Self Improvement: Vehicle Maintenance Basics

Keeping a vehicle in good condition is key to ensure that you get to use your vehicle for longer. Additionally, it helps maintain your safety. Should you need to sell your vehicle at some point, the resale value will be higher if you have kept it in great shape. Beyond that, whether you are maintaining your own personal vehicle or are keeping up the maintenance on the boom truck rentals that your contracting business needed for that important contract, knowing the basics of vehicle maintenance is something that will help save you money and build your confidence.

In addition to washing and waxing the vehicle, here are a few things you should take note of during maintenance:

Oil Changes

Oil works as a lubricant, helps to cool the engine and prevents it from corroding. Changing the oil also helps to flush out dirt from the engine, thus prolonging its life.

To check oil levels, one needs to find the dipstick and wipe it off first before inserting it into the tube. There are levels indicated by marks on the dipstick. If upon removal the oil level is on, or below the “add” mark, one should add some oil until it gets to the “full” mark.

Other Vehicle Fluids

Apart from the oil, several fluids facilitate the proper functioning of vehicles. These include the brake fluid, transmission fluid, washer fluid, and coolant. It is important to ensure that these fluids are always sufficient. To check the transmission fluid, a person will still use the dipstick.

For the other fluids, one needs to inspect and see whether they fall below the line indicated in their different compartments. If they are below the recommended level, refill them immediately. Note that while inspecting the coolant, you should not remove the cap on the radiator- it is hot and may therefore scald you. Instead, use the transparent container that is close to the radiator.


Sometimes, people tend to ignore the batteries, especially if the manufacturer says they are maintenance-free. However, it is best to still keep an eye on them. Check if the terminals have some corrosion because if they do, they will not function efficiently. Additionally, look out for bulges and cracks on the battery and replace it if there are.

For terminals with corrosion, you can clean them fast using a wire brush and a solution of baking soda and water. Take care that you do not come into contact with the corrosion- gloves should help with this. Most importantly, make sure that the car engine is not running when you embark on cleaning the battery terminals.


To ensure vehicle tires stay in the best working conditions, check the pressure and the tread depth. Good tire pressure translates to fuel efficiency in addition to controlling wear and tear. Some vehicles have a pressure sensor to help with that. For those that don’t, a tire gauge will be perfect.

Worn-out treads are very unsafe, and they prevent the tire from functioning at optimum level. One of the most common methods of checking tread depth is the penny trick. One holds a penny with the head facing downwards and inserts it into the tread. If the head disappears completely, the tread depth is alright. If it disappears, slightly, the depth is still okay, but it won’t hurt to start shopping for new tires. If the head is completely visible, the treads are worn out so one should get new tires immediately.

Alternatively, one can purchase a tread depth gauge and use it to check. It is also important to rotate the tires often to ensure they wear out evenly.

Air Filters

The engine air filter regulates the air that flows into the engine and helps to keep out particles. As a result, it facilitates fuel efficiency, low emissions, and prolonged engine life. Check the air filters with every oil change, and replace them at least once or twice a year.

Spark Plugs

Spark plugs power up the engine and air mixture, thus powering up the whole vehicle. They help the vehicle maintain good mileage and high engine performance. 

Plugs that are in good condition should not have a black build-up. If you notice a build-up, clean them or get new ones. If you neglect the spark plugs, the vehicle will have issues with acceleration, starting the engine, and you may notice that it uses up too much fuel.


It is easy to tell when windshield wipers are in poor condition- they leave streaks while wiping. The only way to fix this is to replace them. The difference is that sometimes you may only need to replace the rubber, as opposed to replacing the whole wiper. Get a wiper that your vehicle supports, according to the user’s manual.


For a vehicle to function efficiently, there are various belts involved. For instance, the serpentine belts are mostly made of rubber and they aid the power steering, the A.C condenser, and the alternator. When the serpentine belts are in perfect condition, the engine will not overheat. On the other hand, the timing belts control the engine valves and facilitate the entry of fuel and air.

You need to check for fraying and loose tension and replace them immediately. If these belts are in poor condition, they will damage the engine terribly.


The vehicle brakes also have to be in perfect condition to facilitate the driver’s and other road users’ safety. Watch out for odd sounds from the brakes, and engage a professional to look at them and make a change.

Grinding signifies rust on the brake rotors that comes off when you start driving. To prevent this, park the vehicle indoors during wet seasons. Rattling implies that the motors are either warped or worn out. On the other hand, squealing shows that the brakes are worn out and are therefore rubbing against each other. If the sounds keep coming and going, the brakes are probably fading because of overheating.

Fix issues as soon as you spot them so that you won’t have to pay more for damages on more expensive items.

Wrapping Up

There are various maintenance tasks that one can easily carry out via the guidance of the user’s manual. So be sure to read through it thoroughly. All in all, it is best to schedule routine maintenance checks with your mechanic to be on the safe side.