We’re not saying there won’t be a few bumps in the road this year, but a few annual checks can make for a smoother ride. Take the start of 2019 to check in with your car and make sure it’s prepared for the road ahead. We’ve talked before about the important of checking your oil, tire tread and air pressure, but we've interviewed Kristin Cline of Grease Girl to learn some additional regular maintenance issues you’ll want to tick off your list. We are all about avoiding unnecessary auto repair bills, and many of these tasks you can easily remedy yourself by buying the parts needed online.
The best place to start is with your owner’s manual which should contain a detailed maintenance schedule inside. We also like apps like Road Trip and Car Minder Plus to keep track of our mileage, maintenance and schedule reminders.
Even if you're just learning a bit more about your car so that your mechanic doesn't pull a fast one on you or you want to get your hands greasy and do it yourself, these tips will set you in the right direction.
What are the annual car maintenance checks you recommend? We know tire pressure, tread and oil are more routine, but in terms of the big once a year checks, what should drivers look for?
If you’re getting your car serviced at its prescribed regular intervals—things like regular oil
changes and major milestone tune-ups—the one thing I’d add to do yearly (if not twice yearly)
would be to fully detail your car. It’s something that many people don’t consider as “car
maintenance” but will actually go a long way in preserving your car’s resale value, not to
Fully detailing your car can be done by anyone willing to put some elbow grease into it, including washing, clay barring and protecting it with either a wax or newer spray-on ceramic coatings that last a little longer. Taking your car to a professional detailer’s, if you’d rather pay then sweat, means you can also add buffing to that list, which will minimize small scratches and
help to bring back a new mirror-like finish. Whether you live in LA or NY, detailing your car will
not only make it look good but goes a long way in helping to protect your car’s paint and
exterior from the elements—be that sun or snow!
What preventative measures can a driver take to hopefully avoid any big ticket
repairs down the road?
The single most important preventative maintenance you can do for your vehicle is regular oil
changes. And, if you’re taking your car to a decent mechanic, oil changes will also include basic
inspections that will catch other issues before they become a problem. If tire rotations and
brake pad checks aren’t also done during oil changes, these are other items that can save you
big money on things that wear out over time.
Regularly looking at tire wear can help you identify if your suspension is off, which will cause
undue wear on your tires. Catching this early, by noticing uneven tire wear across the treads,
will enable you to get the suspension fixed—therefore making your tires last as long as possible
and saving you mucho dinero. Looking at your tires monthly is a good idea, however, I like to
just take a lap around my vehicle every few gas fill-ups so I don’t forget.
Another wear-able part on your car to keep on top of is the brakes. Recognizing when your brakes aren’t working, and having the repair done sooner rather than later, will save you money in the long run. Any of the following are all indications that something is up with your brakes:
Car pulls to one side when braking
Making a noise when braking
Not braking as good normal
Often, it will be that you’ve just got worn-out brake pads. Letting this issue go long before
getting fixed causes other brake parts (like rotors) to wear out and need replaced also—which
ends up being a much more costly repair than just replacing brake pads.
How to make your money go the distance: we know that safety comes first, so what
repairs/parts are worth paying more money for, and where are places to save a little
Knowing when you have to replace something or pay for a repair is more of an issue-by-issue
sort of a question. If your car is broken, it’s broken—and that is sometimes unavoidable.
Knowing what repairs can slide and what can’t is a question that you should be able to talk with
your mechanic about. If you’re concerned about a noise or some other thing that your car is
doing—a good mechanic should take the time and explain what can wait (and for how long) and
what can actually cause more damage if you let it go. They should also be able to give you
different options for replacement parts at times. Many parts will have “premium” replacements
as well as more economy options. For some things, premium can just be a waste of money but
for others they may last longer or be needed for a more performance-oriented car. Again, a
good mechanic should take the time and be willing to talk over your options with you.
Mechanic v.s. Do it Yourself: for the car repair novice, what tasks are relatively easy
vs. what’s worth taking to a professional?
#1 Change your windshield wipers. There’s nothing worse than windshield wipers that only leave streaky windows you can’t see out of! As a wear-able part that takes zero tools and is easy to find at an auto parts store, replacing windshield wipers is an easy thing you can replace on your own while saving a few bucks in the process.
