10 Important Things You Should Check on Your Car Regularly

A person checking the oil dipstick of their car's engine.

Owning a vehicle is not cheap. Looking beyond the price tag on any new or used car to what’s required to keep your vehicle operating safely may make your eyes pop out.

Despite that, it appears Canadians deemed having a car to be essential during the pandemic. In fact, car sales increased by 25% in the first seven months of the year.

According to a 2019 Angus Reid poll, 78% of Canadians say they cannot live without a car even though 45% think the cost of owning one is too high. And they’re not wrong. A 2018 Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) poll found the cost of owning and operating a compact gas-powered car is $3,300 per year.

What’s more, fuel tends to be the costliest annual expense for drivers, at an average of $1,500 for a compact vehicle, the CAA notes. Also, routine scheduled maintenance costs — oil changes, replacing air filters — can range from $500 to $700 a year. This doesn’t include the cost of replacing old tires or purchasing winter tires.

Vehicles require consistent care. Not only is it necessary with respect to your finances; it’s crucial for your safety, too, as some maintenance issues can result in an accident or injuries if you choose to ignore them.

Take the time to make sure these 10 things on your vehicle are checked regularly and in good shape to avoid a potential collision or claim:

1. The oil

The oil in your car 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. On that note, get oil changes on a regular basis as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer or mechanic.

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.

7. The tire treads

It’s not just the pressure in your tires that matters. Your tires depend on the tread to give you traction on the road, and it’s especially important in slippery conditions. Look for signs of wear on your tires and also look 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.

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 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. Make sure that the transmission fluid is always at the right level (too little or too much fluid can result in problems) and is changed periodically to make sure your car can change gears smoothly.

On many vehicles, you can check your transmission fluid level by withdrawing its dipstick while the engine is running. In addition to the fluid level, check the colour; it should be red. If it’s black, that indicates you may need a transmission flush and the fluid changed.

10. 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 of course, your headlights on a regular basis. Although you are likely to catch a headlight that is out, you may not notice a burnt-out brake light or taillight. These things are vital to letting other drivers know what you are doing or about to do — and preventing collisions. You could also get a ticket if any of the lights on your vehicle are not operating properly.

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. Make sure the functions of your car aren't the only thing you check periodically. Compare auto insurance quotes at InsuranceHotline.com to ensure you’re getting a great rate.

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