Severe Driving: 5 Things To Check When You Change Your Oil

Sep 21, 2017

Are you providing the proper maintenance for your car, and on a regular basis?

Changing your oil isn’t just about protecting your engine, it’s also a good excuse to get under the hood and check things out - to make sure everything is in working order. And that needs to happen more than once a year. Check out this checklist of things to look for the next time you change your oil.

 [Note: For the best maintenance schedule for your vehicle, consult the owner’s manual.]

01. Fluids

Oil isn’t the only precious liquid that keeps your car running; think radiator, transmission, power steering, and brakes. All these fluids are essential to keeping your vehicle running smoothly. And while windshield washer fluid is more nice-to-have than need-to-have, you should still check the level on a regular basis.

How do I know if I need more? Whether it's on the dipstick or a line on the reservoir, each fluid system will have a means of measuring levels and a clearly indicated minimum.

02. Belts & Hoses

While you won’t need to replace belts as often as you change your oil, your serpentine belt, v-belt, and timing belt (where applicable) are worth a once-over every time you're under the hood. And when it comes to hoses, even the tiniest cracks can lead to leaks or bursts. Look for wetness under/around fluid systems that might indicate a leak. Do a close visual inspection and if there are several cracks, kinks, bulges, or bubbles in your hoses, replace them before they cause any issues.

How do I know if there's an issue? Squealing or other unusual noises coming from under the hood may indicate belt issues. And while some visible wear and tear is normal, several cracks, missing chunks, or missing grooves are an indicator that it’s time to replace.

03. Headlights/Taillights

There are lots of different types of headlights and taillights for your vehicle—halogen, laser, HID, LED, you name it. Needless to say, the lifespan of your headlights and taillights depends on what kind you have, the kind of vehicle you drive and how much you drive it.

The bottom line, though, is that you definitely don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you’ve got one (or both) lights out.

How do I know it’s time? The easy answer is that a headlight or taillight is out, but it's better to be proactive. Check for flickering or dimness - both signs that a light is nearing the end of its lifespan. And if the turn signal has become solid or is blinking very fast, it’s likely time for a new bulb or to check for blown fuses. 

04. Tires

Where the rubber meets the  road is a saying for a reason. Take good care of your tires, which includes routine inspection and maintenance, and a quality set will take better care of you. Check your tire pressure often, at least every month. And rotate your tires on the schedule the manufacturer recommends.

The key here is to take a look at your tires when doing other vehicle maintenance, like an oil change. You may discover uneven wear, which could mean your vehicle is out of alignment. You may notice a nail or other issue that can (and should) be addressed before it turns into a flat or blow-out.

Any tricks of the trade? Two classic tire hacks: the penny trick will let you know if the tread on your tires is worn down and the soapy water trick can help you find slow leaks.

05. Tune-Up

If you’re the type to change your own oil—and perform other regular maintenance on your car—we salute you. But the average DIYer doesn't always have the equipment or space to do all the inspection and maintenance needed. Find a mechanic you trust and make them a part of your long-term vehicle maintenance. They can prove invaluable when bigger repairs are needed and just an annual tune-up by a professional can be worth the price in peace of mind.

How do I know when to turn to a pro? If you’re unsure, it's time. If you know it’s been a long time since you’ve done heavy maintenance to your vehicle, it never hurts to consult a professional.

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Tags: DIY