10 Most Important Car Maintenance Tasks People Forget

10 Most Important Car Maintenance Tasks People Forget

Last Updated February 20, 2024 | Kevin Brent

It’s easy to get excited when new car parts arrive and it's time to work on that dream car. However, car maintenance tasks aren’t as thrilling. Flushing a radiator, changing your oil, or switching out headlights can feel like a drag, but they’re critical to caring for your car nonetheless. Today we'll go over 10 of the most important car maintenance tasks everyone forgets.

Top 10 Most Important Car Maintenance Tasks Everyone Forgets

1. Replacing the Air and Fuel Filters

Most people know to install a new oil filter when they change their car’s oil. However, there are other types of filters that need your attention.

Cabin air filters are used in many vehicles to remove contaminants from the cabin air. Replacing this, and the other air filters in your car regularly is important to ensure high air quality for the engine and driver.

Fuel filters are another component that should be cleaned or replaced with relative frequency. They help keep your engine running smoothly, so don’t forget your car has other filters besides just oil.

Related: Learn about different types of car air filters to find the best option for your car. Or, learn about how to clean your reusable air filter to save money on replacements.

2. Checking Your Tire Tread and Spare Tire Pressure

Depending on what kind of tires you have, they could have drastically different lifespans. You might only get a couple thousand miles out of racing tires, whereas some all-terrain tires may last a lot longer.

Even if your tire has a small puncture, you can still extend the its lifespan with a well-implemented tire patch.

If you ever want to know if your tires need to be replaced, you can always use the penny trick. Insert a penny head down into the groove of your tire. If you can see the top of Abe Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires.

The other thing to keep in mind is the spare tire. Make sure to check the pressure on your spare so that you’re prepared in case of an emergency.

3. Checking Oil Levels

Obviously, changing the oil on your car is super important, but remembering to do it can often be a challenge. Not only do you need to remember to schedule an oil change at least annually, but you need to remember to check it frequently as well.

Hard driving or a mechanical issue like a blown gasket can require more frequent oil changes. Sometimes the only way to know if there is something wrong with your oil is to check the dipstick, so make sure to look for any discoloration or drastic changes in oil viscosity.

4. Replacing Wiper Blades

Make sure to check your wiper blades before you need to use them. Neglecting a wiper blade that needs a replacement can cause it to dry rot to the car and smear across the windshield. Poor visibility in the rain can be extremely dangerous, so keeping up with your wiper blades is a safety must. While you’re at it, also make sure you’re topped up on wiper fluid.

Related: With your wiper blades removed, it's also a good opportunity to replace the cowl on your car.

5. Checking Belts and Hoses

These are two things a lot of people don't think about until they break. If you're driving somewhere and you lose your belt, you could lose your cooling, power steering, and brakes. It can be very dangerous, so check your belts regularly for cracks.

Just like your tire can dry rot, the rubber can crack on belts and hoses in the same way. Keep in mind, your coolant system is under pressure, so if the hose has cracks in it,eventually it's going to fail and leave you stranded.

Whenever you're working under the hood, take a quick look at those belts and hoses. It can save you a lot of frustration in the future.

6. Checking All the Lights

Next on the list of forgotten car maintenance items is lights. Make sure all the lights work, such as the brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights. Also, check that your headlights are functioning properly.

If you want to avoid an accident, be sure to properly aim your headlights. If they're installed incorrectly and point towards the ground, you likely won't be able to see while driving at night.

If you have an older Mustang, one upgrade to consider is LED lighting. This type of lighting is much safer and easier to see at night, and it's easy to install.

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7. Maintaining the Braking System

Your braking system is one of the most important parts of your car, and yet a lot of people don't think about it until there's a problem. If your brakes are squealing or making noise, it might already be too late, and you may damage your brake pads beyond repair.

You should also regularly check your brake fluid level to make sure it isn't going down; if it is, that could be an indication of a leak. If it's low, get your brakes checked. If you lose too much brake fluid, you could lose your brakes entirely. So it's definitely worth checking periodically.

8. Doing a Battery Health Check

Next on the list is something most people never think about until it fails: your car battery. You can't start a car without a battery. In some cases, you can push-start a stick shift, but in most cases, you need the battery to get going.

If you're unsure of your battery's health, bring your car battery to an auto parts store and have them scan it for issues. Auto batteries usually come with a date on them, so if yours is from 7-8 years ago, it's due for a replacement. Think about how many batteries go bad in household appliances - your car battery is exposed to the same risks.

Check the terminals for corrosion or any damage. If they're corroded, clean the terminals so that the battery will last longer.

9. Inspecting Your Seat Belts

The next thing on the list is mainly for older cars, but you want to make sure your seat belts are working properly.

Really old cars didn't have seat belts, and some, like the 60s Mustangs, just had lap belts. It's always a good idea to upgrade to a 3-point seat belt, but even if you're still using a classic belt, make sure to check the webbing, belts, and brackets. If they look frayed or damaged in any way, they're very easy to replace or repair.

Seat belts are one of those parts that you need to use every time you drive your car, but you never actually want to have to rely on them. Make sure they never fail by keeping them in good shape.

10. Maintaining the Right Fluid Levels

The last essential car maintenance task most people forget is to check all their car’s fluids. When was the last time you flushed your coolant or brake system? Have you swapped out the transmission filter and fluid lately?

Gear oil can go bad over time, just like engine oil degrades. These are all things you want to check on an older car. Cars from the 80s, 90s and 2000s need more fluid maintenance than a brand-new one. But even newer cars should have their fluids checked regularly.

Related: There are lots of fluids that need to be changed in a car. Use our guide to keep track of your car fluid maintenance.


Take Back Control of Your Car’s Maintenance Schedule

Even though we only listed 10 things, there's much more to mastering critical car care tasks. For example, essential car maintenance jobs like changing grease fittings and U-joints also need to get done if you want your car to last.

We all love installs that make our cars go faster and look great, but attending to these basics will help extend the life of your vehicle. Be sure to get out ahead of these tasks with a consistent maintenance schedule and attention to parts that need to be replaced.

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This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.