These maintenance tips keep your car in shape while saving you money

Routine maintenance is an essential part of car ownership. Solving minor problems before they become major ones will save you a lot of time in the long run. Even more important, a well-maintained car is safer.

If your vehicle falls under a recall, it’s a good idea to get it repaired as soon as possible. Some of these problems could make your car dangerous to drive. A whopping 50 million vehicles on the road have open recalls. Tap or click here to find out if your car is subject to a recall and receive email notifications of future recalls.

Most routine maintenance can be done at home with just a few tools. Just because the steps are easy doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Here are five ways to keep your car running in top condition all year long.

1. Check your tire pressure

Your tires are the only contact between your car and the road. When road conditions are less than ideal, your car’s “shoes” are your first and last barrier. A four-wheel drive system helps in inclement weather, but this feature is only as good as its tires.

Your tires work best when they’re properly inflated and able to do the job they were designed to do. Regularly checking tire pressure levels affects the following:

  • Tire traction between your vehicle and the road.
  • Traction, in turn, affects stopping distance.
  • Shock absorption and comfort.
  • General handling, including curves and turns.
  • Fuel Efficiency: You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3% with proper tire pressure, depending on the Department of Energy.
  • Tread wear and tire life.

How do you know how much air your tires need? It is easy! Check your owner’s manual or the label affixed to the driver’s side door edge of your car for proper tire pressure levels. Use a reliable gauge and pump to inflate or deflate each tire as needed. Do this when the car has been idling and the tires are cold, or you will get inaccurate readings.

It’s a good idea to check your tire pressure once a month, even if your car is equipped with tire pressure sensors.

Digital tire gauges are generally cheap, durable, and easy to use. You can get easy-to-read accurate readings in small increments. Keep one handy in your glove box at all times. We like this one from AstroAI, which has high ratings and over 50,000 reviews:

Buy a new car? Tap or click here to see the best tech options worth paying for

2. Check the tread depth of your tires

Do you see a pattern here? We cannot stress how important tires are to your overall safety. The tire tread refers to the tire rubber that touches the road and is known as the contact patch. As you drive, the tread wears down, affecting stopping distance, grip, and vehicle control.

Your tire’s tread depth should be at least 2/32 of an inch deep. There are a couple of quick ways to check tire tread depth:

  • Tread wear indicators, or wear bars, can be found in the main tread grooves of the tire. When you see that they are flush with the tread level, you should replace the tire.
  • Insert an upside down quarter into the grooves at multiple points on your tires. That tire needs to be replaced if you see the top of George Washington’s head.

You should check the tread depth of your tires once a month. A tire depth gauge will give you an accurate reading every time you use it. This one from Godeson is color coded for easy and accurate readings:

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3. Check your wiper blades

Your wiper blades stand up to any combination of heat, ice, dirt, dust, bird droppings and dead bugs to keep your windshield clean and clear. Not to mention they progressively wear down each time you run them.

Take a drive in the rain or pour water on the windshield and run the windshield wipers. Check for uneven performance on both blades. Don’t forget the rear windshield wiper if your vehicle is equipped with one.

Windshield wiper blades break down and are easily replaced. Your vehicle manual should tell you what size wiper blades you need. There may be different size requirements for the driver and passenger sides, so read carefully before replacing blades.

You can go to rainx.com/blade-size-finder and enter the year, make and model of your vehicle at the top of the page to get a list of the correct sizes and options for your car. Rain-X is a popular choice for wiper blades and their Latitude series has nearly 100,000 reviews on Amazon (make sure you choose the correct size from the drop down menu):

4. Check your fluid levels

Open the hood of your vehicle and you will see plastic tanks with brightly colored lids. These contain various fluids that are easy to monitor and maintain. You can visually measure the levels by looking at the lines printed on the side of the tanks.

Let’s take a look at one of the most common fluids: refrigerant. This word speaks for itself. A typical premixed engine coolant contains antifreeze and water, which prevents overheating and freezing. It also lubricates moving parts like the water pump.

You should top off your coolant whenever the fluid level is below the guide marks. Check it at least once a month or every time you open the hood. Check your owner’s manual for the proper type of coolant.

Zerex Dex-Cool exceeds industry standards for resistance to freezing and heat (go here to find the right Zerex coolant for your car):

5. In case of emergency

Even the best maintained vehicles can break down and it is better to be safe than sorry. Keep blankets, towels, non-perishable food, and water bottles in the car. A small first aid kit can be stored anywhere.

Flashlights, maps, basic repair tools, cell phone chargers, and warning devices like flares or reflective emergency markers are good for year-round preparedness.

A flat car battery means you’re not going anywhere. And a dead phone battery means you can’t even call for help. One tool to do everything can help with both.

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Protect your car all year

Computer systems in cars are the new normal. When something breaks, it can cost a fortune. And now is not the time for expensive repairs. That’s where our sponsor, Car Shieldcomes in.

You could save thousands on covered repairs. CarShield offers flexible, customizable payment plans with no long-term contracts; plus, you can choose your favorite mechanic or dealership to do the job. They also offer 24/7 roadside assistance and a rental car while yours is repaired.

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We may receive a commission when you buy through our links, but our reports and recommendations are always independent and objective.

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