The Car Maintenance Schedule You Should Follow

Love your car, and it’ll love you back

Check the oil by pulling the oil dipstick.
DepositPhotos

A vehicle is not something that can be purchased and operated with the same numb touch as a microwave. It needs to be maintained, cared for, and supported on a regular basis with all the necessities to survive and thrive. 

Considering the average car has hundreds of bits and pieces, it’s a lot to remember and keep track of. Many parts and fluids have limited shelf lives, and that’s what a maintenance schedule is for. Within every owner’s manual there are specific recommendations that tell the owner when to change the oil, replace the brake pads, rotate the tires, or complete other tasks. 

But when was the last time you checked that manual? To give you a better idea of what you’ll need to do, we’re here to offer general advice about what will need replacing and approximately when that needs to happen. This is The Drive’s guide to the car maintenance schedule you should follow.

What is a Car Maintenance Schedule?

A car maintenance schedule is a calendar that entails set guidelines, rules, and requirements for your vehicle’s key components. The schedule covers inspections, replacements, cleanings, rotations, and other care that will preserve and sustain the life and efficiency of the vehicle. Without following these guidelines, your vehicle could fail, or worse, create unsafe driving conditions.

Benefits Of Following A Car Maintenance Schedule

Like the human body, a car will last longer the better it’s taken care of. Show it love, and it will return the favor with longevity, durability, efficiency, and aesthetic appeal. Putting the work in early and often will result in less issues down the road, which will in turn save money and unexpected headaches. Additionally, on the cash front, the resell value will be higher, thanks to the outstanding level of quality, the appeasing appearance, the impressive originality of the vehicle, and the confidence in the seller’s records.

Disc brakes use a caliper to press the pad against the rotor to use friction to stop the vehicle.
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Disc brakes.

The Car Maintenance Schedule You Should Follow

Every vehicle has different parts, different fluids, different driving environments, and different drivers that require different care and attention. When planning a maintenance schedule, the best thing to do is consult your owner’s manual or ask your local dealer about your specific ride. However, general rules apply to most new vehicles. 

This schedule is based on the routine dealership maintenance for a fairly average automobile, a front-wheel-drive 2020 Hyundai Tucson with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and an automatic transmission that drives a yearly average of 12,000 miles. Here, we show the schedule through the first 30,000 miles.

At 7,500 miles

  • Replace engine oil and oil filter
  • Replace climate control air filter
  • Rotate tires
  • Inspect air cleaner filter
  • Inspect air conditioning compressor
  • Inspect air conditioning refrigerant
  • Inspect battery condition
  • Inspect brake lines, hoses, and connections
  • Inspect exhaust pipe and muffler
  • Inspect front brake discs, pads, and calipers
  • Inspect rear brake discs and pads
  • Inspect steering gearbox, linkage, and boots on lower arm ball joint, upper arm ball joint
  • Inspect suspension mounting bolts
  • Inspect vacuum hose

At 15,000 miles

  • Replace climate control air filter
  • Replace engine oil and oil filter
  • Rotate tires
  • Inspect air cleaner filter
  • Inspect air conditioning compressor
  • Inspect air conditioning refrigerant
  • Inspect battery condition
  • Inspect brake fluid
  • Inspect brake lines, hoses, and connections
  • Inspect driveshafts and boots
  • Inspect exhaust pipe and muffler
  • Inspect front brake discs, pads, and calipers
  • Inspect fuel filter
  • Inspect fuel tank air filter
  • Inspect parking brake
  • Inspect rear brake discs and pads
  • Inspect steering gearbox, linkage, and boots on lower arm ball joint, upper arm ball joint
  • Inspect suspension mounting bolts
  • Inspect vacuum hose
  • Inspect vapor hose, fuel filler cap, and fuel tank

At 22,500 miles

  • Replace air cleaner filter
  • Replace climate control air filter
  • Replace engine oil and oil filter
  • Rotate tires
  • Inspect air conditioning compressor
  • Inspect air conditioning refrigerant
  • Inspect battery condition
  • Inspect brake lines, hoses, and connections
  • Inspect exhaust pipe and muffler
  • Inspect front brake discs, pads, and calipers
  • Inspect rear brake discs and pads
  • Inspect steering gearbox, linkage, and boots on lower arm ball joint, upper arm ball joint
  • Inspect suspension mounting bolts
  • Inspect vacuum hose

