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New Year’s Car Resolutions

Maintenance on a car should be routine, but it often isn’t. Here are the New Year’s resolutions that should be on your car maintenance list in 2022.

A New Start for Your Car Maintenance

Couple looking under the hood of their car
Couple looking under the hood of their car

We all have routine car maintenance that we don’t exactly maintain very routinely. I’ve let things slide beyond the recommended check points before. Life gets busy sometimes. My car starts each morning. What’s to worry about? Emergencies can always happen, but usually they don’t.

It’s faithful maintenance on a car that can help prevent a lot of those emergencies. That can be the key to a car continuing to work properly. A lot of this list is actually pretty simple. They’re easy tasks, but they’re also very easy to forget about. So, ask yourself this: as you head into 2022, are you doing all you can to keep your car running smooth and problem-free? If not, here are some 2022 New Year’s Car Resolutions.

Read Your Owner’s Manual

Mopar digital owner's manual - mopar.com
Mopar digital owner's manual - mopar.com

This is a simple thing that most people don’t do. I know I’m guilty of it. I’m not suggesting a cover-to-cover read on a Sunday afternoon over an adult beverage, but skimming through some of the main sections and looking at the index can at least give you an idea what topics are in the owner’s manual. When you see a symbol show up on your dashboard, you’ll be able to identify what it is. Is the tire symbol showing up because you need to reset the mileage tracker? Or is there a more serious issue to be looked at?

I actually recently ran into an issue where a passenger in my back seat couldn’t open the door because the child locks were on. I don’t know when the locks were even turned on, but they were. Thanks to the manual, I knew there was no button on the steering wheel or on the driver’s door control panel that would turn the locks off. The fix on my Nissan Rogue is tucked away on the rear driver’s side door. It’s a little black switch that can be flipped on and off. It took a few seconds of searching, but I at least had a general idea where that switch was located. A quick overview of your manual, even if you’ve read it before, can never hurt.

Perform or Schedule Regular Checkups

Mechanic speaking with customer
Mechanic speaking with customer

If you’re not an at-home fix-it kind of person, that’s ok. Just be sure to schedule appointments at your local shop. When you do schedule appointments, ask the technician about tire rotations. Like most of you, I’ve used all kinds of shops at different levels for checks and repairs. I haven’t always gone to one regular auto shop. The level of expertise is not equal at all service centers.

A good automotive specialist should be initiating conversations about wear and tear, giving you paperwork to indicate what they checked, and what items may be coming up for replacement. If they’re not doing that, though, take it upon yourself to ask those questions.

Check Your Tires

Man inflating tires
Man inflating tires

AAA recommends checking tires once a month. Though in a colder climate and with long driving distances, that inspection can be increased to once every two weeks. Most tires are good for between 25,000 and 50,000 miles, so they may not need to be changed. There are still normal wear and tear signs to look out for: poor alignment, worn out tread, and being under or overinflated. Poor alignment can cause one tire to wear faster than the rest. An underinflated tire can reduce tread life by about 25%.

To check the tread yourself, use a quarter. Place the quarter in the tread. If you can still see all of George Washington’s head, your tire is worn down and needs to be replaced. That’s a pretty easy at-home check for anyone to do. Once your tires hit the 50,000-mile mark, it’s recommended to get them checked every time you go in for regular service. Tire rotating, balancing, and alignment are other things to check when you bring your car in for service. If you’re not noticing any unusual pull from your vehicle, alignment can be done every 12,000 miles or so.

Check Your Fluids

Checking engine oil
Checking engine oil

Between engine oil, coolant, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, and brake fluid, there’s a lot of liquid in the engine compartment of a vehicle. Whether it’s dirty engine oil or low coolant levels causing issues, there are some indicators that it’s time to clean the fuel system: a loss in power, a delay when you press your foot down on the accelerator, or lower gas mileage.

Oil can usually last 5,000 to 7,000 miles, as we touched on in our Car Maintenance Questions Answered post. Many people can and do change oil themselves. Before changing your own oil, it’ll probably be useful to read our post, How To Change Your Oil Made Simple. Even if you’re not comfortable changing the oil in your vehicle, you can check it at home. Raise the hood, remove the dipstick from its tube, wipe it clean, put the dipstick back in, and then check the oil level using the markings on the dipstick.

Changing fluids can be a more involved process, but checking brake, power steering, and windshield washer fluids can also be done pretty easily at home. A good rule of thumb is to check those fluids once each month, making sure they are both clean and at the right levels.

Test Your Lights

Replacement headlight bulb
Replacement headlight bulb

Burned out lights could get you a traffic stop and ticket, but it could also cause an accident. It’s not always easy to tell when a light is burned out. After all, most people get into their vehicle, turn their car on, and drive to their destination. At very few points does a car driver see the front or back of their vehicle, taking note of whether taillights or headlights are shining at full capacity. If I’m in a secluded area, I’ll start my car and then get out to check all the lights. I try to do this once a month. The same thing goes for my hazard lights.

