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Your Premier Auto Maintenance Checklist

Cars back in the good ol’ days were built simply. Now-a-days, there is much more technology involved in maintaining your vehicle. Here are the rules of car maintenance and how they’ve changed over the years.

Cabin air filter

Then: What?

Now: Cabin air filters, which are used to improve the quality of the air within a vehicle, were made common items in the year 2000. The filter can be found behind the glove box, under the dashboard or under the hood, and it should be updated every year or so. You may decide to do this maintenance on your own, but you may end up tying yourself up in knots in the process.


Then: Dipsticks were used to determine if you had appropriate oil and automatic transmission fluid. You just eyeballed the reservoir for brake, power steering, and windshield washer fluids. Lastly, you’d remove the radiator cap and check for coolant.

Now: Some vehicles no longer have oil or transmission dipsticks, instead depending on sensors to alert you to a problem. Remove the radiator cap and proceed under the hood to a separate reservoir tank where you can check whether the coolant level is low. During routine maintenance, mechanics will usually top off all fluids.

Engine air filter

Then: You’d pop open the hood, spin a wing nut, pull off the air cleaner cover and drop in a new filter.

Now: It’s not that simple anymore. You must be careful not to break the air cleaner’s electrical air sensor wire, which is typically integrated into the housing. Consider replacing the filter every year or two, depending on how much you drive.

Wash and wax

Then: Used dish soap and water, a sponge to wash, hose to rinse. You used a leather chamois to dry and applied wax several times a year.

Now: The hose is the only thing that the previous method has going for it. The rest may cause vehicle paint to fade and scratch. Use a wash mitt and a microfiber drying towel with specially designed car-wash soap (less abrasive). Also, find out if ceramic coatings are better for your car’s body than traditional wax.

Air conditioner

Then and now: Needs attention only if there’s a leak in the system. If a technician says you need a freon recharge, either there’s a leak that should be fixed first or you’re being scammed.


Then and now: Check your brake pads as part of your routine maintenance. Replace them before they become worn out. The frequency of this maintenance may vary depending on the vehicle, but it will most likely be every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. It’s also important to consider how you drive. Brakes will wear down faster in city driving, especially in stop-and-go traffic, than on the interstate.

Tire tread

Then: If there was enough tread left to touch Lincoln’s head on a penny, upside down, you were good.

Now: A penny still works, but to get a more precise reading, it’s easier to buy a tire depth gauge from the auto-parts store for a few bucks. Usually, a 1/16-inch tread or less is considered unable to pass safety inspection. To prolong tread life, get tires rotated every 6,000 to 8,000 miles.

Headlights, taillights and signals

Then: You’d pull out the bad bulb and push in the new one.

Now: Modern vehicle lights — halogen, xenon or LED — may last for as long as you own your car. And if not, many remain pretty easy to replace in most cases.

Tire pressure

Then: If it looked low, it probably was.

Now: Modern radial tires have a flat-bottomed posture, which provides them a larger footprint for improved traction. So, instead of guessing, use your own dial-type or digital tire gauge to check tire pressure every month (or every other refueling). To establish the correct levels, use the tire-pressure number displayed on a decal on the driver’s door jamb; the side of the tire indicates maximum pressure, not suggested pressure. In modern automobiles, front tires frequently demand different pressure levels than back tires.

Wiper blades

Then: You’d buy a rubber insert and slide it on to replace the worn blade.

Now: Buy a package that has the blades already fastened into their springy holders. It comes with a batch of adapters to make it fit the wiper arm on your car.

Oil changes

Then: Changed oil every 3,000 miles; easily done at home.

Now: Schedules vary by car; changes could be once a year or wait as long as 15,000 miles, particularly for newer cars requiring synthetic oil. Check owner’s manual (or trust your dashboard service reminders, which should be set to match the manual). Have it done professionally; it’s difficult to remove a modern vehicle’s underbody panel.


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Text: 951-482-8144

PS Here’s a few words from one client that trusts Stromsoe Insurance Agency:

“Its so amazing to have your own personal insurance agent. Someone who knows who you are when you call. Remembers conversations from years ago. Its the personal relationship for me. I feel like family, not a account number paying a payment or making changes. Thanks for always being there for me when I call. I appreciate our professional relationship that feels like a personal relationship. Jen you ROCK!”
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