If you're like me, you own a car, but you don't really love it and frequently worry what, if anything, is wrong with it. If this is true, this checklist might help you out! I created it for my personal use but am sharing it for anybody who might find it useful.
Information here comes from Consumer Reports, DMV.com, and Samarins. For best results, you should do this about once a month, with the help of another person.
- tires free from tears or bulges
- tires have good tread left (hold quarter upside down in tread. The top of Washington's head should not be visible)
- tire tread is even (uneven = alignment/suspension problems)
- tire pressure matches figure in owner's manual (NOT maximum pressure)
- look under car with a flashlight for leaks
under the hood:
- battery is charged
- battery has clean terminals
- check engine oil (run in park for two minutes, then stop, clean oil dipstick, insert it, pull it out)
- oil level is between "low" and "full" marks
- oil is brown and transparent (not black.) Replace black oil, top off clean oil.
- Refer to owner's manual for the right oil type.
- check antifreeze.
- should be between "low" and "full" marks
- CAUTION: do not open if engine is not cool!
- Refer to owner's manual for the right coolant type.
- optional: check engine air filter. This is usually checked in an oil change anyway
- transmission fluid looks clean (dark, dirty, or gritty indicates possible internal transmission problem)
running the car:
- free of odors while engine is running
- emissions: neither blue nor black
- AC works
- heater works
- stereo works
- windows work
- all doors open, close, and lock
- trunk opens, closes and locks
- wipers work
- wipers emit fluid as expected
- parking break works
- break pads--squeaking mean they need replacing
- steers straight when applying brakes (does not pull to one side)
- no vibrations at cruising speed (indicates unbalanced tires)
- blinkers (left front, right front, left back, right back)
- break lights
- interior lights
- wash if dirty
- take it in for an oil change if at the recommended mileage
- at least once a year, get a mechanic's inspection for the things you can't check yourself