How To do a Car Maintenance Inspection

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Keep Your Car in Top Shape
Whether you own a new car or have a used vehicle, your automobile requires ongoing service and maintenance to keep everything working properly. No matter if your service is part of your new car warranty or if you are footing the bill for such maintenance, ASE-certified technicians put your car through a schedule of preventative maintenance when your car is in their work bay. Ever wonder what they are looking for under the car and under the hood?
Here's a list of everything that should be covered when your car, truck, or SUV gets a complete maintenance inspection. This is all covered in your vehicle's Owner's Manual and auto dealerships make sure that all of the following items are checked every time you stop in for an oil change. Of course, you can check these things yourself and it is good to get to know your car, how it operates, and what it needs to give you many worry-free miles on the road.

Required Maintenance

Most cars today have a Maintenance Required dash light that comes on every 3,000 miles to remind you to get an oil change. Interestingly, the average modern vehicle only really needs the engine oil and oil filter to be changed every 5,000 miles. That's because engine oil lasts a lot longer than it did 20 years ago. Quick change oil businesses and car dealerships place a small sticker in the upper corner of the driver's side inside the windshield to remind you when the vehicle was serviced, when it will need to return for the next service, and the odometer reading of when the car will need another oil change.
While your engine oil and filter are being replaced, the technician will inspect the vehicle inside and out, looking for burned out lights, worn windshield wipers, cracked and worn belts, loss of various fluids, tires and brakes that are wearing thin, and so forth. The entire process takes about a half hour. If any issues are discovered during the inspection, the technician will explain them to you and let you know what it will cost to replace worn or defective items.
Inspection Checklist
Here is a checklist of everything the technician is looking for during the maintenance inspection process:

Preventative Maintenance Tips

All the items in this article should be checked as listed in your Owner's Manual to insure proper performance and maximum life of your vehicle. Higher mileage cars begin to use more oil. Check your oil dipstick every month and add oil if necessary. Always check your engine oil and coolant level when the engine is cool.
It's important to check your car's air filter every time you change the engine oil. Look it up in your Owner's Manual to see how to open the filter housing. The air filter must be kept clean and clear of any debris as it regulates the air that flows into the engine. These filters are inexpensive and easy to change for do it yourselfers.
  • Check all the lights on your car once a month. Nobody likes to get pulled over by the police for a brake light that is out. Make sure your headlights, including high beams, work properly and are positioned correctly. Check the turn signals and all running lights. It is easiest if a friend can help you by walking around the car while you operate the various lights. If you are alone, drive the car to a building that has windows that allow you to see your car in the reflection of glass. It's an easy way to check your brake lights in the rearview mirror.
  • Inspect your tires often. Look for uneven tire wear (a sign that you need a wheel alignment). Purchase a tire gauge, check your tire pressure monthly and before long trips. Low tire pressure uses up more fuel and the tires will wear out quicker. In winter months, remember that your tire pressure drops one pound per square inch for every ten degrees the temperature drops. Your tires are one of the most important safety devices on your vehicle, keep them in good shape. Another way to ensure the health of your tires is to have the tires rotated periodically. Depending on your vehicle's alignment, tires can wear in particular patterns that reduce their functionality. Rotating the tires will help them to last longer and balance the tread-wear.
  • Changing your engine oil frequently is the number one way to assure your engine will last for the long haul. Fresh oil cleans the engine, prevents corrosion, cools the engine, reduces wear, and lubricates all the moving parts. Check your Owner's Manual for the proper viscosity and weight of engine oil to use and how often you should change the oil and filter.
  • Even though some vehicles have transmissions that are "sealed" and require little service, check with an ASE-certified technician and your Owner's Manual to find out when your transmission fluid should be changed. The engine and transmission in your car are the two most expensive items to replace. Take care of them. By the same token, have your engine coolant checked and have the system flushed as suggested by your car's maintenance schedule. This will make sure there are no contaminants in the system and will keep your engine functioning properly.
  • Have the front or rear differential serviced and lubricated as recommended. The same is true for all-wheel drive vehicles that have a transfer case that shifts power to the proper axles. Have a trained technician check the transfer case fluid as recommended by the automaker to make sure it is filled properly and that it is sealed and free of leaks. Have your shocks and struts inspected every 50,000 miles to make sure your suspension system is operating properly.
  • Spark plug technology has improved by leaps and bounds in the last ten years. The spark plugs on your new car could last anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 miles before they need to be replaced. When the plugs start to malfunction, your car will lose power and performance. Follow the manufacturer's recommendation and have the plugs replaced by a factory-trained technician.

Let Lithia Help
With over 75 years of experience in maintaining and servicing all makes and models of vehicles from coast-to-coast, let Lithia Motors ASE-trained professionals keep your car, truck, or SUV in top shape for many miles to come. You'll find a service location near your right here.