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Vehicle Maintenance Checklist

Keeping your car running in tip-top shape requires regular maintenance. Some of these services require a certified mechanic; however, to handle many essential maintenance tasks, you don't need a mechanic. Often, just knowing what needs to be done (and when) is the biggest obstacle. Your owner's manual will have a scheduled list of maintenance tasks necessary to keep your vehicle running its best.

In addition to having your car run well for you, a well-maintained vehicle also carries a higher resale value. And while maintenance tasks can cost you some money, it's usually pennies compared to dollars on what car repairs will cost versus poorly-maintained vehicles.

As mentioned, your owner's manual will have a maintenance schedule specific to your vehicle. Here we have assembled an easy-to-read vehicle maintenance checklist that will link to your vehicle's maintenance schedule.

Regular Checkups

These are vehicle maintenance checkups that should occur pretty regularly.

Oil and Antifreeze Levels

About once a month, or before long trips, you should check the levels of both your oil and your antifreeze/coolant. Remember, you will want to check your coolant levels in the overflow canister with the engine cool to avoid getting burned. Your oil level, on the other hand, should be checked after the engine has been running for 10 minutes or longer. Also, check under your vehicle for any spots of oil or antifreeze.

Oil and Oil Filter Change

The importance of your motor oil cannot be overstated. It lubricates engine components, helps to seal against road debris, helps keep the engine cool, and helps prevent corrosion. Clean motor oil is essential for keeping your vehicle operating in peak condition today and in the future. The rule of thumb for oil changes was 2,000 miles but was changed to three months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first. Newer vehicles, however, often require less frequent oil changes. It usually falls somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 miles, depending on the type of oil used. If you are unsure as to which rate applies to your vehicle, check your owner's manual.

Air Filter

The air filter is important because it regulates airflow into your engine, filtering out debris that could cause decreased performance. When your engine's air filter is clean, proper airflow can improve your engine's fuel efficiency, decrease emissions and increase your engine life. The location of the air filter can vary by make and model, so refer to your owner's manual to find where yours is located.

Tire Pressure and Tread

In addition to providing a smoother ride with greater fuel efficiency, properly inflated tires can also be a matter of safety. Test your tire pressure about once a month, before long trips or if you visually notice any of them looking low. Check the spare, too! You don't want to wait until you need the spare tire to discover it needs air. A simple tire pressure gauge, which you can get from any auto parts store and most gas stations, is all you need to check your tire pressure. In winter, the cold weather will affect your tire pressure. A good rule of thumb is that, for every 10-degree drop, you will lose one pound of air pressure in your tires. So, a sudden cold snap could really change your tire pressure. To know what your tire pressure should be, refer to your owner's manual or driver's door post. To ensure you have a safe level of tread on your tires, try the penny method.

Tire Rotation and Balance

There are a number of different factors that can have an effect on your tire tread wear patterns, such as mileage and alignment. In fact, for this reason, your tread wear could be different from side to side or front to back. When you rotate and balance your tires regularly, you help to ensure more even wear across all tires. This can extend the life of your tires and help to prevent road noise and vibration.

Lights and Turn Signals

Properly functioning lights aren't just an issue of convenience. They are also a safety issue and should be checked about once a month. To do so, find a flat surface and turn on your lights. Then walk around your vehicle to ensure they are working properly. Don't forget those turn signals. For brake lights, you'll need a friend, so one of you can depress the brake pedal, and the other can check to make sure the lights are working properly. Brake controller lights are of critical importance because you can't see if they are working properly while you are driving. That alone is a good reason to check them monthly.

Waxing Your Vehicle

If you wax your vehicle about every six months after washing, you can keep the finish looking good and help reduce the deterioration of the paint. The wax forms a shiny seal on your car that can also help protect it against road grit, salt, sand, and even UV light that can really do a number on your vehicle's finish.

Semi-Regular Checkups

These are vehicle maintenance checkups that should occur semi-regularly. Some checkups on your vehicle can include valve stem caps, wheel lock key, and brake controller. Below are some other things to take a look at semi-regularly.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid is similar to motor oil in that it keeps the moving parts lubricated. Transmission fluid, however, is designed specifically for your vehicle's transmission components. It doesn't matter if your vehicle uses a manual or automatic transmission; clean transmission fluid is essential to preventing damage to your transmission. And, in case you hadn't heard, transmission repairs are notoriously costly. Refer to your vehicle manufacturer's recommendation for transmission fluid and filter changes.

