10 important things you should check on your car regularly

Owning a vehicle extends beyond the initial price tag and it requires consistent care to make sure it is running safely. This is why it is important to routinely check on the essentials like the oil and tire pressure to avoid potential accidents or claim. 

On average, routine maintenance can cost between $500 and $1,000 per year. However, this amount varies based on factors like your car's make, model, local labor rates, and how often you maintain it.  

Read more: 10 winter car maintenance and driving tips

Certain components like brake pads or batteries wear out over time and need replacement. For example, the average annual cost for wear and tear repairs ranges from $500 to $1,500, depending on your vehicle’s age and overall condition.

If you find yourself consistently paying over $1,200 annually for maintenance over an extended period, it’s worth exploring the option of switching to a new vehicle.

However, if you’re paying less in maintenance and want to keep your current vehicle, here are the 10 things you need to check regularly to make sure it’s in good shape:  

1. The oil

Car oil keeps everything running smoothly, and your car can’t run without the right level of oil. You can check your oil level by simply pulling out the dipstick and seeing where the oil level is. Note the colour of the oil on the dipstick: is it black or gold? If it’s black, you should take your car in for an oil change.  

Regular oil changes, as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer or mechanic, are essential.  

2. The tire pressure

A tire pressure gauge is an affordable and easy-to-use tool that can prevent a flat tire. Be mindful that improperly inflated tires can cause blowouts while you’re driving and may lead to a collision. They can also leave you stranded on the side of the road, especially if you’re not subscribed to a roadside assistance program.

Additionally, the wrong level of inflation affects your fuel efficiency. It’s important to check your tire pressure regularly and be aware that the right tire pressure may change based on the outside temperature. Check with the tire manufacturer for the right pressure.

3. The brakes

Don’t wait for that screeching sound that tells you the brake pads are getting old. Having your brakes checked regularly by a professional keeps your car safe and on the road. If there is one thing on your vehicle you don’t want to take for granted, it’s the brakes.

4. The power steering fluid

Have you ever driven a car without power steering? It’s not fun. Plus, without the correct amount of fluid, your power steering could fail, making it harder to control your car. Like your oil, you can check and refill this one yourself, so make it a habit.

5. Wheel alignment

Is your car veering slightly to the left or right when you drive? That’s a clear sign you should get your vehicle’s wheel alignment checked. Getting your vehicle’s wheel alignment adjusted ensures your car will steer and react the way you want it to when you need to turn quickly.

6. The antifreeze or coolant

In Canadian winters, you will need enough antifreeze in your car to make sure it can run properly. Cold temperatures are hard on your car. On the reverse side of that coin, coolant is also an important fluid to check on your car.

Keeping your car running smoothly relies on the right levels of the fluids it needs. But be advised: you should never add coolant to a hot engine. Wait until the engine has cooled before attempting to add coolant to avoid the possibility of suffering burns or cracking the engine block.

Read more: 7 steps to winterizing your car

7. The tire treads

It’s not just the pressure in your tires that matters. Your tires’ treads help give you traction on the road, and they’re especially important in slippery conditions. This is why it’s essential to have your winter tires installed once temperatures drop. Winter tire tread patterns feature larger and deeper grooves, enhancing safety by providing improved brake control and better traction when driving in wintry conditions.

According to tire manufacturers, it is recommended to replace your tires when the tread depth reaches 1/8 inches during winter. If your tread wears down to this level, your tires are considered a safety risk.

Look for signs of wear on your tires and for any bulges or odd lumps that could indicate a problem. Low tread or bulges in the tires can cause slipping or a blowout on the road.

Read next: The truth about winter rims and tires

8. The air filter

A clogged air filter will cost you in fuel consumption, and it’s bad for the car as well. It costs very little to get it checked and replaced as needed, so make it a regular part of your car maintenance routine. Most places will check it for you, free of charge, when they change your oil.

9. The lights – all of them

Having any of the lights on your car not functioning properly is dangerous. Be sure to check your turn signals, brake lights, reverse lights, and your headlights regularly. While a burnt-out headlight is usually noticeable, you might overlook a burnt-out brake light or taillight. These components are vital to letting other drivers know what you are doing or about to do — and preventing collisions.  Remember that driving with malfunctioning lights could result in a traffic ticket.

If your car headlights are flickering, but everything seems fine with them, it might be your car battery that needs a check.  

Related: Dead battery? Here’s how to jump-start your vehicle

10. The transmission fluid

If your transmission seizes or fails, your vehicle won’t run, and it will result in an expensive repair. A transmission failure while driving is not something you ever want to experience. To ensure smooth gear changes, maintain the transmission fluid at the correct level (both too little and too much fluid can cause issues) and schedule periodic fluid changes.

On many vehicles, you can check the transmission fluid level by withdrawing its dipstick while the engine is running. Additionally, pay attention to the fluid’s color—it should be red. If it appears black, that indicates you may need a transmission flush and a fluid change.

If you keep your car in good condition, it will keep you safe and in control on the road. You’ll also maximize your investment in the vehicle over time. However, don’t limit your periodic checks to just the car’s functions. Consider comparing auto insurance quotes at InsuranceHotline.com to ensure you’re getting a great rate.  

(This article is updated from a previous version.)

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