Car Maintenance You May Be Overlooking

up-close of mechanic repairing a car

When it comes to our cars, it’s obvious when some things need our attention.

Cracking rubber and a streaky windshield in the rain indicate when wiper blades must be replaced.

Spotting worn tread or a flat tire when we check our wheels—which we should do every time we drive—is noticeable enough.

Anyone who’s owned a car should know that 3,000 miles is the standard interval for an oil change, even though many manufacturers recommend waiting longer.

But while some things aren’t quite as obvious, they’re no less important. A car has many moving parts, and even if they might not trigger flashing lights on your dashboard, they still require attention occasionally.

While certainly not an exhaustive list, these car-maintenance items are often among the most overlooked:

Fluid Levels

While engine oil might get all the attention, many of your car’s important components rely on fluids that must be regularly attended to. For example, coolant is essential to keeping your engine from overheating and seizing, brake fluid transfers the force from your car’s pedal into its brake system, and transmission fluid lubricates the shifting gears and reduces friction to keep your transmission running smoothly.

Additional fluids, such as power steering and differential fluid, also require changing at different times. As all fluids perform important functions and are worthy of keeping a maintenance schedule, your auto technician can help you manage your car’s upkeep in accordance with your vehicle’s manufacturer guidelines.

Engine Belts

Owners of cars of a certain age or mileage might be familiar with your engine’s various belts and the need to eventually replace them.

Timing belts are integral to keeping an engine running by synchronizing its crankshaft and camshaft. Many newer vehicles have timing chains, which are more durable and sometimes can last the car’s life. While certain clues, such as a misfiring engine or a ticking noise, may indicate that it’s failing, your timing belt can break without warning, making the car inoperable and often damaging other components.

Serpentine belts, or drive belts, are another essential belt that should eventually be replaced. These long, continuous belts transfer power from the engine to important parts such as the alternator and steering pump. However, they also break down over time due to friction and heat and can result in an overheated engine.

As the vehicle’s specifications differ, your owner’s manual will recommend when to replace these belts.

Cabin Air Filter

Not to be confused with the engine air filter—we’ll get to that later—the cabin air filter cleans the air that enters your vehicle’s cabin. Since it catches dirt, dust, and other airborne debris, the filter can fill up with gunk over time and become ineffective at doing its job. When saturated, it can even result in decreased airflow and unpleasant odors from your climate system.

Most cabin air filters are located behind the glove box and are relatively simple and inexpensive to replace. They should be replaced roughly every 15,000 miles. But if you’ve never changed your cabin air filter, be forewarned: it can appear pretty grimy and make you wonder what you’ve been breathing in while you drive.

Engine Air Filter

Just as the air filter in your car’s cabin cleans the air for its occupants, an engine air filter allows your engine to breathe. But an old and dirty air filter can let dirt, dust, and other particulate matter inside your engine, resulting in a loss of power, dark exhaust, and reduced fuel efficiency.

Depending on your driving habits and environment, it’s wise to at least inspect the engine air filter regularly to ensure it’s visibly clean. Car manufacturers generally recommend changing them anywhere between 15,000 and 45,000 miles, depending on the make and model.

Spark Plugs

Your car’s engine needs a spark to ignite the air-fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber, and that’s where spark plugs come into play. Over time, however, spark plugs can become less effective at doing their job.

When they begin to misfire, faulty spark plugs can cause rattle-like noises, difficulty starting, and poor gas mileage. As spark plugs can vary in lifespan, drivers should consult their owner’s manual to determine when to replace them as part of a preventative maintenance routine.

A Coverage Review

No, it’s not technically maintenance on your car, but it’s a good opportunity to ensure your insurance coverages align with your current needs. Like changing your oil or your cabin air filter, coverage reviews should take place periodically to help ensure things run efficiently.

Find a local insurance agent to help you understand the right coverages and why they matter. Get a free quote today.

ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company, and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home offices: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York).  The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to operate in all states. Refer to the company’s licensure and state of operation information.

The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are in effect as of January 2024 and may be changed at any time. 

Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. 

The insurance products and services described in this blog are not offered in all states.  ERIE life insurance and annuity products are not available in New York.  ERIE Medicare supplement products are not available in the District of Columbia or New York.  ERIE long term care products are not available in the District of Columbia and New York. 

Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.

Your ERIE agent can offer you practical guidance and answer questions you may have before you buy.