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How to maintain your car at home

The ultimate tip list to save money on car maintenance 

So, you just bought a brand new car, and you want to make sure you look after it. You could take it to a mechanic every few weeks to ensure that it’s always in top condition, but that quickly gets expensive. If you have the time, and a bit of technical skill, you should consider maintaining your car yourself. Here’s a quick breakdown of some things you need to think about.

Check and Change the Oil

Checking the oil is a quick, easy job that you should do after every second gas fill-up.

Check the owner’s manual for the automaker’s recommendations

Make sure the car is parked on level ground and the engine is cold (but again, follow the automaker’s recommendations!)

With the engine off, open the hood and find the dipstick

Pull out the dipstick, wipe off any oil, insert it back into its tube and push it all the way in

Pull it back out, and check to see if the oil is low – if it is below the minimum mark, you need to add more oil

Check that the oil’s colour is brown or black – if it is light and milky, this could mean engine coolant is leaking; also check for metal particles that can mean engine damage

If you need to add more oil:

Use the grade recommended in the owner’s manual

Remove the oil filler cap and add a little oil at a time – a funnel will help

Add about half a quart and after a minute or so check the dipstick again

Rinse and repeat until the oil level is good, then screw the cap on tightly

Check the Brake Fluid

To check the brake fluid, you need to find the reservoir, which depends on what kind of car you have. Once you’ve found it, follow these steps:

Carefully clean the top of the reservoir

Open the top of the reservoir – but don’t leave it or your fluid can uncovered for too long

Make sure the brake fluid level is within half an inch of the cap

Add more fluid if necessary

Check the colour of the fluid – if it is dark then get it replaced by a mechanic

Check Automatic Transmission Fluid

If you have an automatic gearbox, this is another thing you can do to keep your car in trim.

Look for a dipstick handle sticking out of your transmission

Pull out the dipstick with the engine warm and running

Check the fluid by rubbing a sample from the dipstick between thumb and finger

If it is pinkish and almost clear you’re good; if it looks or smells burnt or has particles in it, you’ll need to get it replaced by a mechanic

Wipe the dipstick with a clean, lint-free rag, insert it and pull it out again

If the fluid is clear but doesn’t reach the ‘fill’ line on the dipstick, carefully add more fluid and repeat

Check Tire Pressure

Proper tire maintenance is essential, so you should check your tire pressure regularly – each month. This is especially important for high performance vehicles like Ford Mustangs. Also check pressure as temperatures heat up.

Check the pressure when your tires are cold

Use an accurate digital or stick-type tire pressure gauge

Remove the end caps on your tire’s air valves

Place the tire pressure gauge into the valve stem and press down quickly

Take a few readings to ensure accuracy

Check the PSI reading and compare to your vehicle’s recommended PSI

If the PSI is above the recommended level, push in the valve and let out some air

If the PSI is below the recommended level, fill your tire with air until you are at the right level

Changing the Air Filter

Every 12 months or 12,000 miles, you will need a new air filter for your vehicle.

Find your filter under the hood of your car – check the owner’s manual if necessary

Open up the casing and check which way the filter is facing

Remove the old filter and replace it with the new one

Changing the Windshield Wipers

After about six months or a year of use, new blades become necessary.

Lift the blades up, and remove the old ones

Note how the blades connect to the metal arms

Push the tab on the underside of the blade to remove it (most models)

Attach the new blades, and make sure everything is lined up, secure and tight

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