Transfer Case Fluid

Your vehicle's transfer case is where power is transferred from the transmission to the axles. It doesn't matter if your vehicle is 4WD or AWD, have your transfer case fluid checked at intervals recommended in your owner's manual. To check the transfer case fluid, you'll need to get under your vehicle. For that reason, we recommend you have this done by your local, trusted mechanic.


Your vehicle's differentials split the power from the engine and make that power available to the tires. If your vehicle is 2WD, it will have just one differential. If your vehicle is 4WD or AWD, there will be both front and rear differentials. As with the other moving parts of your vehicle, lubrication in the differential(s) is essential for optimum performance. You should have your differentials checked by a professional in accordance with the recommendation in your owner's manual or if they show oil seepage.

Shocks and Struts

Your vehicle's shocks and struts help to control impact, cushion, and control your ride as your vehicle drives over bumps and potholes. For that reason, it is also an integral component of your vehicle's steering system. You should have your shocks and struts looked at by a professional about every 45,000-50,000 miles. If you start to notice problems that could be related to your shocks and/or struts, you should have them checked sooner rather than later.

Engine Coolant / Antifreeze Flush

When a vehicle starts to overheat, it opens the possibility for many different complications to ensue. When your coolant system (e.g., radiator, etc.) is flushed regularly, it removes contaminants that accrue over time and ensures that you have the right amount of coolant in the system. Your owner's manual will have recommendations regarding how often you should have your coolant flushed.

Serpentine Belt

It's just one strip of rubber, but your serpentine belt is absolutely critical to keep your engine running. It powers key components, such as your vehicle's air conditioner compressor, power steering pump, and alternator. A visual inspection of the serpentine belt should include looking for cracks and any other wear that looks like it could compromise performance. If you notice damage, have it replaced. Your owner's manual will also have replacement interval recommendations.

Spark Plugs

Your engine needs three key elements to run properly: gas, air, and spark. It's the spark that ignites the gas and air mixture. If your spark plugs are getting a little long in the tooth, they can lead to a loss of engine power and fuel efficiency. You'll want a professional to inspect and replace your spark plugs. You should have your spark plugs checked based upon your manufacturer's recommendations or if you feel a noticeable decrease in overall engine power.

Seasonal Checkups

Depending upon your regular driving conditions and even seasonal weather, your vehicle's service needs can vary. Here are a handful of additional suggestions to jot down in the notes section of your owner's manual.

Windshield Wipers

Visibility is a safety issue. That's why you should replace your windshield wipers once a year or even more frequently if you notice a decrease in their performance. In cold weather environments (e.g., winter), you should also consider switching to winter wiper blades, as they are designed specifically for ice and snow conditions. Tip: When parking your vehicle during winter weather conditions, pull the wipers off your windshield to prevent damage that can come from ice accumulation.


Extreme cold and extreme heat can both do a real number on your battery, which is a problem because it is a vital starting component. Your vehicle's battery sends electrical current to the starter, the engine, and other vehicle accessories that require electricity. Regular testing of your battery, particularly during intense weather conditions, will ensure you have the performance you need when you need it.

Coolant Levels

Cold weather can cause some engine components to freeze if your vehicle doesn't have enough antifreeze or the right mix. In general, a 50/50 mix of antifreeze is the rule of thumb, but you'll want to check your owner's manual or with a local mechanic to ensure you have the mix right for your conditions.

Changing Tires

In climates that see extended periods of cold, snowy, icy conditions, it's not a bad idea to switch to snow tires for the season. Beyond having tread patterns optimized for winter weather, snow tires also contain compounds that won't harden up in prolonged cold weather. This means better handling, traction, and braking in slippery conditions. To help keep you and your vehicle out of harm's way, consider snow tires and the benefits they provide in snow, slush, sleet, ice, and any combination of those conditions. All-season tires are a good alternative for drivers who want to avoid seasonal tire changes.

In Conclusion

Following a vehicle maintenance schedule can keep your vehicle performing its best and increase its resale value. In addition to standard maintenance, you should also keep an eye on seasonal requirements related to your environment.

If you are interested in the benefits a vehicle service warranty can provide, you can also call Zeigler Auto Group at 269.685.3557, and one of our Mopar Vehicle Protection Plan representatives will be happy to assist you.


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