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What Are the Most Common Maintenance Items on My Car?

Vehicle maintenance is important when it comes to protecting your automotive investment. Frequent service is the only way to make sure your Toyota is performing properly.

Here’s a checklist of the most common auto maintenance items, with some information about each.

Engine Oil Change

Toyota oil

Image Credit: Peter Finn

This is a basic, yet important, service. An oil change (or "lube, oil, and filter") is the most critical common maintenance service. Draining worn engine oil and replacing it with new oil - as well as replacing the oil filter - ensures that the engine operates as expected. Failing to change the oil is one of the easiest ways to ruin an engine, and it doesn't take long. Whatever you do, don't forget to get your vehicle's engine oil changed.

Tire Rotation and Inspection

If you want to maximize your tire life, you should do two things:

  1. Check your tire pressure every time you refuel, adjusting it as needed
  2. Rotate your tires every time you get your oil changed

Incorrect tire pressure can lead to tread wear or even tire failure, while infrequent rotations can lead to uneven tire wear that will force you to throw away your tires too soon. Additionally, it's important to have your tires inspected frequently for damage. Potholes can damage tires, potentially causing them to burst at the worst possible time. A visual inspection can help spot a tire problem before it can cause an accident.

Engine Air Filter Replacement

A clogged air filter is a bad thing for your engine’s performance and efficiency. Over time, the engine air filter becomes clogged with dust, grime, and dirt. When the filter becomes clogged, your engine will starve for clean air. It will feel bogged down when you drive, and fuel economy will suffer. Replacing the engine air filter on a regular basis is the best way to make sure your engine is running at peak performance and efficiency.

Brake Pad Replacement/Brake Inspection

Brake pads

Brake pads are a vital safety component that can wear quickly if your vehicle is used for commercial work, towing or hauling, or even if your vehicle is driven in stop and go traffic. Brake pad wear is easy to measure and should be checked at every oil change or tire rotation.

When it's time for brake pad replacement, the entire brake system should be inspected. Worn rotors often need to be resurfaced or replaced, and calipers can require replacement as well. The brake fluid may also require a flush and replacement.

Fuel Filter Replacement

The fuel filter stops contaminants from entering the combustion chamber and fouling the spark plugs, damaging the cylinder walls, etc. Fuel filters serve a vital function and should be replaced regularly, particularly if your vehicle has had any issues with contaminated fuel.

If a fuel filter becomes clogged with dirt, it can cause performance problems and hinder fuel economy. If you're having trouble with your vehicle's gas mileage or performance, that could be an indication of a clogged fuel filter.

Cabin Air Filter Change

The cabin air filter helps to "clean" the air that circulates inside your vehicle when you're using the climate control system. Many cabin air filters include HEPA filtration, which helps prevent allergies, asthma attacks, etc. Regular replacement of the cabin air filter is important, as a clogged filter will hamper climate system performance.

Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignment on your vehicle is important for handling and also for maximizing tire life. If your vehicle is out of alignment, you aren’t in complete control anymore. You can also expect to go through tires very frequently, which is an expensive problem to have.

Wheel alignment is thrown off by potholes, road debris, and other obstacles. If you've recently struck a pothole or some other obstacle, a wheel alignment may be required.

Coolant Flush

A coolant flush (or cooling system service) removes the old fluid (an any contaminants) from the cooling system, replacing it with fresh coolant. After a flush or system service, the cooling system becomes more efficient, leading to better temperature management. This means your engine won't overheat in the summer, but it also means your engine will warm up faster in the winter. If cooling system maintenance is ignored, it can lead to serious problems, including engine failure.

Transmission Fluid Service

The fluid in your transmission is important for lubrication and also for cooling. If the fluid level is too low - or if the fluid becomes contaminated - the transmission is destined for trouble. Depending on your vehicle and your normal driving conditions, you may need a transmission service. Be sure to speak with us about your transmission on your next visit.

Spark Plug and Plug Wire Replacement

Plugs

Spark plugs and wires are an important part of your ignition system. When you crank your vehicle, a charge is sent to the plugs, carried by the wires, that ignites the fuel and oxygen. This allows your engine to start and continue to run. It also allows your engine to run at its optimal performance.

Over time, spark plugs become corroded and damaged and lose their "spark." This leads to a loss of fuel economy and performance. Likewise, spark plug wiring degrades over time and must be periodically replaced to maintain engine efficiency.

Differential Flush

Trucks, SUVs, vans, and many sports cars have differentials. The fluid inside these keeps the gears operating smoothly. Fluid health and levels need to be checked regularly and flushed if they're deteriorating.

Written by Jason Lancaster