Regular Car Maintenance: What Should Be Checked During Each Visit

February 3rd, 2016 by


Bringing your vehicle to car maintenance shops for the regular service checks is extremely important. It might not be as necessary for that ’97 Jeep you see sitting in someones yard, but for a new car it’s just as important as filling up at the gas station. Why? Simply put; your car is new. Therefore, the parts aren’t comfortably worn like the ones in an older vehicle. Think of it like a child: checking on your new-born baby is a regular occurrence, it’s just something you have to do in order to keep it healthy and safe. But for a kid that’s 18, even though mothers out there feel like it’s still necessary, it isn’t required to keep them healthy or safe.

The same goes for cars, and your new car is in it’s infant stage. You are both still figuring each other out, and even though there are still some things you can check on your own, there are some things that you can’t. Here’s a list of what should be checked at your regular service intervals; so you know your new-born is being properly cared for. Keeping it properly cared for over the years will be returned in kind; and you will be rewarded with a vehicle that will get you reliably down the road for a long time.

What You Can Check Regularly

Before we get into what should be checked at each service interval, it’s important to note there are some things you can check regularly yourself. Paying attention to these aspects of your vehicle by checking them regularly will make your life easier when taking it to the shop for it’s regularly scheduled service; and will also help identify any serious issues early on so they can be taken care of swiftly.

Dashboard Indicator Lights

The check engine light is a more well-known one, and it can indicate a whole slew of problems. Even more so now with all the electrical components in newer cars, and unless you have a computer to figure out the code (and a way to read the code), which identifies the issue, then it’s best to take it promptly to a shop.

The oil light is another one, and indicates if there is low oil. Not only does it indicate low oil, but pay attention to how frequently it comes on. If you just added a quart of oil a week ago and the light pops on, chances are you have an oil leak in the system.

Your battery light is also located in the instrument cluster, and can indicate if you have a battery with a low charge, or if something is wrong with the battery. It might not be able to hold a charge for whatever reason, and that means you need to get a new one right away.

Regularly checking to make sure none of these lights are on is a great way to find out if there is a problem that could get perpetually worsen as time goes on; and gives you the chance to take care of it quickly.

Other Important Parts to Check

Regularly check your headlights, brake-lights, back-up lights, and blinkers. All of these are needed to pass an inspection, and they are also there to keep you safe. It’s also important to check your tires; make sure they have enough pressure and aren’t cracking/leaking. Constantly check your windshield washer fluid, seeing as you use this a lot, and if you check it often you will always have a way to get unwanted debris off your windshield.

Finally, check your engine oil. This is something they do at your regular service intervals, but it’s important to check it yourself. As the parts on a vehicle get older, they wear-down, which means problems can arise. An oil leak is one of the more serious problems, and needs to be identified and taken care of right away; and your engine needs the right amount of oil to run properly.

2 Types of Service Checks

Before we get into what to expect at your regular service intervals, it’s important to know that there are two types: interim and full. The interim service happens every 6 months or 6,000 miles, and the full service happens every 12 months or 12,000 miles.

Some of the parts on your vehicle that get checked/serviced for the interim service are also checked during the full service, but the full service adds aspects that need to be checked less-often than the interim service.

Interim Service: What Should Be Checked Every Time

The intent of the interim service is to check things that are meant to keep your car in good working condition; which means engine oil is on top of that list. The engine oil and oil filter should be checked and replaced if necessary, because oil is the most important fluid in your car. Without it, the engine couldn’t work properly. Other fluids that are checked also include the brake fluid, anti-freeze coolant, windshield-washer fluid, and power steering fluid. These are all fluids that see a lot of use when the vehicle is running, so it only makes sense they should be checked frequently.

Lights, windshield wipers, the battery, charging system, and exhaust system are also all checked as well. Without a properly working exhaust or charging system, your vehicle might run funny; or not run at all. Also, without working headlights, tail lights, and blinkers your vehicle might not pass inspection.

Finally, the tire tread and pressure should be looked at, along with a full brake check, steering check, shock absorbers check, and suspension check. The suspension and shocks are the platform on which your vehicle rides, and take a lot of abuse going over rougher roads or potholes. If either of these aren’t checked during each visit, then you might have a suspension system/shocks that are wearing down to nothing; and you won’t know it until it’s too late.

The full brake and steering check is vital for your safety, and even though you can typically tell when your brakes or steering aren’t working properly, it’s still necessary they are checked each visit to work out any minor issues that could create larger problems later down the road.

Full Service: What Should Be Checked Every Time

The full service, which happens every 12 months or 12,000 miles, should check on everything that the interim service checks on, along with checking on a few more parts of your vehicle.

The auxiliary drive belt needs to be checked, because if a problem with the belt gets overlooked the engine could seize up, which might cause a life-threatening situation. The wheel alignment needs to be checked, along with the wheel bearings and balance. The alignment and balance of your wheels are crucial to your fuel-efficiency, and if they aren’t properly positioned the engine needs to work harder to push the car down the road. Plus, it makes for an unpleasant driving experience.

The brake fluid is checked again, but this time it’s checked for quality. This is to make sure there isn’t an issue with your fluid, and it’s in the proper working condition. For diesel vehicles the fuel filter should be checked, and for gasoline cars the spark should be checked. Both of which are vital to the respective engines health and performance.

Finally, the air filter needs to be checked. The air filter is key in making sure airborne impurities aren’t being sucked into the engine. These impurities could disrupt the engines combustion process, and therefore it’s vital that it gets checked and cleaned/replaced (if necessary) every 12 months or 12,000 miles. 

Why These Checks Are Necessary

Don’t blow off these regular service checks, not only might it void the warranty on some new cars, but it will also cause the vehicle to wear-out much faster. The interim and full service checks are there to keep your vehicle healthy and running properly, and even though you can check some of these parts out yourself; you aren’t as trained or qualified as the technicians in the service department.

You might think your belt is fine, but before you know it you are on the highway and your engine is seizing up because the pulley came loose; and you didn’t know that was possible. Plus, checking everything yourself every half a year to a year is a big chunk of time out of your weekend, and it’s much easier for you to just bring your vehicle in for a service check.