Basic routine auto maintenance is something that many people put off until they break down, or the car refuses to start. But by keeping up with various tasks, you can head off problems at the pass, and avoid unnecessary and expensive trips to the car repair shop.
When maintaining a car, most people remember major things like changing the oil. This is a task that sounds major, but can be accomplished with a minimum of tools and equipment, in about an hour. But between oil changes, it’s a good idea to check the oil level periodically. This will ensure that if there is a leak, you catch it before it becomes a major problem. Also, some older vehicles burn a little oil, so if the level is down every time you check it, but not down very much (a quart every month or two or less), there is no cause for alarm. Just fill it back up.
Automatic transmission vehicles should have the transmission fluid levels checked regularly as well. The dipstick for this will look similar to the one used to check the oil, but will probably be longer, and have a tube instead of being just a hole on the engine. This fluid should be pinkish in color. If it is brown or smells burned, it might be time to get a transmission flush. If the level on the dipstick is low, add fluid.
Check the power steering reservoir. Unlike the oil level, a continual drop in power steering fluid almost always indicates a leak, and a leak is always problematic. If the fluid levels are down, fill it back up, and attempt to locate the leak or see a mechanic. A drop in power steering fluid will also normally be associated with increased difficult in turning the steering wheel.
The battery should be inspected when doing this cursory automotive exam. Wearing protective goggles, carefully pry the covers off the top of the battery with a flat-blade screwdriver. Peer into the three holes under each cap. Each hole will have a tab that protrudes downward toward the acid inside. If the level of acid is too low, the tab will not reach the top of the liquid. If the level is too low, the battery can lose power, possibly failing to start the car. Using pure distilled water, fill each port on the batter with an eyedropper or similar tool. Be careful not to get any dirt from the top of the battery inside it, and avoid touching the battery, battery acid of cables.