Our modern cars are more reliable than ever, but there are still many things that we need to monitor to ensure they stay that way. Here is a general automotive repair checklist for maintaining our cars in top condition. Always refer to the owner's manual for specific procedures and their vehicle repair checklist.

Every drive, take quick walk around the car and look at the following:

  • Make sure the tires appear properly inflated.
  • Look for any damaged, loose, or missing body work.
  • Look under the car for any obvious fluid leaks, particularly under the engine, transmission, fuel tank, and rear axle (if applicable).
  • Examine the windshield for any cracks or large pits.
  • Check that the headlights are not damaged.
  • During winter, remove all snow and ice from the windshield, all windows, headlights, tail lights, and license plates.
  • Check the oil level, add oil if necessary.
  • Examine the coolant (anti-freeze) level and add if necessary.
  • Check the engine belts for looseness, fraying, or other damage.
  • Inspect the engine hoses for leaks, cracks, or softness.
  • Measure the tire pressures with a reliable, accurate tire pressure gauge.
  • Examine the tire tread and sidewalls for damage and wear.
  • Check the transmission fluid level and condition, if possible. Some newer imports do not have any means to do this.
  • Look under the car for leaks.
  • Check the exhaust system for any damage or loose parts.
  • Look at the windshield wipers blades for any damage and see that the wipers operate properly.
  • Ensure the horn works.
  • Examine the headlights, taillights, and turn signals for damage and proper operation.
  • Make sure the exterior and interior rearview mirrors are in good condition and aligned properly.
  • Top off the windshield washer fluid.
  • Ensure the power steering fluid is full and in good shape.

Every Six Months:

  • Have the engine oil and oil filter changed (every 3,000 miles).
  • Rotate the tires for even wear.
  • Inspect the battery for leaks and clean the battery's terminals and main wires.
  • Have the front, and if required, the rear suspensions inspected and aligned.
  • Check the brake fluid level and condition, add fluid if required.
  • Inspect the clutch fluid level and condition if the car has a manual transmission, and add fluid if necessary.
  • Have the brakes inspected.
  • Examine the spare tire. Make sure it is properly secured and inflated. If the spare is an uninflated "space saver" type, make sure the inflation kit is in good condition and works properly. Also ensure the emergency jack and kit work and are secure.

Once a year:

  • Perform a tune up per manufacturer recommendations.
  • Have the air conditioning and heater inspected and serviced if necessary.
  • Change the transmission fluid and filter, and flush the transmission if the vehicle has been used for towing or in a manner that the manufacturer deems "heavy duty."
  • Install new windshield wiper blades.

Every three to five years:

  • Replace the battery.
  • Replace the engine belts.
  • Replace the timing belt, if applicable.
  • Replace the fuel filter.
  • Flush the engine cooling system.
  • Test the electrical system.