Our cars are just like us—they have to be checked on regularly to stay healthy. And if you haven’t been maintaining a regular maintenance routine, there’s an easy solution—tune-up your vehicle every time the seasons change.
Here’s a list of things you should be checking at the beginning of every season, whether it’s in your home garage or with your local mechanic.
Need some pointers on DIY car maintenance? Check out our Night School series.
Note: Maintenance may vary for higher-mileage vehicles or vehicles driven in extreme temperatures.
- Monitor your fluids – For spring fluid maintenance, check the power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, windshield wiper fluid, and coolant. Top off anything that’s getting too low, and flush whatever systems are recommended by the manufacturer. And of course, make sure you’re not due for an oil change.
- Checks and balances – Check your tires to make sure they have enough air and enough tread (try the penny test). And be sure to check your lights (interior and exterior), battery, brakes, belts, and hoses.
- Replace your windshield wiper blades – Spring showers will bring heavy usage of your windshield wiper blades, so this time of year works well for an annual replacement.
- Replace your filters – Check your oil filter, engine air filter, cabin air filter, and fuel filter to make sure they’re all in good shape, and replace whatever needs it.
- Monitor your fluids – Check your power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, windshield wiper fluid, and coolant. Now’s a good time to look under the car to make sure there are no leaks, too.
- Checks and balances – First and foremost, check your tire pressure, as rising temperatures may affect your tire pressure and lead to flats or blowouts. Also check on your brakes, filters, hoses, and belts. (Your windshield wipers should be fine since you just replaced them.)
- Don’t forget your air conditioning – Nobody wants to be without AC once the heat sets in. Have a professional monitor your refrigerant levels and check for leaks.
- Change your oil – High temperatures, long road trips and towing loads can mean a hotter engine that asks more of your motor oil. Make sure you change your oil and oil filter regularly and consider upgrading to a synthetic for extra protection. Worried about switching from conventional to synthetic? Don't be.
- Monitor your fluids – Make sure all of your fluids are covered, including power steering fluid, transmission fluid, brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid, and coolant.
- Checks and balances – Check your HVAC system to make sure all components are running smoothly for changing temperatures. And check your battery, brakes, exhaust system, windshield wipers, lights, hoses, and belts.
- Inspect your steering and suspension – An annual check-in will serve you well when it comes to your shock absorbers, struts, chassis parts, and other related parts.
- Get a tune-up – It’s never a bad idea to get an annual tune-up, and fall’s a great time with winter weather coming up shortly. Let a professional look under the hood and make sure your year’s worth of maintenance has gone according to plan.
- Monitor your fluids – Always keep your gas tank at least half full, make sure you’re using the right coolant (to keep it from freezing), and for older vehicles, consider switching to a thinner viscosity of motor oil.
- Checks and balances – Make sure to check your tire pressure, battery life, breaks, windshield wipers, spark plugs, and lights to make sure they’re all performing smoothly and nothing needs to be replaced.
- Test your exhaust system – A leaky exhaust system can be especially dangerous during the winter, so now’s the time for an annual check-up.
- Pack an emergency kit – You’re more likely to get stuck somewhere in the winter, so make sure you’ve packed jumper cables, an ice scraper, a shovel, sand or kitty litter (for stuck tires), tire chains, a flashlight, extra windshield wiper fluid, and warm clothes like gloves, boots, and a blanket. It wouldn’t hurt to keep some snacks in the glove box too.
- Prior to using or installing any of these products always consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for compatibility and warranty information.
- Always take appropriate safety precautions when working on or operating your vehicle. Take the necessary steps to help prevent injuries; always use protective gear like helmets, safety goggles, and gloves.