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The Daily Five-Minute Do-It-Yourself Maintenance Check

When it comes to extending the life of your vehicle, few things are more important than preventive maintenance. Maintaining your vehicle properly will keep it running smoothly for years to come, and it will help you avoid costly preventable repairs. More importantly, proper maintenance will optimize the safety of your vehicle and can prevent most roadside breakdowns. Of course, few drivers have the expertise or time requisite to perform major maintenance procedures, which is why these larger inspections are best left to professional mechanics. However, almost anyone can handle the small but essential day-to-day vehicle maintenance tasks. Before you get in your car every day, take the time to perform the five-minute maintenance routine we've outlined below. The inspection is easy to do and can save you a lot of time and aggravation down the line.

  • Check your battery. Most car batteries are so advanced now that they do not require any equipment to test their charge. Newer batteries will have an indicator that shows different colors according to their condition. Blue means the battery is fine, red means you need to add distilled water, and white means the charge is weak. Also look at the top of your battery for signs of a leak, such as crusting, discharge, etc.
  • Check your tires. You don't have to examine the air pressure in your tires every day, but you should at least glance at them before you drive to make sure that they're not low. If a tire appears low, use an air pressure gauge to determine how much air it needs. If the tire is not dangerously low and doesn't appear to be damaged, you can drive the vehicle to a mechanic if you're not comfortable filling the tire with air on your own. Remember to inflate your tires according to the car manufacturer's specifications in the driver's manual.
  • Check your lights. Make sure your headlights, brake lights, and turn signals are working before you hit the road. Aside from being a safety risk, nonfunctional lights are also a common reason drivers are pulled over. If you have a light out, you can purchase a replacement at an auto parts store and do it yourself or take the vehicle to a mechanic.
  • Check your wiper fluid. A dirty windshield will obscure your view of the road and can pose a serious safety hazard. For this reason, your vehicle should always have sufficient windshield wiper fluid. Wiper fluid can be purchased at most convenient stores, but it's not a bad idea to keep some on hand in your trunk. To examine your wiper fluid, open the hood of your car and look for a clear plastic tank. Add fluid if necessary. The reservoir can be filled all the way to the top.

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