It’s the beginning of the new year — a time for fresh starts and new projects. People are planning their New Year’s Resolutions from spending more time with family to joining the local gym. We all have ways in which we want to improve our lives in the upcoming year. As we look to better our lives and those around us, there is one thing that we often take for granted and may not be thinking about — our vehicle.
Our cars are a part of our family; trusty and true for years on end as we drive to school, work, vacation, soccer fields, and countless trips to shopping centers and grocery stores. Unfortunately, they need a lot of maintenance to run smoothly. If your car made it through a tumultuous 2016, here are some important annual car maintenance tasks to think about for 2017.
6 Car Resolutions for the New Year
As you sit down to come up with your own personal resolutions, we offer 6 New Year’s Resolutions for your vehicle below. We want your life’s path to be smooth in 2017. A car owner with a smooth ride will provide just that.
1. Check and Change Your Oil
Part of maintaining a healthy vehicle is making sure it is properly lubricated. Get routine oil changes (or change your oil yourself) and check oil levels frequently (every month). Changing oil regularly is vital; otherwise you’re risking permanent damage to your vehicle.
Make 2017 the year you make the habit of checking your oil level frequently. While some people may recommend checking your oil every time you refill the gas tank, once a month will do the trick. Set a reminder on your phone so you never forget this important car maintenance task.
If you’re not sure what it means to “regularly maintain” your vehicle’s oil level, check your owner’s manual. Typically, you should change your oil levels every 5,000 miles or so, but you want to check the level much more frequently. If you don’t remember the last time you had your oil changed, it’s time to learn how to change your oil and filter. You can also bring the car in to a mechanic and they will do it for around $50-$100.
Checking your oil level, however, is much easier and only takes a few minutes.
Materials: paper towel or rag and sufficient light
- After the engine has turned off, wait at least 5 minutes.
- Make sure you are on a level surface.
- Look for your car’s oil dipstick undernearth the hood of the car. It usually says oil or displays an oil can icon.
- Pull out the dipstick and wipe it clean with a rag or paper towel.
- Put the dipstick all the way back in.
- Pull the dipstick back out and inspect it without turning it upside down. You should have two markers (lines or holes) near the bottom of the dipstick. If the oily part ends below the bottom marker, you need more oil. Never add more than a quart of oil at a time before rechecking the oil level. Too much motor oil is bad for the vehicle. If the oil level is between the two markers, you are good to go.
Congratulations, you learned a new life skill. Easy, wasn’t it?
2. Learn How to Change a Tire
Every car owner should make the resolution to learn how to change his or her own vehicle’s tire. Sure, calling roadside assistance is great, but what if you don’t have AAA, cell service, or your membership expired? There might always come a time when you need to know this important skill.
Ask family members to join you for the lesson, especially if you have a new driver in the family. Together you will all enter 2017 with a new skill and a safer ride.
Materials: lug wrench, spare tire, and car jack.
- Make sure your car is in a safe area, on a flat surface.
- Remove the hubcap and get the spare tire out.
- Loosen the lug nuts with a lug wrench (just a little bit). Use the star pattern as indicated in the illustrated guide below.
- Reference your owner’s manual for the correct location to place the jack.
- Raise the jack and make sure it has securely contacted the car’s frame.
- Crank up the jack until the wheel is high enough to remove the tire.
- Use the lug wrench to remove the lug nuts (you may be able to do this by hand). Make sure the lug nuts are in a secure place.
- Remove the flat tire and place it flat on the ground.
- Line up the spare tire with the wheel studs and put the lug nuts back into place with your hand. When you can’t turn the nuts or bolts any further, lower the jack until the wheel is on the ground.
- Finish tightening the lug nuts with your wrench using the star pattern below.
- Remember, a spare tire is only a temporary fix and should never be driven at high speeds. Get your tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible!
Use this illustrated guide from the Art of Manliness and the following video from AAA for a visual demonstration:
For wheels with 5 lug nuts, use this pattern:
If you just have 4 nuts, use this one:
Source: Art of Manliness
3. Take Care of Your Tires
It is very obvious when you have a flat tire. But it could be less obvious when your tires are low, worn, or ready to be replaced. When your tire is underinflated, your gas mileage goes down and your risk for a flat goes up. When the tire is overinflated, you run the risk of a dangerous blow-out. It’s time to use your tire gauge and find out how much air you need to put back in.
