The Ultimate Car Maintenance and Repair Checklist

Car owners generally fall under three categories. The first type is super attached to their cars. Over time these machines become more than just rubber or metal – they turn into trusty sidekicks that have been on all sorts of adventures with them. All this attachment is often accompanied by regular over-priced visits to the garage to ensure the car is in top-notch condition. 

The second category – the living-in-the-wild individuals simply forget about car maintenance. These car owners pretend everything is fine as long as nothing blows up. The third category is what all car owners should strive to be. They have mastered the art of maintaining their car without breaking the bank, and this guide will help you do the same.

Did you know the average auto repair cost has soared by 36 percent since 2018 and is expected to top 5,000 dollars by year-end? Safe to say, auto repair services in New York State can cost you an arm and a leg. On top of that, the lack of vehicle ownership in New York is due to high maintenance costs, higher taxes, etc. However, the State government has been working to regulate traffic and vehicle usage. 

The New York State Vehicle Inspection Program (NYSVIP) is aimed at maintaining New York road safety and emission standards. All registered New York vehicle owners are required to undergo a safety and emissions inspection every 12 months. Any vehicle failing to comply with the inspection standards can have its registration renewed. The NYS inspection cost varies according to vehicle type and age, so ensure to check it beforehand. 

One way to ensure your car always meets the emission/safety standards is through vigilant maintenance and care. But you don’t have to be a mechanical whiz to keep your vehicle in excellent condition. We have prepared this easy-to-follow maintenance and repair checklist for you to easily track your car’s maintenance schedule. Let’s get started. 

Short-Term Check-Ups


The intake airflow to your engine is regulated through the engine’s air filter. Its main job is to keep out debris and particulate. The air filter should always be white or off-white. A darker color hints at built-up dirt and debris, which decreases airflow. Restricted airflow decreases fuel efficiency, increases emissions, and decreases your engine’s life. 

After a year, replace your filter, even if it is not noticeably dirty. An air filter can easily be replaced at home. Check the instructor’s manual for more details. 

Tire Pressure and Condition

Check the pressure of all your tires, including the spare one, every month or before carrying extra loads or going on a long trip. Additionally, remember that tire pressure drops by a pound for every ten degrees drop in pressure.

Keep a lookout for damaged treads and sidewalls and uneven wear patterns. 

Headlights, Turn Signals, Brake, and Parking Lights

Once a month, park your car in front of a flat surface and turn on your headlights. Check if they work properly. Do the same for turn signals, parking lights, and brake lights.

If a light goes out, first check for a blown fuse. In case the issue persists, replace the light immediately. 

Oil and Filter 

The engine’s motor oil is responsible for lubricating moving parts. It also works as a sealant against debris – protecting the engine from external particulate and dirt. The oil flow also keeps the engine cool and reduces wear and tear while keeping the engine corrosion free. 

As a rule of thumb, the oil and oil filter are changed every three months or 3000 miles. However, this may vary for car models or the oil used. Always use the oil and filter of the grade and weight mentioned in the owner’s manual of your vehicle. 

Tire Treads 

A worn-out tire has a tread depth of 2/32” or less. For frequent driving in wet conditions, 4/32” is a better limit. 

You can check tire treads by the single-penny method. Place a penny by your tire treads. If the top of Lincoln’s head remains uncovered, you still have 2/32” depth remaining. Repeat the same procedure with a quarter to check for 4/32” depth. 


Regularly clean your car to avoid buildup on its exterior. Irritants such as dust, sand, and salt can cause buildup. 

Polishing your car twice a year protects its finish against damage and rust. Waxing every six months will also keep it shiny and looking good as new. Waxing also helps form a protective seal against microscopic damage caused by ozone or ultraviolet light and other irritants. 

Windshield Wiper Fluid

Monthly check the windshield wiper fluid levels and top off as needed. Never fill the wiper fluid reservoir with plain water. Follow the usage instruction on the wiper fluid.

Long-Term Check-Ups

Tire Rotation

Treadwear patterns will generally vary between your front and rear tires or even from one side of the tread to the other. Swap the front and rear tires every five months or so but keep them on the same side of the car to evenly balance the tread wear. It also reduces noise and vibration problems and increases your tire’s life. 

Wiper Blades

Generally, windshield wipers should be replaced annually or whenever they are not doing their job right. Regularly check for damage and wear. During the snowy season, shift to winter wiper blades for better performance. 

Check Brake System

Every 12 months, check your brake system. Brake pads should be replaced if they are less than ¼” thick. Check rotors for wear as well. Always replace brake fluid after two years max. 

Cabin Air Filter

The cabin air filter is paced behind the dashboard – often behind the glovebox. Replace it annually. 


Coolant must be replaced annually; however, if you regularly find suspiciously low levels, check for leaks in the coolant system. Remember to never open a hot radiator cap. For the concentrated type, mix it half and half with distilled water. 

Automatic Transmission Fluid 

This fluid keeps all moving parts in your transmission working smoothly and lubricated. Regularly check the transmission fluid for replacement to avoid costly damages.

Transfer Case Fluid

Transfer case fluid is used in four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles. It shifts power from the transmission to the axles. The transfer case fluid is checked according to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation; however, bring a professional for this task as it could be tricky. 

Inspect Shocks and Struts 

Get a professional to look at your shocks every 50,000 miles or whenever you notice a decrease in the smoothness or control of your vehicle’s drive. For regular off-road travel, frequent analysis of shocks and struts is advised.

Spark Plugs

A Spark plug ignites the gas and air mixture in your engine. A malfunctioning spark plug will cause your engine to lose power. Have a professional look over any faulty spark plugs you may encounter or whenever you feel a decrease in your engine’s performance. 

Serpentine Belt

Visually inspect your serpentine belt for any cracks, wear, or tear. Timely replace it according to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation. 


Your car’s battery is one of its most fundamental components. Extreme temperatures can negatively affect battery performance. Regularly test the battery to ensure optimum performance. 


Following a car maintenance schedule and keeping records of what needs to be done and what has been done can significantly increase your vehicle’s life. Now that you have thoroughly read our vehicle maintenance and repair guide, we hope you will responsibly look after your car. 

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