans do – your car is likely your most important possession. You might have a big house or an elaborate personal computer system, but if your car breaks down, you won’t be able to get to work, which will put your house and your PC in danger. So with that as an important stage of personal and vehicle maintenance, you need to make sure that your car’s maintenance is on a monthly schedule. Doing it annually or even semiannually can allow problems to crop up that you’re not aware of until they cause serious issues.

1. Yearly Auto Registration

This is not truly a task for your monthly car maintenance plan, but every year you will need to go to the DMV, hand over some money, and re-register your car. Your auto registration will need to demonstrate that you have car insurance, that your car has been maintained, and that your exhaust system and engine output are in decent order. In some states, you will need your car to be tested and inspected to make sure that environmental pollution controls are not damaged or disabled over the last year. Bypasses of pollution control systems are not only a federal crime, but they also cost you more money at the pump as your engine computer might put more fuel through the engine to compensate for a drop in exhaust backpressure. While it may be tempting to thumb your nose at the government, remember that your exhaust system is in your best interest to maintain.

2. Tire Pressure and Tread Depth

Every month, you’ll need to check your tire pressure and reinflate tires that are under 30 pounds per square inch (PSI). Your car needs to have its tire pressure maintained. Generally, good tire pressure is between 32 and 40 pounds per square inch (2.21 to 2.76 bar). If your tire pressure falls below 25 PSI, you’re wasting more fuel than you need to be putting more energy into turning the wheels. This will in turn cause additional strain to be put on other systems in the car. Your car insurance doesn’t cover tire pressure, but it certainly is a better idea to keep your tires at pressure than to let them do damage to the brakes and springs. Checking tread once a month is simple and uses a test called the “penny test.” If your tread is short enough that all of Abraham Lincoln’s hair is revealed, it’s time to change your tires.

3. Brake Service Is Crucial For Your Car

If you don’t have brakes, you don’t have a car. It doesn’t matter how powerful your engine is, the brakes are the part that makes your car work well. Worn and damaged brakes don’t retract properly, creating a situation where the engine has to labor harder to turn the wheels – and more importantly, the damage will slow down the vehicle and make it obvious that a car has damaged brakes with squeaking sounds that eventually evolve into squealing. Checking on your brakes should be done twice a year, keeping repairs relatively minimal. Auto mechanics will help you make sure that your brakes are constantly in proper shape. Your monthly car maintenance plan is usually minimal on the part of brakes. Making sure that the pedals actuate the brakes properly will happen naturally every time you drive. Monthly brake checks should involve looking through the holes in the wheels at the brake pads. You might need a flashlight, but you can check the brake pad. If the pad looks thin, it might be time to replace them. If you hear odd sounds from your wheels, that’s a danger sign. Make sure that you get your brakes repaired as quickly as possible after that happens.

4. Pop Your Dents and Take Care Of Your Body

Auto body repair is one of the more important parts of auto maintenance, but one that most people underestimate. A body shop is usually thought of as being where you go after your car is caught out in a hailstorm and has some serious dents from the hail. This is one of the important roles of a body shop, and paintless dent repairs can help you get your car back on the road with its body repaired and the dents popped out as if they never existed. When you have more body damage, such as a scrape from running the side of your car on an awkward parking ramp or that Trader Joe’s parking lot, you can give yourself some serious problems down the line as the exposed primer or worse, bare metal, oxidizes in the air and begins the process of rusting your body panels. Your monthly car maintenance plan needs to involve an examination of your car’s body, noting problem spots, and if there are enough of them, a discussion with the auto body shop to start a repair plan.

5. Make Sure and Check your Lights

It’s important – and legally required – for every light on your car to be in working order. Get a friend available who can stand around your car and let you know as you check the headlights, taillights, turn signals, and brake and parking lights. Each should be activated in turn and your friend can make sure that your car’s lights are viewed in turn. Once your monthly care maintenance plan is in place, you can make the check that all of your lights are functioning an automatic part of starting every month. Once you know where any burned-out or fading lights are located, you can plan to replace them, with brighter and more easily seen light bulbs. When you’re replacing lights, you have some decisions to make. Stick with conventional halogens? Or install new, brighter, and higher-visibility LEDs? The decision isn’t always as clear-cut as it might seem; in nighttime and gloomy situations, LED lights can cut more, but they also can appear harsher and more punishing to other drivers. If you have LEDs, you should never turn on your high beams unless you are certain you’re on a back country road and nobody’s going to suddenly loom up in your forward view. Dazzled drivers are more likely to commit fatal mistakes.

