Car maintenance is crucial for vehicle owners. Beyond keeping you safe, it improves your car’s reliability and performance, minimizes the chance of roadside emergencies and increases your vehicle’s resale value. Regular maintenance also prevents surprise repairs that can be very expensive so it’s important to know when maintenance should happen. This guide will explain why each piece is important to have some care and when it should happen, but be sure to consult your vehicle’s manual for its own unique schedule; each car is different, and their schedules may be different as well.
Car maintenance schedule
There are many components in your car that need frequent upkeep, and while it’s important to know which parts they are, you also need to know what parts should be tracked in a vehicle maintenance log. Some parts only need attention about once a year, while others you should check every month. We’ve split this checklist into common maintenance checks that should be done on a monthly, quarterly, annual and seasonal basis. Remember - if you’re doing any of the engine maintenance listed, for your own safety make sure your car isn’t running, or simply take it to a licensed mechanic you trust. Need help finding a place to service your vehicle? CARFAX Canada Car Care can help!
Here is a quick vehicle maintenance checklist that every car owner can follow:
- Monthly checkup
- 3-month checkup
- Yearly checkup
- Seasonal checkup
Monthly car maintenance checklist
Taking the time each month to do a quick service check of your car can save you money and headaches down the line as you can catch potential issues early.
Inspect your tires
It’s important to inspect your tires frequently. Driving with your tires at the incorrect pressure can cause problems with handling, which can result in difficulties turning or maintaining control of your car. So, it’s important to check your tire pressure monthly, as well as before long road trips or if you have heavy cargo. Don’t forget about doing the same inspection to your spare tire. Each car is different, so look at your car’s manual or research how much pressure your tires need. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to manually check your tire pressure.
While testing your tire pressure, look at your tire tread depth as well. Most new tires will include a tread wear indicator, but you can always do the toonie check. Slip a toonie into your treads – if the tread hits the bear’s paws, you are good to go. If the silver part of the toonie is covered by tread block, your tires are about half-worn, and if the tread barely hits the letters in “CANADA” or “DOLLARS,” it’s time to start tire shopping.
Learn more about your tire maintenance here.
Check all your lights
Often overlooked, your lights need monthly care. To do this, you might need a hand from a friend or family member to get the best results. Have them test the high beam, brake, back up and turn signal lights, then do a walk around of your car to see if all the other lights are working as they should.
Check oil and coolant levels
When your engine is cool, check under your hood for the levels of your coolant and oil. Engine problems could develop if you’re low on either of them, so a monthly inspection, or before you head on a road trip, can save you from problems in future.
Inspect your windshield
Especially in winter months, keeping a close eye on your wipers and washer fluid is important. Every month take a few moments to check the condition of your wiper blades. Look for cracks, splits or damage to each blade.
3-month car maintenance checklist
Seeing your service technician or inspecting your vehicle yourself quarterly will prevent damage that’s easily avoidable.
Get an oil change
Your engine oil does so much for your vehicle, so it’s important that you stay on top of the suggested maintenance schedule. Every three months, or roughly every 5,000 to 7,500 km, you should be changing your oil. There are different factors that can impact the frequency, like synthetic vs regular oil, but if you stick to every three months, your car will thank you.
When you replace your oil, you should also be replacing your oil filter. It protects your engine from dirt or other contaminants that could get into your oil and clog or damage your engine. Keeping it clean keeps your car running well.
Your belts and hoses don’t last forever, so periodically checking them can prevent issues in the future. For both, check for small holes, cracks or anything that looks like damage. If they have any, it might be time to replace them.
Check your car battery and cables
When doing your other 3-month checks, look at your battery and the cables that are connected to it; you may need to pull back a protective rubber casing to see where they connect. You’ll want to check that there isn’t any corrosion or that the cables aren’t starting to come loose.
Yearly car maintenance checklist
Annual check-ups, paired with your monthly and quarterly ones, keep your car running smoothly and safely for longer.
Change cabin and engine air filter
You don’t want to breathe in dirt and dust, and your engine doesn’t want to either! Changing your cabin and engine air filter will help your car perform better. A clean air filter helps your air conditioner run more efficiently, and a clean engine filter can keep your acceleration consistent and your engine performing at its best.
Your tires wear out over time, and you want to be sure that they wear out evenly. This can make them last longer, and even save you money in the long run. If the tread is wearing out unevenly it can cause the car to vibrate, which could lead to damage down the road.
Inspect your brakes
Take time to test your brakes. Turn off your radio and listen for any noises that might seem out of the ordinary when slowing to a stop. On top of that, clearing out the brake dust from your brakes can slow down how much your brake pads wear out from simply stopping.
Seasonal car maintenance checklist
When the weather is changing from warm to cold and vice-versa, some parts need attention to keep you safe on the road.
When the temperature drops below 7°C, it’s time to swap your summer or all-season tires for your winter tires. Having seasonal tires is not only a way to increase your own safety, but it increases the lifespan of both sets of tires. When you swap the tires, rotate them as well!
Canadian winters are hard on wiper blades, and the hot summer sun isn’t much better. A good rule of thumb is to consider replacing your wipers roughly when you’d be swapping your tires. This way you’ll have good visibility year-round without streaks on your windshield.
Top up washer fluid
Heading out on a road trip in the winter? The salt on the roads can create a mess on your windshield, and you don’t want to be stuck on a highway with no washer fluid. Stock up on it at the start of the season and top it up regularly so that you’re not forced pull over and clear it with your sleeve.
Taking the time to care for your car and finding a service shop that you trust to help with your routine car maintenance can prevent future headaches and expensive surprises. Stay on top of your maintenance schedule, get service reminders and open recall alerts with CARFAX Canada Car Care!