9 Common Car Maintenance Mistakes Drivers Make

Casey Wagner
December 4, 2020

When your vehicle is working as expected and gets you from place to place, it can be easy to take it for granted. However, cars are complex machines with all sorts of moving parts that need to be maintained. It’s better to be proactive with maintenance than it is to wait until something goes wrong.

There are several problems that arise from ignoring maintenance or performing improper maintenance. Improper maintenance can decrease the longevity and performance of your vehicle. Minor problems that could have easily been fixed can turn into major issues that require extensive and costly repairs. We have compiled nine of the most common maintenance mistakes that car owners make so you can avoid making them yourself.

Regularly Check Your Vehicle’s Fluid Level

This is probably the most common mistake that car owners make because it is hard to know when fluid levels are getting into dangerous territory without taking a peek under the hood. Mechanics frequently see vehicles with low coolant or engine oil so low that it does not register on the dipstick. This can lead to major engine damage, so it is important to keep a regular maintenance schedule. A good rule of thumb is to have your fluid levels checked every six months or after 5,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Check Your Tire Pressure

If you start to “feel the road” a bit more than you used to or every bump becomes a bit more pronounced while you’re driving, you may want to check your tire pressure. Even if it looks like your tires are properly inflated, they may still be low on air. Maintaining proper tire pressure increases the fuel efficiency of your car, which can save you lots of money over time. The weather also has a big effect on your tires, so as you move into colder or hotter weather, check to make sure the tire pressure matches what is stated on the tire.

Don’t Ignore the Check Engine Light

The Check Engine light exists to let us know there is a problem that needs to be addressed, and yet people frequently ignore it. If the light comes on and nothing feels wrong, you may figure that everything is fine and can push it off. The problem is that people push it off longer and longer until the warning of a problem becomes an actual problem. When that dashboard light first comes on, it is smart to have it checked as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the higher the costs could be for repairs.

Have Your Brakes Inspected

The squealing sounds that come from worn down brakes can be annoying, but if you don’t actually feel any difference in braking speed, it can be easy to brush it off. However, if your brakes have reached the point of squealing when you apply pressure, it is time to have them replaced. Bad brakes are one of the most dangerous problems a car can have, and you risk putting yourself and other drivers in danger. As soon as you hear an unusual sound or feel the brakes being less responsive, it’s time to bring your car in for replacement brake pads.

Get Your Tires Rotated and a Wheel Alignment

Tires are pretty tough, but they are still subject to a lot of wear and tear with everyday use. One thing many car owners may not realize is that the position of their tires affects the amount of wear they receive. In order to make sure that your tires age evenly, it is important to have them rotated regularly. In general, getting your tires rotated at the same time you get your oil changed is a good idea.

Misaligned wheels can and will result in real issues. There is only one way to be positive that your tires are properly aligned, and that is to have your vehicle's alignment checked at an experienced auto mechanic. This can typically be done every other oil change/tire rotation.

Don’t Attempt a Jump Start if You Don’t Know How

Just because you have a set of jumper cables in your trunk, doesn’t mean you actually have the knowledge to use them when you need them. Everyone has to learn sometime, but if you’ve never done it before, make sure to have someone with experience show you the correct procedure. Incorrectly using the jumper cables can lead to significant damage to your car.

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Change Your Windshield Wipers

Like most other parts on a car, the windshield wipers will degrade over time. As soon as you notice that your windshield wipers are no longer clearing your windshield properly, it’s time to have them replaced. Damaged wipers can greatly reduce visibility in rain and snow which can cause accidents. It’s less costly to have a functioning windshield wiper than the cost of repairs after an accident.

Use Your Car Regularly

For people who use their car every day, this won’t be a problem. However, there are many people who have cars but can go weeks without using them. A car that sits in your garage or driveway and sees no use can develop misshapen tires or the battery can die. One of the worst scenarios is that small animals can start living in the hood of your car and chew up the wiring. Even if you don’t need to use it regularly, start it up once a week and run it for 15 minutes or so and make sure to drive it around at least once a month.

Avoid Servicing Your Own Vehicle if You Don’t Know How

It can be tempting to take a DIY approach to fixing things, and in general this can save you some money by avoiding service costs. However, cars are filled with complex parts that can be easily overlooked or installed incorrectly by inexperienced users. You can end up causing larger problems if you try to perform maintenance on your own. It is always a good idea to have an experienced mechanic perform repairs on your vehicle.

Author Bio: Casey Wagner is a copywriter for Bradley’s Auto Service in Red Bank, NJ. Bradley’s is known for fast, friendly service and expertise, as well as staying ahead of the latest trends in auto repair technology. Their services include oil changes, wheel alignment, custom exhausts, emissions repair, NJ star car inspections, and more.

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