Basic car maintenance Tips to Maintain your Vehicle Like a Pro
Some people treat their cars better than they treat their own bodies. Others live by the
adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If you fall into the later category, read these tips on maintaining
your car, or you are going to be pissed the next time you break down on the way home from work.
1. Fan belts and hoses are usually the first parts to go on the typical car, even before the
vehicle has covered 30,000 miles. Check them often by simply inspecting for wear and tear.
2. Check your oil every two weeks. Some of today’s cars run hotter than ever. It is often normal
to go through a quart of oil every 2,000 miles. Chose the correct oil for your vehicle. The owner’s manual will
recommend the proper viscosity for your car. Do not waste money on expensive synthetic oils. Read our tutorial
on “How to Change Oil.”
3. To keep the cooling system unclogged, drain and replace the antifreeze at least every two
years. It is a good idea to replace hoses and flush the cooling system with a radiator flushing solution before
adding new antifreeze.
4. Replace the automatic transmission fluid and filter every 36,000 miles. Change earlier if
the normally pink fluid takes on a brown tinge or smells burnt. If the fluid has a burnt odor, have the car’s transmission
inspected before an oil change.
5. Check your car’s engine once a week for oil leaks and dirt. If you spot a grimy area, wipe
it clean with a dry cloth. Recheck in two days to see if oil or dirt has reappeared. If so, take your car in for
6. Do not try to clean the engine by hosing it down with water. Water may seep into electrical
connections and trigger a short circuit.
7. Run your car’s air conditioner for about 5 minutes each month, even during the winter. This
will keep the system well lubricated and help prevent failures.
8. Run your car’s heater for 5 to 10 minutes a few times during the summer to prevent the air
distribution system from sticking or seizing.
9. Watch for brake fluid leaks. Try to park your car in the same place each night. If you have
a slow leak, you will notice fluid in the same spot on the ground. Place a flat piece of cardboard under your car
to help monitor leaks, and to prevent your garage floor from getting filthy.
10. To extend the life of brake pads and rotors, avoid making frequent sudden stops.
11. Check tires twice a month for abnormal wear. Rotate tires every 7,500 miles to preserve them.
12. Check battery terminals for white deposits. Use a wire brush to whisk off deposits, then
clean the entire battery with a mixture of 2 teaspoons baking soda and 1 pint of water.
13. To extend the life of your car’s transmission, come to a complete stop before shifting between
reverse and a forward gear. If your car has a manual transmission, keep your foot on the brake and shift into neutral
when at a stop. Riding the clutch will surely cause unnecessary wear.
14. Wax your car 3 times a year; summer, fall, and spring.
15. Lubricate door hinges and locks with a penetrating grease or graphite lubricant spray once
16. Take your car for regular checkups to a competent and honest mechanic.
Even the best maintained cars don’t last forever. When it comes time to dispose of a car, many opt to scrap and / or go the charitable route. If you’re giving a vehicle to a charity – do it correctly.
1. Verify that the recipient organization is tax-exempt as a charity at www.irs.gov/app/eos. Or, ask the organization for a copy of its tax-exempt status determination letter. (Churches are not required to apply for tax-exempt status and may not have such a letter or be included in the IRS site above. A car donation to a church, however, would still be deductible.)
2. Check out the charity that’s soliciting or is advertised as the one your donation will benefit. Contact it directly, or go to its website. The names of well-known charities are sometimes used without permission, and the named groups may not benefit.
3. See if the charity is registered with the State – You will find relevant information on the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection website.
4. Understand deductibility details – Most cars donated to charity are sold at auction, and the donor’s tax deduction is limited to the gross proceeds from the sale. The charity must provide that amount to the donor in writing. Donors can claim the car’s full fair market value only in certain conditions, such as when a charity uses a car in its program or gives it to needy individuals.
5. Ask how much goes to the charity – The amount a charity receives for an auctioned car varies according to its arrangement with the company hired to handle the collection and sale. It may be a percentage of the sale or a fixed amount per vehicle.
6. Check IRS guidelines in A Donor’s Guide to Car Donations (Publication 4303), at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4303.pdf, or call 800-829-3676. If you are claiming a car donation of over $500, you will need to complete and attach IRS Form 8283 to your tax return. If the car is worth more than $5,000, you will need a written professional appraisal.
7. Transfer the car’s title to the charity’s name and keep a copy of this record. The title change will help you avoid potential problems if the car is somehow parked illegally by the organization or is involved in an accident or other mishap before the charity sells it.
Some online resources include: