Last updated: Mar 02, 2016
Dont know your tire pressure from your battery posts? Bone up with our primer, and youll be able to do your own maintenance—or at least communicate with your mechanic.


Why does it matter? Doing these five simple things on a regular basis will decrease your chances of a roadside breakdown by 70 percent, auto expert Barbara Terry says.




 
Tires

How to check them: Look in your owners manual or on the inside of the drivers door for a sticker that specifies pounds per square inch (PSI) for your cars tires. Keep a tire gauge handy so you can check the PSI every time you fill your gas tank.

How often: At least once a month; twice a year for the spare.



 
Windshield wiper blades
How to check them: Make sure the wipers rubber blades are pliable and dont have any cracks or rips.

How often: Once a month; replace at least twice a year, ideally once before winter or your areas rainy season.




 
Fluids(oil, brake, transmission, power steering, antifreeze, and windshield
How to check them: Get under the hood when the engine is cold. In many vehicles, the essential fluid reservoirs are opaque so you dont have to remove the caps to check them. Before removing any caps, though, be sure to wipe them to prevent grime from dropping into the reservoir.

How often: Twice a month.



 
Battery posts
How to check and clean them: First, put on rubber gloves. Remove the negative battery cable (black) from its post, and then remove the positive (red). Spray some anticorrosion solution (or carbonated cola, which will bubble away corrosion) on the battery posts, let it sit for 5 to 10 seconds, and then pour warm water over it to rinse. Replace the cables, positive first and then negative.

How often: Every six months.




 

Air filter

How to change it: Check your manual for a picture of the air filter. Its typically found inside a black plastic casing near the center top of the engine. Use a flat-head screwdriver to open the clips on the casing. The air filter inside is proba-bly orange or yellow and made of paper. If you see dirt and grime, replace it.

How often: every 12,000 to 15,000 miles; 6,000 if you live in a dusty or desert environment.