Whether you are a first-time car owner, doing your own maintenance for the first time, or are a seasoned, multi-car maintenance DIY owner, there is always room for checklists. We use them consistently on cars which come into our shop, and so we know how helpful they can be. We also know that sometimes maintenance days are skipped because we all have busy lives, but this summer is the perfect time to begin a six-month maintenance checklist. We suggest starting the cycle in the summer, because it is easier to find and treat issues that may arise during your at-home inspection. And before the nasty weather hits in the fall and winter months, you’ll be prepared for break downs, issues that were put off, and you’ll have saved up some money to get your biggest issues repaired.
We’ve curated a check list for this summer, it is meant to be used in conjunction with what you know about your car. Obviously, if you know your passenger window won’t roll up, checking the passenger window for issues won’t help. However, what this check list should not be, is a replacement or guidance for DIY car repairs. Car repairs are delicate procedures, and they are best handled by the professionals (like us). This is because we are trained to see current issues as well as potential future problems. This sort of foresight is not usually available to the average person, so we suggest that if during your check list you see or find something problematic, you follow our steps and bring it into us at your earliest convenience.
We’ll need to use all of the information that we have at our disposal to identify issues with our cars. This means that we’ll be using a significant amount of our own bodily senses to tell that something has gone wrong. (Although maybe we won’t use taste, if we can help it.)
Smell, sight, hearing, and touch are the most important tools for your maintenance check list. It’s not enough to know that you should change your wind shield wipers, sometimes you need to see the unwiped water on the windshield for it to register that something is wrong. Likewise, it’s not enough to know that your engine is hot, but you should know that when you start to smell burning, there is an immediate issue. By using our own senses, in conjunction with our car and our knowledge about it, we can form important observations that could end up saving you and your car in a few months’ time.
To correctly utilize our check list, you must go through each step. Since this is a maintenance check, if you have recently had routine checks done (within the last two months or 2,000 miles), most likely that section of the check is fine—so you should have no problem getting those checks done quickly, not skipping them. It’s important that you do a full body check, because commonly when there is an issue in one part of the car, there are issues in other parts too.
When you run into something that shouldn’t be happening or is different than what you know should be happening, make sure to take note of it. Letting us know when you bring in the car will help us to diagnose issues and give you a faster, better experience. Some people keep detailed logs of the status of parts of their cars. During these six-month maintenances, they create detailed accounts of what they find. When these people then bring their cars into the shop, we have a full, detailed account of what has happened since we last saw them, and it helps give them a better service, and it helps us identify problems more quickly.
The Check List
Begin with the outside:
Inspect your tires. And we don’t mean look and see that they are there. We mean measuring the tread, checking for air pressure, and ensuring that you haven’t run over something bad—like a nail (the most common) or a broken bottle (less common).
Replace your wiper blades. Too many times people are satisfied with their current blades, simply because they don’t know what kind they need or where to get them. The reality is, using old or ineffective blades can make your car a hazard due to your inability to see. Change them out every six months and ensure you’re prepared.
Check your lights. Turn on the car and walk around it with the lights on. If one is out, at least you’ll know and can prepare for it.
Then, move under the hood while you’re out there:
Check your fluids:
- Wiper fluids
Test your car battery. Car batteries can usually last for a while, but when they die, it can ruin your day (or family weekend). Make sure to test your battery to ensure that you’re good until the winter check list.
Consider changing your oil. Changing your car’s oil is one of the most important things you can do on a regular schedule. Depending on your car and the oil it takes, this should happen every 5,000-7,000 miles or 15,000 miles. If you don’t know your oil type, you shouldn’t try to change it. Bring it in and we can guide you through the process.
Check for anything out of place within the engine. Sometimes things shift over time. Belts can split, hoses can burst and crack, or transmission parts can crack. Take your time inspecting the engine because this is the most intensive part of the maintenance. If you notice anything that seems suspect, let us know the next time you pull into the shop. It could mean the difference of saving your car or needing a new one.
Then, move inside:
Check your air conditioning and your heater. In the summer months, when heat can reach deadly heights, air conditioning is the biggest concern. This is the same in the cold months. Ensure that both aspects are working, because if they aren’t, you’ll be able to save up money to repair them before you need them.
Check if you have any service lights on or blinking. Service lights are how your car is able to speak to you (outside of letting issues occur and then leaving you to pick up the pieces like a broken marriage). So, ignoring the service lights are a bad thing, and letting them stay on until you get around to bringing the car in, is a bad idea. If you see any red lights on, get your car to us because something important is wrong.
If you find anything outside of the normal for your car, either write it down and remember to tell us on your next visit or bring in your car to us after making an appointment. You can make appointments with us by calling or scheduling one online. And in the meantime, if you want to read more about how we treat your Toyota, Lexus, or Scion, you’re more than welcome to explore our blog page.