#2 Air filters is another consumable that is easy to replace. And, many cars may have multiple air filters—one for the engine and another for the cabin. These are generally very easy to get to and all it takes is buying the new part and changing the two.
When it gets to things like changing your oil or replacing your brake pads, more care needs to be taken before tackling them. With the right tools and knowledge, these are very simple jobs.But to the person who doesn’t have the correct equipment or knowledge, it can be unsafe and unrecommended to do on your own. Not only does tooling up with proper equipment take some investment (for example a car jack and pair of jack stands are going to cost you a minimum $100 up front) but doing the job incorrectly can be a major safety issue and/or cause catastrophic failure in one of your car’s systems. Having someone who knows what they’re doing walk you through something like this until you’re 100% confident doing it on your own is a good idea if you actually DO want to get your hands dirty and start doing more work on your car.
What must-have items should every driver have in their trunk (jumper cables? stuff
Knowing what to keep in your trunk all depends on the sort of car you have and what you do
with it. If you’re a single gal without kids who drives a car that doesn’t even have a spare tire
and never leaves the city, you can keep a couple minimal things—however, if you’re a mom
that drives around kids and may go on long road trips, your trunk toolkit should be quite a bit
As my daily-driver is of the former example, I drive around with only a multi- tool (i.e. super
army knife that has screwdriver/knife/little scissors), a few zip ties, a few-foot worth of wire, a bottle of fix-a-flat and jumper cables in my trunk. Jumper cables are both to help someone else in need as well as cover my own ass in the event of my battery taking a crap… because, hey, not that many people carry them around anymore. But they’re like 25 bucks and are going to be worth more than that in karma points if you carry them around all your life.
In my ’55 Studebaker that I may take cross-country I keep much more of a toolkit in. I keep a full-size tool box with wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, a ratchet and sockets in. I also keep plenty of trusty zip-ties, wire and duct tape (which can solve a multitude of issues!) I keep some spare fuses, a flashlight, some rags and an old rug in case I have to lay on the ground fixing something. I keep a wheel lug nut wrench and a small jack as well as extra fluids like oil, brake fluid and radiator fluid. I also keep things I might need if I’m stranded—like a sweatshirt, flashlight and some water.
Many modern cars come with a little kit of everything you might need to change a tire, but I’d
at least add a multi-tool, some zip ties, wire and a rag to that list. These are things that can be
helpful in a number of different scenarios. If kids were transported in the car, I’d be sure to add
a light, some sort of emergency flare, some blankets, water and food to my trunk kit as well.
What advice would you give to a driver who is somewhat nervous about popping the
hood for the first time and getting their hands dirty?
The only thing that’s going to get you past your car-fear is to get in there and do it! Getting more familiar with your car isn’t going to do anything but make you more confident–whether you keep learning to work on it yourself or keep taking it to a mechanic.
When I bought my classic car, I had never so much as changed a tire in my 26-years of life. Since then, I’ve learned to do almost everything on a car and have had so much fun doing it! I learned one thing at a time, starting with simple things like car vocabulary and the basics of how things worked. On my modern daily driver car, I choose not to do all the work myself—but I get a lot more respect from mechanics when I show them I know a couple of things!
A good place to start, whether you want to turn it into a hobby or just be more empowered, is to spend a few hours with your car’s manual, identifying the different parts under the hood. Find all of the serviceable areas—things like where fluid goes, what fluid is it and how can you check to see if it’s at the correct level. Learn how different systems of your car work—how does an engine run, what’s the difference between a V8 and Inline-4, how do brake systems work, what’s fuel injection, what does a transmission do? Answering all these questions will empower you with a lot of knowledge to not only understand the car that you likely spend so much time with and money on, but make you feel more confident when communicating with a mechanic and making wise car decisions.
Thank you so much Kristin!! Here’s to many safe miles on the road as you speed through 2019!
Interview and photos courtesy of Grease Girl.
Inspiring the world, one grease monkey at a time, to get in the garage and get greasy! Grease Girl is a place to learn, share and delve into the hot rodding lifestyle.
Whether it’s a specific garage DIY you’re looking for or just want to dive into the journey of a fellow car loving gal, Grease Girl is the place. Enjoy learning and laughing along with the adventures you find on Grease Girl…and then go out and create your own!