Cars Simplified: Everything Automotive Explained

101 Car Care Tips

Motor vehicles are complex machines with a lot of parts that need different types of care. Having a list of 101 things to do may seem intimidating, but it isn't a weekly checklist. Some of these can be done every oil change, while others may only need to be done once or twice a year, or only as conditions require.

If you don't neglect your car and keep this list in mind, you can get far more years out of your vehicle than you otherwise would have. If you are not sure what something is, the link text will lead you to a page to learn more about it, or you can use the search bar at the bottom of the page!

  1. Regularly change your PCV valve.
  2. Clean carbon built-up off of the throttle body.
  3. Spray a quality penetrating lubricant on moving mechanical (not drive by wire) throttle body parts.
  4. Apply grease to any available chassis grease fittings.
  5. Check sway bar bushings and links for dried out/damaged rubber.
  6. Replace a standard oil drain plug with a magnet-tipped version.
  7. Switch to synthetic oil instead of conventional.
  8. Use a fine micron level oil filter to reduce oil contaminant levels.
  9. Always change your oil filter when you change your oil.
  10. Confirm that the fluid containment caps seal tightly.
  11. Check the antifreeze in your radiator for metal shavings.
  12. Examine the radiator for fin damage and blockages, and clean off any debris.
  13. Inspect the radiator hoses for soft spots, hardening, cuts, and weak clamps.
  14. Fill the coolant reservior with the appropriate coolant between the minimum and maximum lines.
  15. Check your wiper blades for damage/dryness.
  16. Inspect the wiper arms for strong return pressure and a sturdy pivot point.
  17. Lift wipers off of the windshield to prevent them from sticking in snow.
  18. Confirm that all side windows move up and down smoothly.
  19. Always keep your windows clean.
  20. Top off your windsheild washer fluid.
  21. Check side window weather stripping for cracks/damage.
  22. Inspect your tire tread for abnormal wear.
  23. Clean the door hinge area.
  24. Replace any loose/heavily rusted door hinge components.
  25. Apply grease to any door hinge components.
  26. Check your brakes for wear, damage, and leaks.
  27. Inspect your brake rotors for wear and clean them.
  28. Spray brake parts cleaner on dirty brake components to extend their life and improve function.
  29. Make sure the proper amount of brake fluid in your brake reservoir.
  30. Check the underbody for rust or bare metal.
  31. Locate and examine suspension busings (such as the ones on the control arms) for dry rotting, tearing, and damage.
  32. Make sure both headlights work and their lenses are clean.
  33. Inspect the outside of the engine for broken hoses.
  34. Check around gasket points for oil leaks.
  35. Examine both sides of the serpentine belt, looking for signs of wear or damage.
  36. Visually inspect wiring for damage and proper insulation.
  37. Check each spark plug for damage, oil, and even wear between plugs.
  38. Make sure the spark plug wires are properly attached, if your vehicle has them.
  39. Inspect the ignition coil(s)/distributor cap for damage.
  40. Check for steering problems by lifting a wheel off the ground and shaking it.
  41. On level ground, confirm that the left side wheels have as much gap to the body as the right side.
  42. Wash & wax the vehicle to reduce drag and extend paint life.
  43. Seal up rust spots with touch-up paint or nail polish before the spot grows.
  44. Use clear RTV silicone to make body points water resistant.
  45. Apply rigid RTV between rattling trim pieces to quiet them.
  46. Make sure the side mirrors are not jammed and adjust them for your driving position.
  47. Clean under the seats to allow smooth seat adjustment.
  48. Remove any loose debris from the pedals and steering wheel.
  49. Clean dirt out of seat corners to extend seat material life.
  50. Turn off and unplug everything electrical every time you park the vehicle.
  51. Inspect battery cables for corrosion and damage.
  52. Replace the battery in your vehicle's remote once a year.
  53. Check your air filter and replace with a high quality replacement if needed.
  54. Inspect your cabin air filter and replace if dirty/clogged.
  55. On four wheel drive vehicles, check the transfer case fluid level and condition.
  56. If applicable, check the differential(s) fluid level and condition.
  57. Examine any shaft joints (U-joint or CV axle, checking for looseness, wear, missing components, and apply grease if possible.
  58. Make sure the manual transmission gear oil is in good condition, at the right level, and doesn't have metal shavings in it.
  59. Check your ATF for dark color and small metal shavings.
  60. With good lighting, visually inspect under the front of the car for oil pan and other leaks.
  61. Use engine degreaser to keep the engine block clean, which in turn keeps it cool.
  62. Remove any debris caught in the engine bay.
  63. Check the outer tie rod ends for loose joints; tighten or replace if necessary.
  64. Apply undercoating to areas of the underbody that are lacking to reduce corrosion and dampen road noise.
  65. Examine your exhaust pipes for holes and damage.
  66. Ensure all exhaust heat shields are intact and in place.
  67. Inspect the muffler, resonator, and catalytic converter for holes and damage.
  68. Find the exhaust hanger locations and check for damaged/missing rubber hangers.
  69. Examine the rear brake lines for rust and replace as necessary.
  70. Spin the wheels to check for grinding wheel bearings.
  71. Check the wheel arches and under the bumpers for loose trim panels.
  72. Replace any broken or damaged trim panel retainers (inside and outside the vehicle).
  73. Check dash board switches for proper fit and function.
  74. Remove anything that obstructs or may interfere with shifting/changing gears.
  75. Clean out any accessable air venting/conditioning tubes of debris and dust.
  76. Wipe down the dashboard with alcohol-free UV-protectant interior cleaner.
  77. Apply lithium grease to hood and trunk hinges/lock pins.
  78. Repair or replace any loose/torn/missing insulation under the hood.
  79. Adjust hood and trunk stops for proper body alignment.
  80. Replace any weak hood/trunk lift supports.
  81. Check your heater core for clogs and damage.
  82. Inspect your mass air flow sensor for debris, clogs, and damage.
  83. Replace your thermostat every few years with an original temperature replacement to ensure proper cooling.
  84. Clean out your EGR valve once a year to extend its life span.
  85. Replace your oxygen sensors every few years for maximum fuel efficency.
  86. Give the engine time to heat up in park and confirm that the radiator fan turns on.
  87. After removing wheels at any time, make sure to tighten lug nuts before and after driving.
  88. Check the fuel cap gasket for damage, cuts, wear from over-compression, and clean off any dirt.
  89. Replace important incandescent light bulbs with more reliable LEDs.
  90. Check to make sure the head light assemblies are sealed and contain no moisture.
  91. Confirm that all lights turn off after the vehicle is turned off.
  92. Remove any corrosion from battery terminals.
  93. Recharge the battery after frequent short runs of after a drastic outdoor temperature change.
  94. Lower commonly unused seats to improve rear and side visibility.
  95. Remove trim panels to clean where normal car washes can't.
  96. Find all the fuse boxes and check for blown out, burned, loose, or missing fuses.
  97. Clean the all ground straps, removing corrosion, rust, loose paint, and other debris.
  98. Remove trash and any personal items adding unnecessary weight to the car.
  99. Use an OBD code reader (OBD-II for 1996 & newer) to check for diagnostic trouble codes.
  100. Check the condition of your roadside emergency kit.
  101. Make sure your tires (including the spare) are inflated to the proper pressure.