1. Inspect your tires.
First, check the wear bars – they’re the little rubber mounds in the tire’s track. When these bars become visibly flush with the adjacent ribs, this is a visible indication for when you should replace your tires. You should also keep tabs on your tire pressure using your car’s internal monitoring system if it has one. If not, remove the cap from the valve, place a good-quality tire pressure gauge on top of the valve, press firmly and a reading will appear. To find the recommended tire pressure for your car, check your owner’s manual or look for a sticker inside the driver’s door. It’s best not to inflate to the pressure listed on the sidewall of the tire itself. That number refers to the maximum pressure of the tire, not the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle.
Pro tip: Don’t check your tires immediately after driving. Friction from the road increases both heat and tire pressure, so the reading may be skewed.
2. Eyeball your oil.
Before you check your oil, make sure your car has been off for about 10 minutes. Then, find your dipstick, pull it all the way out, and clean off the oil with a paper towel. Place the dipstick back in its cradle, let it sit for a few seconds, and pull it back out. Keep the dipstick facing down to get a proper reading. The bottom of the dipstick will have two markings or holes; the oil level should fall between them. It should be light brown and viscous. “If it’s thick and black, get an oil change right away,” says CAA Automotive Operations Manager Mike Schmidt.
3. Check your lights.
Walk around your car and check that your front, tail and reverse lights are working, along with your turn signals. Check your high beams, too, and fog lights if your car has them.
4. Be attentive to noises and smells.
Often, a major problem will be preceded by a noise, like a squeaking or banging. If you hear something like that, report it to your mechanic immediately. Don’t worry – they’re used to customers making strange sounds to describe what’s happening to their car. Also, if you notice a strange smell, give your technician a heads-up about that, or get CAA-approved advice from our Auto Advisors. You can connect with CAA Auto Advisors by phone (1-866-464-6448) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
5. Enjoy the view.
To check your washer fluid – and top it up if needed – locate your washer fluid reservoir, which will have a diagram of a windshield and what looks like a dotted umbrella. Look for a marking on the side of the reservoir; if your washer fluid is below this fill line, lift up the cap and add some more. It’s always a good idea to keep an extra bottle in the trunk.