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Of course, it’s easier if there’s a significant other or family member who can help remember to check the lights. My car was in the shop a few weeks ago, so a family member picked me up from work. It was already dark, so it was easy for me to notice, as I was walking towards the car, that the front driver’s fog light was out. This was about a week after the lights on that vehicle were checked during an oil change. A second appointment was scheduled, and that light was fixed.

Replace Windshield Wipers

Checking windshield wiper
Checking windshield wiper

Windshield wipers should be replaced once or twice every year. I’m very guilty of not paying close enough attention to this. I save my receipts and put them in a folder dedicated to car maintenance, but remembering when I last changed my wipers isn’t always top of mind. Two weeks ago, during a large downpour, my wipers were leaving streaks on the windshield. Part of it may have been soap from a car wash that was stuck on the wiper blades. Or maybe the wash didn’t get all of the grime off. Chances are, though, they just need to be replaced because I know it’s been at least over 8 months since I changed them. Don’t be me. Don’t let your wipers go until you need them in the middle of a storm. When visibility is reduced to weather, good wipers are a much-needed tool to have in working condition.

Don’t Forget About Air Filters, Belts, and Hoses

Changing cabin air filter
Changing cabin air filter

Oil, windshield wiper fluid, lights, and tires aren’t always checked and changed, but they are higher on the list than other things. Air filters, belts, and hoses are some of the things that can be easy to overlook when going through a routine checkup. Belts and hoses usually last for a long time. They’re durable materials and items, but they do break down and, sometimes, without warning. A professional shop should be looking at these things during each oil change, so be sure that’s the case.

These things can be checked in your own garage, too. Belts can be inspected for glazing, which is when a serpentine belt is visibly shiny. The glazing is a result of being polished from slipping on the pulleys. Serpentine belts can also crack, chunk, and pill. Signs of a hose in need of repair include leaking coolant, repeated low coolant warning lights, holes, cracks, or soft spots on the hose. When it comes to filters, they may need replacing if there’s a strange smell coming from the air ducts, if you find yourself constantly sneezing, or if there’s a consistent layer of dust on it, even after cleaning.

Wash (and Wax) Your Car

Man washing his car
Man washing his car

Some people are so concerned with what’s going on under the hood that they forget about that protective layer of coating on the outside of the vehicle. The finish on a vehicle puts up with a lot of destructive elements throughout the year. Anyone who’s lived in snow country knows how easily ice melt and road salt will cling to a vehicle. Slush and dried-on mud do the same. Anyone who has lived in the South during the spring has probably walked out to a thick coat of pollen covering a car. Then there’s the tree sap that comes with parking in the shade.

Everyone would probably prefer to be driving around in a shiny, clean-looking 2022 Chevrolet Corvette, but keeping a car washed and clean is more important than cosmetics. If those abrasive elements are left uncleaned, they can cause damage to the paint and undercarriage. Rusting, pitting, fading can lower resale value and cause other headaches that aren’t worth dealing with, so take that extra five minutes to run your car through at least the quick wash every now and then. It’ll be five minutes well-spent in the long run. For a full list of items needed, and best washing practices, click on our Car Washing and Waxing guide.

Review Your Car Insurance & Warranty

Checking car insurance app
Checking car insurance app

This one definitely isn’t something that comes to mind when scheduling maintenance, but it’s not a bad habit to get into. Reviewing your warranty can ensure that you aren’t paying for repairs that would otherwise be covered. Taking a look at your current insurance policy isn’t bad either.

Car insurance can be confusing, so we dedicated an entire article, Car Insurance Explained, to explaining the different types of car insurance. Some people have car repair insurance, a specific insurance that pays to fix mechanical malfunctions after the original warranty is expired. If you have that, it’s good to know what your deductible is when making decisions on repair and replacements. Also, when that type of work is done, hang onto the receipts in case they’re needed later to clear up any confusion about what kind of work was done and what is covered.

Mark It Down

Creating a maintenance checklist
Creating a maintenance checklist

There’s a lot to keep track of during a regular day, from meeting deadlines at work to figuring out what to cook for supper to making sure bills are paid on time. There’s no need to rely on brain power, alone, when it comes to regular car maintenance.

Pick a method to help you remember what upcoming vehicle maintenance needs to be performed. Whether you take pen to paper, store the information in your cell phone, or reset the mileage tracker in your vehicle, be sure to mark it down somewhere so you don’t forget.

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Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson earned his journalism degree from South Dakota State University. No stranger to newsgathering and reporting, Jesse spent 13 years in TV news. 10 of those years were spent working in Charlotte, NC, home of NASCAR. A highlight of his time there was being able to take a lap around the Charlotte Motor Speedway. His interest in vehicles, starting with Matchbox cars, a Big Wheel, and the Transformers, evolved into taking photos of motocross events. Now, he puts his research skills to use on car culture, reviews, and comparisons.

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