We seem to have considered a car essential during the pandemic. In fact, car sales were up 25% in the first seven months of the year.
According to a 2019 survey by Angus Reid, 78% say they can't live without a car, although 45% think the cost of owning one is too high. And they're not wrong. A 2018 survey by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) found that the cost of owning and operating a gas-powered compact car is $3,300 per year.
In addition, fuel is the most expensive annual expense for drivers, averaging $1,500 for a small car, according to the CAA. The cost of routine scheduled maintenance - oil changes, air filter replacements - can also range from $500 to $700 per year. That doesn't include the cost of replacing old tires or buying winter tires.
Vehicles require consistent care. This is important not only in terms of your finances, but also for your safety, as some maintenance tasks can lead to accidents or injuries if you don't follow them.
Take the time to make sure these 10 things on your vehicle are checked regularly and in good condition to avoid a potential collision or damage:
- The oil
The oil in your car keeps everything running smoothly, and without the proper oil level, your car can't run. You can free car check the oil level by simply pulling out the dipstick and reading the oil level. Pay attention to the color of the oil on the dipstick: is it black or gold? If it's black, you should take your car in for an oil change. Have the oil changed regularly as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer or your mechanic.
- The tire pressure
A tire pressure gauge is an affordable and easy-to-use tool that can prevent a flat tire. Remember that improperly inflated tires can blow out while driving and cause a collision. They can also cause you to pull over to the side of the road, especially if you don't subscribe to a roadside assistance program.
In addition, improper tire pressure affects fuel efficiency. It's important to check tire pressure regularly and be aware that proper tire pressure can change depending on the outside temperature. Check with the tire manufacturer for proper pressure.
- The brakes
Don't wait for that squealing sound that tells you your brake pads are old. Having your brakes checked regularly by a professional will keep your car safe and roadworthy. If there's one thing about your vehicle that you shouldn't take for granted, it's the brakes.
- The power steering fluid
Have you ever driven a car without power steering? It's no fun to drive. Plus, without the right amount of fluid, your power steering can fail, making it harder to control your vehicle. Like your oil, you can check and top off your power steering fluid yourself.
- Wheel alignment
Does your car turn slightly to the left or right when you drive? This is a clear sign that you should have your vehicle's wheel alignment checked. Having your vehicle's wheel alignment adjusted will ensure that your car steers and responds the way you want it to when you need to make a quick turn.
- The antifreeze or coolant.
In Canadian winters, you need enough antifreeze in your car to make sure it runs properly. Cold temperatures are hard on your car. Conversely, coolant is also an important fluid to check on your car.
To keep your car running smoothly, it's crucial to have the right level of the fluids you need. But beware: you should never add coolant to a hot engine. Wait until the engine cools down before attempting to add coolant to avoid burns or cracks in the engine block.
- The tire treads
It's not just the tire pressure that matters. Tires rely on tread to help you grip the road, and that's especially important on slippery surfaces. Look for signs of wear on your tires, and also watch for bulges or odd lumps that could indicate a problem. Low tread or bulges in the tires can lead to slipping or a flat tire on the road.
- The air filter
A clogged air filter will not only cost you fuel, but it will also harm the car. It costs very little to have the air filter checked and replaced when necessary, so make this a regular part of your maintenance routine. Most garages will check it for free at the time of an oil change.
- Transmission fluid
If your transmission seizes or fails, your vehicle will not be able to drive, resulting in an expensive repair. Transmission damage while driving is not something you ever want to experience. Make sure your transmission fluid is always at the proper level (too little or too much fluid can cause problems) and changed regularly to keep your vehicle shifting smoothly.
On many vehicles, you can check the transmission fluid level by pulling out the dipstick while the engine is running. Check not only the fluid level, but also the color; it should be red. If it is black, you need to flush the transmission and change the fluid.
- The lights - all the lights
It is dangerous if any of the lights on your car are not working properly. Regularly check your turn signals, brake lights, reverse lights, and of course your headlights. While you'll likely notice a broken headlight, you may not notice a burned-out brake or taillight. These things are important so other drivers know what you're doing or planning to do, and to avoid collisions. You can also get a ticket if one of the lights on your vehicle is not working properly.