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Car Maintenance 101

master everyday life May 28, 2020

I put the key into the ignition and glanced at the dashboard in my car.

Was that a new light blinking?


I reached over and grabbed my owner’s manual out of the glovebox and turned to the troubleshooting section, scanning the list of “warning symbols” until I found the one that was blinking.

It was telling me to “check engine.”

Was that important?

I called my dad.

It was.

Very important. Like so important that I called my boss, told him I’d be late to work, and drove straight to the car service place.

Have you ever felt a little lost when it comes to your car? You know to fill it up with gas when it gets low and maybe to take it in for a state inspection once a year or so… but outside of that, you feel like I did with the check engine light: pretty clueless.

I get you, sister.

If you want the 101 on making sure your car is as healthy as possible, below is a list of what I suggest you do. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but doing these things have helped me keep my car going strong for 12+ years now—so hopefully it helps you!

Tip 1: Watch for warning lights.

Warning lights (like “you’re low on gas” or “change your oil” or “check your engine”) typically appear on your dashboard.

Pay attention to these lights and get your car serviced as quickly as possible once they pop up. The “check engine” light is particularly important – this typically indicates a problem with a component of the car’s motor and it’s not a great idea to take chances and keep driving for a long time when this light comes up.

Tip 2: Do monthly checks

Each month, do these quick checks on your car:

  • Headlights/brake lights: are they all working? (Ask a friend to give you the thumbs up while you sit in your car and turn on/off all the lights)

  • Oil: does it need to be changed? Most cars need an oil change every 3,000-5,000 miles (check your owner manual for the exact number). If it does need to be changed, schedule a time with your car service center (Jiffy Lube is a great place to go for something like this, too).

  • Windshield wiper fluid: Is it low? You’ll be able to tell if it’s “sputtering” when you try to clean your windshield. Grab a container of refill fluid next time you’re at Target and refer to your owner’s manual on how to refill the fluid container. It’s super easy!

Tip 3: Clean the inside and outside of your car

Try and get the outside your car cleaned every month or so. I take it to the cheap drive through ($7) and get a free vacuum coin for six minutes while I’m there, but you can opt to clean it at home if you’d like.

Keep a trash bag inside your car and make sure all trash goes straight into it. Empty it out every time you get gas.

And finally, make sure any loose items in your car are fastened down in some way (the last thing you need is to get injured in an accident by that umbrella in your backseat flying up and poking you in the eye).

Tip 4: Find a car service place you trust

This can be a little challenging, but it’s so worth it. Ask family, friends, or coworkers where they go to get their car serviced. Find a place you can trust (yelp is always a good place to look, too) and then start taking your car there regularly for oil changes, state inspections, tire alignments, etc.

Each time you get your oil changed, ask for a check of your battery, brakes and tires.

If your service technician shares that you need significant work done on your car, ask some questions so you understand exactly what needs to be replaced and how long it will take. Ask for an estimated price and don’t be afraid to step outside and call your dad/an uncle/older brother if the price feels too high. Car repairs can be pricey, but it’s always good to do a quick double check with others to make sure you’re not being overcharged.


Any questions? You know I’m here for you. Email [email protected] at any time or click on over to Instagram (@katie.haahr) to say hello or send me a DM. I’d love to chat!


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