This post is sponsored by K&N Air Filters.
As a busy mom of three kids (and a dog), I feel like I spend half my life in the car. From carpool duty to baseball practice to running errands, we are a family on the go. Sometimes, I’m lucky if I remember to put gas in the car let alone keep it running in tip top shape. In fact, up until a couple months ago, basic car maintenance was at the very bottom of my to do list. (It was below organizing my sock drawer if that tells you anything…)
But after other kids in the carpool started commenting on how dirty my car was, and after I couldn’t answer my 10-year-old’s questions about how to check the oil in the car, I decided to make a few changes.
Basic Car Maintenance Doesn’t Take Long!
I always thought of car maintenance as something that happened when I dropped my car off to the shop for an oil change. There would be spark plugs and jibby jabby “things” involved that were completely out of my league.
Boy was I wrong!
I’ve learned a ton in the past month, and I’m excited to share it with you. Specifically, I decided to focus on the things I could do to keep my car cleaner and fresher, running better, and also that would keep my family safer.
Oh – and even though I was determined to focus on basic car maintenance, nothing could take longer than 5 – 10 minutes per month to implement.
To my surprise, it actually was.
Through the rest of this post, I’ll walk you through the basic car maintenance steps that I’ve taken. They’re perfect for busy moms (like me), and your car will be cleaner and fresher too!
Basic Car Maintenance Tip 1: Checking the Tire Pressure
My car has a sensor that lets me know when my tire pressure is low, so I always figured that I didn’t need to check the tire pressure manually.
Apparently I was wrong.
I learned that most car sensors don’t alert you until the tire pressure is dangerously low – like so low that you might blow a flat on your way to fill up with air. I also learned that it’s incredibly easy to check it yourself.
Why you should check the tire pressure
By having your tires inflated to the proper level, you will get better gas mileage, you’ll avoid uneven wear on your tires, and you’ll help to avoid a flat tire.
How often to check the tire pressure
Experts will tell you to check the tire pressure every time you fill your car with gas. That’s a lot for me to remember and feels excessive. I’ve decided to focus on doing it monthly, so I can easily add basic car maintenance as a repeating 10-minute event on my calendar for the first of each month.
Tools you’ll need
Tire pressure gauge (they’re just a few bucks, and they even come in cute colors).
How to do it
Simply remove the cap from the valve stem on your tire, and hold your tire pressure gauge evenly on the valve stem. (If you hear air hissing, you don’t have a tight seal.) The stem of your tire pressure gauge will pop out to show you the tire pressure.
Check on your tire (or in your vehicle’s owner manual) to determine the correct tire pressure (or PSI) that you want to meet. I was pretty impressed that the number was right there on my tire for me to see. Easy. Peasy.
Quick tip: Check your tire pressure BEFORE you drive. You’ll get the best reading from “cold” tires – or tires that haven’t been driven in awhile.
Basic Car Maintenance Tip 2: Updating your Cabin Air Filter (and why you should)
If you’re anything like me, you had no idea that your car HAD a cabin air filter, let alone that it needs to be changed.
It turns out that your car brings all of the air from the outside into your car and either heats it or cools it (depending on your temperature setting), before blowing it through the vents of your car. It makes total sense, I just had never really thought about how it all works.
Did you know that you should replace your cabin air filter every year? I had no idea, so I was thrilled when K&N Cabin Air Filters introduced me to their washable cabin air filter that I can install myself. And in one year, I can simply remove it, wash it and put it back into the car.
Why you should replace your cabin air filter
The outside air that is filtered and circulated through your car is full of dirt and debris. When I pulled out our existing cabin air filter (that was only two years old), I was SHOCKED at how filthy and disgusting it was. There were even pine needles falling into the car when I pulled it out. Yuck!
How often to change your cabin air filter
As I mentioned, you should change your cabin air filter every year. Luckily, with K&N Washable Cabin Air Filters, you can simply wash it each year without having to buy a new one.
Tools you’ll need
- K&N Washable Cabin Air Filter
- Screwdriver or Allen Wrench (depending on your vehicle)
- Owner’s Manual (this isn’t required, but it was helpful for us to learn more about how to specifically install the K&N Cabin Air Filter in our car.)
How to do it
I was a little overwhelmed at the thought of replacing the cabin air filter myself, but my 10-year-old son and I were able to do it in about five minutes. We followed the simple instructions from K&N air filters, and we were good to go.
