car maintenance checklist the ultimate guide

Car Maintenance Checklist: The Ultimate Guide

Do you own a lovely nice car and want to keep it in top shape with a car maintenance checklist?

Are you ready to take the necessary steps towards maintaining your prized possession?

You are not alone!

Thousands of car owners struggle with keeping up the maintenance schedule for their car. It is best practice to document the process, so that you will remember what you’ve done and when it was done.

Every car is unique and will have its own peculiar maintenance requirements, even though there might be some generic maintenance method for all cars. With a quick peek into the car manual, you should be able to find the suitable method required for keeping your car in top shape.

Why should you maintain your car with the car maintenance checklist?

When you get tired of using a particular car with the hope of selling it to buy another one, you would have great value for it, if you keep up with maintenance.

Checking out the basic maintenance items in your car is quite easy and not too time consuming. Some items that you need to check include engine oil, tires and so on. But before you start any form of maintenance, it is good practice to read and understand the owner’s manual for all the information on maintenance and safety precautions.

The need for using a good car maintenance checklist cannot be over emphasized. According to British America Auto Care Inc.,  eleven people are injured every hour and one person dies every three hours due to accidents which could have been prevented if maintenance was done.

They also found that 85% of all vehicles needed some repair or maintenance; this fact was established during the Car Care Month Checks.

When do you carry out car maintenance?

Car maintenance scheduleCar maintenance is an ongoing process and there are certain items that require daily attention while other can be done monthly or even yearly.

The most important fact is to be able to understand each item and when it will be due for maintenance so that you can follow a car maintenance schedule. This car maintenance checklist will help you with the process of preventive maintenance and save you money in the long run that would have added to your car maintenance costs.



Daily car maintenance schedule

Although daily maintenance might not really be applicable here, we would replace it with daily checks. These are items you should check before taking out your car.

  • Test your break to see if the grip if fine
  • Check your brake lights o ask someone to take a look while you press the break to see if they are working
  • Inspect your tires for adequate pressure

Monthly car maintenance schedule includes:

  • Engine oil level: Add more oil if low and also check for leaks
  • Hose: These should be checked and replaced if bulgy, rotten or brittle
  • Tire pressure: Add air if pressure is low
  • Antifreeze or coolant: Add more if low
  • Air filter: Replace if dirty
  • Tires: Inspect for leaks, uneven wear bulges, and damages.

Car Maintenance Schedule: Every 3 Months

  • Oil and oil filter: should be changed after every 3,000 miles
  • Windshield washer fluid: Add fluid if low
  • Battery and Power steering fluid: Add fluid if low
  • Battery terminals and cables: Clean if corroded

Car Maintenance Schedule: Every 6 Months

  • Wiper blades: Replace if it is worn out smeary or brittle
  • Lights: Check headlights, brake lights as well as turn signals to ensure that they are working
  • Horn: Make sure your horn is working properly
  • Brakes: Inspect brakes for slippage, as well as wear and tear
  • Spare tire: Ensure that your spare tire is fully inflated
  • Exhaust: Inspect the exhaust system for lose parts, rust or damage
  • Shock absorbers: Check for wear and inspect for oil seepage

Yearly car maintenance schedule includes:

  • Cabin air filter: Inspect and change if necessary
  • Engine air filter: Inspect and change
  • Coolant: Flush the coolant
  • Steering and suspension: Inspect and make necessary changes
  • Hinges: Lubricate the doors and hood hinges

What do you check during car maintenance?

Owning a car does not automatically translate into knowing what to check during car maintenance schedules. A good understanding of the parts that need to be maintained is all you need. You can adopt the DIY approach or have an experienced hand help you out if you’re not too sure on what to do.

The following are items you need to check during routine maintenance with the car maintenance checklist:

  • The Engine Oil
  • The Engine Coolant
  • The Air Filter
  • The Automatic Transmission Fluid
  • The Battery
  • The Wipers
  • The Tires
  • Tire Rotation

How to carry out car maintenance

The first Step is to work with your schedule as earlier mentioned to determine what is due for maintenance. Use the car maintenance checklist to identify things to check.

Once you have identified the items due, then you should put them up in a list and itemize what needs to be done.

Let’s dive in to see how to carry out maintenance for each item.