6. Check On Your AC

Your auto air conditioning is a crucial part of the survivability of the interior of your car. As long as your interior fan works, heating will always work, since your car has no actual heating system – it’s simply heated by the waste heat from the engine. But auto air conditioning is not only its system, but it’s crucially important for the habitability of your car in the summer. Auto ac services will help you maintain part of your car that can make the most difference in the livability of the car. A worn-out or discharged air conditioning system can result in hot air being blown over you all summer, and if you’re in a place where it gets up to 80 degrees or higher in the air around your car, the air inside your car can be upwards of 100 to 120 degrees – it’s hard to compensate for that with nothing more than “four-forty Bohemian air conditioning,” especially when the air blowing through your windows is still pretty warm in its own right.

7. Make Sure Those Window Chips Get Seen To

If your car windshield seems to sparkle and distract you in the sun, it’s a good indication that there are microscopic and visible-scale chips in the windshield that make it difficult to see through when the sun is shining in your face. This can be a sign that you need to pay a visit to your auto glass shop. Glass is typically not extremely expensive, but it’s a good expense and a single windshield replacement can result in your glass rider paying for itself for years. Auto glass shops are one of the most important parts of auto repair, and checking on them every year is a good idea if you own a car. If you’re leasing, check with your lessor. They might include auto glass repair in your lease, but you will need to ask before that kind of generosity on the part of the lessor can be assumed.

8. Toyota Specialists

Toyotas in particular are renowned as reliable, consistent, and sturdy automobiles. The Camry and Corolla are two of the best-selling cars in America every year for a reason. Under the popular pickup and SUV segments, Toyotas are popular, reliable cars that can take as much as most owners can dish out and continue driving. Even with a damaged wheel hub, you can usually get to a Toyota repair shop. With that kind of reliability, it’s not surprising that Toyotas in particular are prized vehicles that retain a lot of value. It was the high-quality, inexpensive cars being produced by Toyota and Honda in Japan that forced the American auto industry to innovate and improve in the 1980s and 1990s, pushing out the differences between their cars and their competitors.

9. Extra Accessories

Truck accessories are some of the more fun and interesting parts of owning an automobile. While the average family car has only some limited parts that you can pull out or customize, you can update your truck on a virtually at-will basis. If you have a truck, you can modify its bed, put on an extended back gate, give yourself a fun plastic bed liner, and add brush guards and extra lights to the front and roof. The possibilities for truck modifications are endless, and truck accessories can not always make sense to the drivers of a passenger car.

10. Semi Trucks Need Extra Repairs

If you are the owner-operator of a semi-truck, you are in a position where your livelihood very literally depends on the good repair of your truck. Owner-operators will get on a first-name basis with a semi truck repair shop owner and probably owners in several states. Semi-truck maintenance should be done regularly because as an owner-operator, your livelihood depends on the good functioning of your truck. Make sure that you’re following your maintenance schedule as described in the operator’s manual, rigorously.

11. Long-Term Maintenance Needs

Here are just a few maintenance items for your car that aren’t monthly monitors but are needed for the overall operational safety and well-being of your car. Making sure that these things get handled periodically is crucial to keeping your car working, even though you’re not checking them every time the calendar turns a page.

12. Transmission Fluid

Your transmission fluid is crucial to the operation of your car’s transmission, lubricating the delicate gearbox that keeps the power flowing to your wheels. If your transmission fluid isn’t checked regularly, you can end up in a situation where your transmission dies even though the engine is still able to run. Fortunately, transmissions are generally checked every time your car is in for an oil change, and the technicians will let you know if you need a transmission flush.

13. Inspecting Your Suspension

Every 50,000 miles, you need to make sure your shocks and struts are getting checked out. They take a beating, especially when you live in the Upper Midwest and you’re coming out of winter before your state’s DOT has the chance to fix the more egregious potholes on I-94 coming out of St. Paul. Also, bring your car in for a suspension inspection if you lose a significant amount of smoothness or control in your drive.

14. Spark Plugs

Another occasional periodic replacement that still needs to be handled regularly, spark plugs will get weaker over time and need to be replaced. Have a professional check them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations or when you feel your power decline.

These are just a few of the important items needed to keep your car in working condition on the roads. Remember that your vehicle is important and that you’re not going to be doing very much if it’s in poor condition. Talk to an auto mechanic today to schedule your routine maintenance, and keep your car on the road.

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