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Tool and Material Checklist:

  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Anti-corrosive
  • Glass cleaner
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Vinyl cleaner
  • Leather spray cleaner
  • Wax
  • Degreaser
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Small wire brush
  • Spray paint
  • Paste cleaner
  • Silicone spray

Keeping your car forever is not an unrealistic goal. If you care at all about getting the most for your money, you will want to implement a preventive maintenance program for your car. The program in this booklet will encompass the mechanical operation and the appearance of the vehicle.


A used car is seldom in perfect condition. And even a new car that has passed a quality-control inspection at the factory can be damaged during shipping. Therefore, you should give any car a complete inspection before agreeing to buy it. (A new car inspection should include a check for the options ordered.) List any repairs that must be made and make an agreement with the sales representative as to when and how they will be made. The agreement should always be put in writing.

Check for the following during the inspection:

  • Matching serial numbers on the title
  • Paint chips, thin spots, or finish over spray
  • Bare metal (where it should be finished)
  • Improper operation of lights, heater, air conditioner, electric windows, stereo, etc.
  • Improper operation of electronic ignition and/ or computer sensors
  • Rips, tears, or missing trim in the interior
  • Fluid leaks under the hood
  • Proper engine oil level
  • Proper transmission fluid level
  • Proper coolant level
  • Proper brake fluid level
  • Proper power steering fluid level
  • Proper battery electrolyte level
  • Proper tire pressure level

Have the sales representative demonstrate the operation of the car's devices and be sure to check all the fluid levels again at the first gas stop.


A clean engine offers several benefits:

  • It runs cooler.
  • It reduces fire hazard.
  • It prolongs the life of belts and hoses.
  • It makes under hood inspection, service, and repair easier.
  • It looks better.

One of the first steps you should take after buying a used car is to clean the engine, its compartment, the drivetrain, and the chassis. Use a water-soluble degreaser and running water; lacquer thinner on a soft rag will remove stubborn stains. Remove rust from the exhaust manifold using a small wire brush. Once all is clean: check for leaks, oil stains, rust, and other signs of neglect. Make any necessary repairs before proceeding.

Different surfaces are protected differently.

  • Paint the engine, exhaust manifold, muffler, and exhaust pipe with spray paint rated for very high temperatures.
  • Use paste cleaner on chrome and aluminum.
  • Coat all plastic, rubber, and unpainted metal with silicone spray. When the silicone is dry, buff it with a soft cloth. These surfaces should be periodically resprayed with silicone.


Corrosion prevention is not a once-and-done operation-it is a continuing process of maintenance that should begin when the car is purchased. Within 3 months, the under chassis, engine compartment, and the insides of the doors and fenders should be sprayed with an anticorrosion material. This can be done by your dealer, a specialty shop, or by you with a rust proofing kit. For older cars, anticorrosive are effective for retarding any further corrosion.

Paint provides a protective barrier between the atmosphere and the steel surface that keeps moisture and impurities in the air from interacting with the finish. Paint film failure is simply a breakdown in corrosion protection. Following are some things you can do to keep your car's finish in good condition:

Applying Silicone Compound Sealant

This will prevent the air from oxidizing the paint. The surface must first be prepared as follows:

1. