If you opt to maintain the vehicle yourself, changing the oil and oil filter is something you should do on a routine basis. If you have the original owners manual, there should be a section devoted to explaining the recommended mileage and time period for an oil and filter change.
Oil loses its viscosity as it gets old, which means it loses its ability to properly lubricate and coat the internal parts of your engine. One tip is to check the oil level each time you fill the vehicles tank of gas. Its not uncommon for a car to consume more oil than normal and this consumption may increase as the cars age increases. Also, used cars tend to consume a bit more oil than new cars. If your oil level is low, it usually takes longer to pump the oil to the top of the engine to lubricate important engine components and the majority of wear on a cars engine happens when it is first started.
As always, be sure to consult you owners manual to determine the correct interval of oil changes.
Don't neglect other engine fluids such as antifreeze, which serves several important functions. Not only does the vehicles antifreeze protect the engine against cold temperatures, but it also protects against high temperatures during hot summer months. Antifreeze keeps your car running at a constant temperature, which helps keep your engine performing optimally.
Additionally, be sure to check engine belts and hoses for cracks due to aging. Many cars have timing belts that need to be changed periodically, and since a broken timing belt can damage an entire engine, be sure to have this mechanism checked regularly.
Don't neglect your cars transmission either. Most manufacturers recommend transmission service every 30,000 miles, including a fluid and filter change. And be sure to check your brakes regularly. By letting your brake pads become too worn, you could potentially damage the brake rotors, a costly repair.
Following is a suggested checklist of regularly maintained engine components:
- General engine fluids (i.e. power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid)
- Filters (oil, air and fuel)
- Spark plugs and wires
- Belts and hoses
- Batteries and cables
As always, be sure to keep updated records of routine maintenance and repair. Detailed documentation at the time of trade-in or resale can increase a vehicles value. Also, be sure to routinely check your car for visible leaks as this is not normal and can cause costly repairs.