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Detailed Routine Car Maintenance Schedule

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Whether you’ve just purchased a brand new vehicle or have something preowned, it’s important to protect your investment. Major car repairs can cost you thousands of dollars out-of-pocket, but keeping up with routine maintenance helps to reduce those horrific, unexpected expenses.

Routine car maintenance can help eliminate those crazy repair expenses and will ensure your vehicle has a longer life. While there are variables (like where you live, your driving habits, even how hot or cold it gets outside), we’ve compiled a vehicle maintenance schedule based on mileage intervals.

If you have a bit of technical or mechanical ability, many routine car maintenance items can be done at home and can save you even more money. YouTube is an excellent resource for finding DIY repair procedures for your specific vehicle. If you’re looking to buy a brand new vehicle, many times dealers will offer free maintenance with your purchase (or you can negotiate during the sales process). 

Remember to refer to the owner’s manual for vehicle-specific maintenance intervals. You can also ask your local dealership or certified mechanic if you have questions.


Each 3,000 to 7,000 Miles – Oil & Filter Change


An oil and filter change is one of the best ways to ensure a vehicle stays in top condition for many years. The lubrication system in an automobile is meant to reduce internal friction, thus reducing wear and tear on the engine’s components. After time, oil breaks down and becomes filled with contaminants. The oil filter helps to remove harmful debris before it can cause damage, but over time filters can clog which reduces oil flow and increases risk of failure.

It used to be that oil changes were recommended every 3 months or 3,000 miles (whichever came first), but advancements in technology and synthetic oils have increased that service interval greatly. Be sure to check your manual to find the recommended routine car maintenance oil change interval for your vehicle and make sure you follow it.

When you get your oil and filter changed, it’s a good idea to perform an inspection. If you’re taking your car to a service center this will be usually included free of charge. Inspecting and topping off the transmission fluid, the engine coolant, power steering fluid, windshield washer fluid, checking the wipers, and ensuring all exterior lights are working properly are all items that should be completed during every oil change.

Each 6,000 to 14,000 Miles – Tire Rotation

A t
One of the most expensive (and important) components on a vehicle are the tires. Depending where you live and what surfaces you’re driving on regularly, tires can wear quickly. Each tire (more accurately, each axle) wears a bit differently. If you want to extend the life of your tires it is important to have them rotated on a regular basis as part of a vehicle maintenance schedule. The general rule of thumb is to have a rotation done every other oil change. 

It’s also a good idea to have your alignment regularly checked. Four wheel alignment technology has come a long way in the past 10 years, and computer systems help technicians more accurately align vehicles. A general recommendation is to have your vehicle aligned every one or two years, depending on your driving habits. Signs you may need an alignment are uneven tread wear or when a vehicle tends to pull to the left or right while driving.

Each 15,000 to 30,000 Miles – Air Filter & More

Much like a dirty oil filter, a dirty air filter can cause you problems. A gasoline engine requires air and fuel to operate and reduced air flow caused by a clogged filter can reduce your car’s efficiency – costing you more at the gas pump. Pollen, leaves, dirt, and bugs can get sucked up into the vehicle’s air intake and clog a filter. If you have some DIY skill, an air filter change is usually easy to accomplish and you won’t need many (or any) tools. Many auto parts stores will stock most air filters and some will even change it for you for free. 

Around 30,000 miles, it’s a good idea to have a certified mechanic or dealer perform a more detailed routine car maintenance inspection. While systems vary depending on your vehicle, a 30k inspection will usually involve checking the coolant to make sure it’s still able to resist freezing, checking the hoses under the hood, inspecting the HVAC system and refrigerant, and checking the brake pads along with the suspension components.

Every 35,000 to 50,000 Miles – Electrical Systems

Battery life can vary widely and contrary to the myth, high temperatures can kill a battery quicker than extreme cold. Having a battery checked and/or replaced every 35k – 50k miles can save you the aggravation of needing a jump or a tow. 

Some vehicles may require spark plugs and wires at this service interval. Old plugs and wires can cause dramatic decreases in performance and can reduce your fuel economy. If you’re comfortable with this procedure, a plug and wire change can usually be performed at home in your driveway or garage. Make sure you consult a service manual or an auto service professional before you decide to try it on your own. 

If you decide to have a dealer or certified mechanic change your plugs and wires ask them to inspect the ignition system, check for any trouble codes if your check engine light is on, and have them inspect the suspension.

Timing belt, sprockets, and tensioner.

Timing belt, two rollers and the tension mechanism.

Every 60,000 to 80,000 Miles – Brakes & Belts

Out of an entire
routine car maintenance schedule, the higher mileage service intervals tend to be the most expensive. This is because the components are vital to the operation of your vehicle. While it may be difficult to afford a $500 timing belt change, it’s cheaper than having to get a rebuilt engine installed or – worse yet – having to send the car to the scrapyard.

If you’ve been following your vehicle’s maintenance schedule, you should have a pretty good idea of when you’ll need to replace brake pads. When you’re down to approximately ⅛” to 3/16” if friction material on the steel backing plate it’s time for a change.  As with many maintenance items, brake life depends on how the vehicle is driven. Some signs you need brake pads include a distinct squeak or squeal coming from the wheels when you apply the brakes (you’re hearing the wear indicator), if you have vibration when you brake, or if you notice it’s taking longer than usual to stop.

Between 60k and 80k it’s also a great time to change the timing belt in your vehicle. Each vehicle has its own service intervals for this belt, but it is important not to exceed the mileage recommended per your manual. Over the past 20 years, internal tolerances within engines have been greatly reduced. This leads to more horsepower and better performance being able to be achieved, but it also means there is much less room for any sort of internal engine failure. A timing belt failure can completely destroy your engine, leading to a very costly replacement or a trip to the junkyard. 

This service interval is an excellent opportunity to have your serpentine belt checked and replaced if necessary.

In Conclusion

By following a
vehicle maintenance schedule you can greatly reduce the overall cost of ownership of a vehicle and help to retain resale value. Additionally by performing routine car maintenance you can better protect yourself against the possibility of being stranded. Regular tire rotations, safety inspections, and brake inspections also helps to ensure you and your passengers are safe when you’re on the road.