Stick-type tire gauges are the most unreliable so we recommend spending a little bit more for a digital or dial-type gauge. You can get these at your local auto-parts store or online. Refer to your owner’s manual for the proper tire pressure. This is usually between 30 and 35 PSI.
Gas stations as well as local tire stores will usually fill up your tires for free. All you to do is take the time to notice.
Here are some signs that your tires need to be replaced:
- If the tread depth is lower than 1/16 inch (1.6 millimeters), they are considered to be “legally” worn out.
- Use a tread depth indicator purchased from your auto-parts store or online.
- Use the penny test. Take a penny and insert the top part of Lincoln’s head (head down) into one of the tire treads. If you can see his entire head, it’s time to replace your tire immediately. If only a small part of his head is cut off, consider a replacement soon. If his entire forehead is covered, you’re good to go. Use the penny test on a few areas of each tire to get a more accurate reading.
If there is uneven wear on your tires, it may be time for a tire rotation, wheel alignment, or both. This is when you should probably have your car serviced by a professional.
In addition to making sure your tires are safe and inflated properly, you want to remember to rotate your tires every 5,000-10,000 miles or so (check your owner’s manual for a more accurate rotation schedule). Since your tires wear unevenly, rotating your tires can help ensure a longer lifespan for each tire. Regular tire rotations also provide a smoother and safer ride. While it is possible to rotate your tires yourself, it may be easier to ask your mechanic to do it for you.
4. Drive Safely
Do NOT text while driving! This is extremely careless. If you must use your phone on the road, use a hands-free device and don’t take any calls during hazardous driving conditions. Don’t write down notes or look up things on your phone while driving. If you must place a call, do so at a red light, stop sign, or parking space.
Deaths from car accidents are often the most preventable – remember how important it is to all parties on the road to stay vigilant and focused. Everyone wants to get home safely. Vow to drive safer this New Year.
5. Learn How to Jump-Start a Vehicle
Are you the person who sees someone stranded on the side of the road and drives by hoping that a more capable person with the correct tools can come to the rescue? Even though jumpstarting a dead battery is very easy to do, too many people rely on AAA or a generous driver to come to the rescue.
Everybody should know how to jumpstart a dead battery. Not only can you save your own hide, but you can also come to the rescue for someone else.
To prevent being stranded on the side of the road or looking a fool when someone asks for your help, a good car resolution is to learn how to jumpstart a car.
Be extra careful and make sure the jumper cables are connected to the right areas! There is a risk of electrocution. Red = positive. Black = negative.
Use this illustrated guide and video from the Art of Manliness for a visual demonstration:
6. Check Fluids & Follow Maintenance Schedule
Professional maintenance is necessary to keep your car running properly all year. This includes fluid checks and changes, tire rotations, and general inspections.
Check your owner’s manual for a recommended maintenance schedule. If you lost yours, Google it.
By regularly checking your car’s fluid levels and replacing them as necessary, you can ward off most car repairs.
Motor Oil: check monthly.
Transmission Fluid: check monthly.
Coolant (Antifreeze): check twice a year.
Brake Fluid: check every time you change your oil.
Power Steering Fluid: check monthly.
Windshield Wiper Fluid: check monthly.
Set calendar reminders on your phone and make notes of levels. Replacement schedules vary by car, so double check your owner’s manual rather than relying on what your mechanic has to say.
As an added resolution to the New Year, once you’ve mastered the mechanical and essential, attempting to keep your car clean is the cherry on top. Don’t use your car as a trashcan and keep your car clean from salt, grease, grime, acid rain, sap, dead bugs, and other things that can eat away at your paint and damage your vehicle. This will help you a lot if you ever decide to sell your car.
If you’re looking to buy or sell a used car, come on over to Auto Simple!
Happy New Year!
Auto Simple wants you to find a car you love at a price you can afford. We carry a large selection of hand-picked, Certified Pre-Owned vehicles, all of which come with a 6 month/6,000-mile powertrain warranty.
With locations in Cleveland, Chattanooga, Dayton, and a new store in Dalton, GA, we make it easy to walk away with your dream car.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to speak with one of our Online Specialists or give us a call:
Chattanooga, TN – (423) 551-3600
Cleveland, TN – (423) 476-4600
Dayton, TN – (423) 775-4600
Dalton, GA – (706) 217-2277