The Engine oil

Engine oil check

You need to monitor and check your engine oil level regularly and this is the number one thing on our car maintenance checklist. A drop in the level should be replaced with a top up. Driving with low oil level can damage your engine. Here’s how to check your engine oil:

  • Park your vehicle at a level ground and set the parking brake. Allow the engine to cool down before you commence checking.
  • Pull out the engine oil dipstick. The user manual should guide you with regards to locating it if you cannot find its location.
  • Wipe off the dipstick and insert it back fully again.
  • Pull it out and check the level of the engine oil. Usually, the dipstick has two marks indicating “low” and “full”. The level of the engine oil should not be allowed to go lower than the “low” mark before topping up.
  • Next is to observe the color or the engine oil, it should not be too black. So if the level is OK but the color is black then it needs to be changed. But if it is not black but it is low, then a top up is all that is required.
  • Ensure that you use the right oil for your car. Refer to the user manual for your car to determine the best oil to use.
  • To top up, pour some oil into the engine oil tank and allow it to settle, then use the dipstick to check the level once again. You can add a bit more if it is still low, but be careful not to overfill. Close the lid when you are done.

The Engine Coolant 

Engine coolant

The location of the coolant can also be determined from the user manual

  • First, allow the engine to cool down before attempting to check the coolant. It is dangerous to open the cap when the engine is hot because the cooling system is under pressure.
  • There is usually a “low” and “full” mark on the body of the coolant tank. If the level is low then you should top up with the correct coolant. Always refer to your user manual for guidance.
  • If you notice yet another drop after topping up then you should check for leaks and have it fixed. Lack of coolant can cause your car to overheat and cause serious damage.

The Engine Air Filter  

Engine air filter

The engine air filter keeps the air that enters the engine clean. However, as time goes on, the filter gets dirty and this can resist the air flow, hence the need to change it regularly. It is recommended to have it replaced after every 12,000-15,000 miles or 20,000-24,000km.

  • Changing the air filter is often accompanied by an oil change. But if you want to replace it yourself you can do it easily using your user manual as a guide.
  • Ensure that the replacement is original and of high quality.

The Automatic Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid

The automatic transmission fluid controls the automatic transmission for engine power generation to the wheels. There are different ways of checking the automatic transmission fluid, depending on the type of car you have. A quick look into your user manual and you should be able to see a guide on how to go about it. The process involves

  • Warm up your car and park it on a level ground. Ensure that you set the parking brake and leave the engine running.
  • Locate the automatic transmission dipstick and pull it out.
  • Wipe off any fluid on it with a lint-free rag and re-insert it again. The transmission fluid is expected to expand when you have warmed the car.
  • Pull out the dipstick again and check to see if the fluid level is between the “hot” and “cool” mark.
  • Examine the fluid for a color change too. Normal fluid should look clean and clear. A transmission that looks dirty and accompanied by a burnt smell is a warning sign and should be changed.
  • Transmission fluids often have a red color and any color other than this indicates that you should change it. If the color is however not affected, but low, then you can top up the fluid to bring up the level.
  • Ensure that you use the correct fluid type for your car and get help if you are not sure.


Car battery

Car batteries can last for a long time and do not need to be changed too often. Battery maintenance includes:


  • Checking the terminals and ensuring that they are well fixed and tight.
  • Look out for corrosion at the terminals too and clean it off if there’s any, to avoids issues such as start-up failure.
  • There is usually an indication that is green which means the battery is OK but if it changes to yellow, then that is a sign for you to change your battery.

Windshield Wiper

Windshield wiper

Once you notice that your wipers are not cleaning the windshield properly then you should change them. Ideally, they should be changed once a year.

  • It might not be necessary to change the entire wipers, all that is need is to change the rubber refills and you’re good to go.
  • Also, check the water jets for the windshield to make sure that they are working properly.



Over time, the pressure in your tires might drop and would need to be pumped back to the recommended pressure. You can check your user manual for the recommended pressure for your car.

  • You can make use of hand-held pressure checkers for your tires. Always ensure that the tires are cool before you check. The pressure check should be carried out once a month.
  • Also, check the expiry date on the body of the tires and change them if they have expired.
  • Finally, check for tread wear and ensure that you change your tires at any sign of wear.
  • While in motion, if you feel any vibration then you should have your tires balanced. Uneven wear can be suggestive of alignment problems and should be fixed immediately.

Tire Rotation

This is the last thing on our car maintenance checklist. Let’s take a look at what you need to do here.

The tires located in the front often wear off in a pattern different from those at the back. Ensuring that you rotate your tires for even wear will protect them and make them last longer.

  • It is best practice to align the timing for tire rotation for when you change your oil change but some people might prefer doing it at different time intervals.

When you take care of little problems in your car and use your car maintenance checklist properly, you will save a lot more in the long run and also save cost that that would have been incurred from other corrective or replacement repairs.

Make it a habit, pay attention to your car and keep it in top shape at all times. After all, when you are ready to give it up for something higher, it will be in good shape with good value.




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