At 30,000 miles

  • Replace climate control air filter
  • Replace engine oil and oil filter
  • Rotate tires
  • Inspect air cleaner filter
  • Inspect air conditioning compressor
  • Inspect air conditioning refrigerant
  • Inspect battery condition
  • Inspect brake fluid
  • Inspect brake lines, hoses, and connections
  • Inspect driveshafts and boots
  • Inspect exhaust pipe and muffler
  • Inspect front brake discs, pads, and calipers
  • Inspect fuel filter
  • Inspect fuel lines, fuel hoses, and connections
  • Inspect fuel tank air filter
  • Inspect parking brake
  • Inspect rear brake discs and pads
  • Inspect steering gearbox, linkage, and boots on lower arm ball joint, upper arm ball joint
  • Inspect suspension mounting bolts
  • Inspect vacuum hose
  • Inspect vapor hose, fuel filler cap, and fuel tank
Always inspect the air filter inside and outside of your vehicle.
DepositPhotos

A dirty air filter.

Replacement Schedule

For the DIY spirits in the crowd, we’ve also laid out approximate service or replacement periods for a variety of auto parts. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: These are recommendations, not the law. Always follow the rules and guidelines found in the manuals for your specific vehicle and in the instructions for the parts at hand. Every vehicle is different.

Battery: Replace every 3-5 years

Brake pads: Inspect every 5,000 miles, replace every 25,000-65,000 miles

Brake rotors: Replace roughly every 40,000-70,000 miles

Brake fluid: Replace roughly every 20,000-50,000 miles, depending on vehicle

Ball joints: Inspect and replace as necessary

Bushings: Inspect and replace as necessary

Cabin air filter: Replace roughly every 10,000-15,000 miles.

Coolant: Modern extended-life coolant is rated to last five years, or about 150,000 miles, yet some universal coolants are only rated at 30,000-50,000 miles. Read the instructions in your owner’s manual and the details on the coolant you select. Also note, the coolant itself lasts a long time, it’s crucial to check the coolant level on a weekly or monthly basis.

Differential fluid: Follow manufacturer instructions and specifications

Engine air filter: Replace every 10,000-20,000 miles, depending on condition

Fuel filter: Replace roughly every 20,000-60,000 miles, but consult manufacturer specifications

Headlights and taillights: Replace in pairs, both headlights or taillights, when one goes out.

Hoses: Inspect and replace as necessary

Ignition coil packs: Replace roughly every 100,000 miles

Oil change, depending on the type and age of the vehicle, as well as the type of oil.

Oil filter: Change every 3,000-15,000 miles

Power steering fluid: Follow manufacturer instructions and specifications

Serpentine belt: Inspect and potentially replace at roughly 40,000-60,000 miles, replace no matter condition at 90,000-100,000 miles.

Shocks: Inspect during brake pad replacement and replace when necessary

Spark plugs: Replace roughly every 20,000-40,000 miles

Spark plug wires: Inspect when replacing spark plugs and replace when necessary

Struts: Inspect during brake pad replacement and replace when necessary

Timing belt: Inspect at roughly 60,000-100,000 miles

Tire tread: Tire tread can easily be checked monthly using the coin test, and tires should be rotated roughly every 5,000 miles.

Tire pressure: Walk around the car and do the eye test once a week (or every day), and use a tire pressure gauge to check pressure roughly once a month.

Tire rotation: Rotate roughly every 5,000 miles

Transmission fluid: Replace at approximately 100,000 miles

Windshield washer fluid: Replace when it runs out

Windshield wipers: Replace roughly every 6-12 months

When jacking a car up, always use jack stands.
DepositPhotos

A hydraulic jack lifting a vehicle.

Car Maintenance Pro Tips

The Drive’s editors and writers have been getting oily and servicing cars in their own garages for years. Follow these pro tips to avoid missing key maintenance steps.

  • Always take notes. Pick a designated notebook, and keep track of every single thing you do to your vehicle. If you save the receipts with the records, it’s even better. Not only will this allow you to stay on track with your vehicle’s milestones, you’ll also be able to show future buyers how well your vehicle has been maintained.
  • If you don’t have the tools to perform your own maintenance, check with your local auto parts stores such as Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts. They typically have tools that can be rented, often for free.
  • Solid jack stands and jacks are your best friends. Don't skimp and always use them.
  • Many manufacturer warranties require a vehicle to stick to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule in order to keep the warranty going. Don’t forget!

Featured Car Maintenance Products

Big Red 6-Ton Torin Steel Jack Stands

Sinland Microfiber Towel

Pittsburgh 1.5-Ton Compact Aluminum Racing Jack

Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: guidesandgear@thedrive.com