First, we used an allen wrench to remove our glove box. Then, I slid out the old cabin air filter and installed the K&N Washable Cabin Air Filter.
We replaced the cover and re-installed the glove box. Easy. Peasy.
Here’s a quick video to show our process.
Basic Car Maintenance Tip 3: Checking Your Oil
I take my car in for scheduled oil changes, so I really didn’t see the point in checking the oil myself.
Are you sensing a theme here?
Why you should check your oil
As it turns out, my car’s recommended oil change is every 10,000 miles. And even though I feel like I’m in the car all day every day, my mileage is low because I’m sticking within a pretty tight area around our house and school. Which means I might only be changing my oil every 9 – 12 months.
Plus, I do a lot of stop and go driving versus highway driving, which means I might be using more oil even though my mileage is low.
How often to check your oil
This really is up to your discretion. I’ll be checking mine every other month and before long roadtrips.
Tools you’ll need
In theory, all you really need is a paper towel or a rag. But to make my life as easy as possible, I used the following:
- Rubber gloves (to keep my hands clean)
- Step stool (I drive a Suburban, so I needed some help getting high enough to reach the engine.
- Paper towel or rag
- General understanding of your car’s engine and where the dipstick is
How to do it
Open the hood of your car and locate the dipstick. (It probably has a colored handle)
Quick tip: Be sure your engine is cool. You don’t want to burn yourself on a hot engine while you’re reaching for the dipstick.
Pull the dipstick out, and wipe it down with your rag or paper towel. Reinsert it all the way, and then pull it out again. Then take a look.
You should see markings – either a texture or dots at the end of your dipstick. Ideally, you want your oil to reach those markings.
If it looks really dark, or it’s not meeting those marks, plan to take your car in to have it serviced.
Basic Car Maintenance Tip 4: Keep it Clean
There’s nothing I hate more than having a filthy and disgusting car. Especially when trash literally falls out when the kids open the door.
I also find it incredibly hard to keep the car clean when we’re constantly running to after-school events and baseball games, while eating our meals and doing homework on the go.
Luckily, we’ve incorporated a few things that have helped us keep our car clean for an entire month so far – which is a definite record for us!
First, we stock supplies
As part of our Sunday routine, I re-stock the supply bin in the car. This is a bin that we keep in the car and use throughout the week. Here’s what we have in ours:
- Bottles of water (even warm water is better than no water)
- Granola bars (we keep a box in the car that won’t melt)
- Hard candy and gum (just in case)
- Activity pouches (for siblings stuck at sporting events)
- Hand sanitizer and wipes
- Zipper pouch with a small first aid kit, sunscreen and bug spray
- Trays or cookie sheets
I’ve found that having this supply bin in the car at all times has reduced my stress during the week. I forgot a snack? No problem. Grab a granola bar! There are mosquitoes at the track? Grab the bug spray.
The trays (we use cookie sheets) make a huge difference in how clean the kids are while eating in the car. They keep their food on the tray, and we wipe them down when we need to. They also double as homework desks.
Then we take out the trash
I want you to know that I have tried keeping trash bags in the car and coaching the kids to use it. I have tried implementing rules that everyone needs to take their trash out of the car when they get out.
It all works perfectly until we’re rolling into the driveway an hour after bedtime with exhausted kids that still need showers and snacks before bed.
As simple as it sounds, buying a little car trash can and hooking it onto the seat has made all the difference.
The kids put their trash in the can as they create it. Each week my kids rotate household chores, and now whoever is on trash duty also empties the car trash. I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner!
Basic Car Maintenance Tip 5: Keep Track of It All
One of the hardest parts of basic car maintenance can be remembering what you’ve done and when you did it.
Trust me, I already have enough in my head trying to remember kid doctor appointments, field trips and when I need to give the dog his heartworm medicine. Whether or not I checked the oil or got the tires rotated does not rank high enough on my priority list to be stored in my brain.
I’m assuming I’m not alone in this (please tell me I’m not alone!), so I created a Car Maintenance Log to help all busy moms stay sane when it comes to basic car maintenance.
Click here to download your free copy, and keep it in your glove box. The next time you check your oil or tire pressure, clean your K&N Washable Air Cabin Filter, or have your car serviced, simply take note.
See how easy this was? Once you make the initial time investment to do everything the first time (which is really only 15 minutes tops), you’ll be able to keep your car maintained in just 5 – 10 minutes per month.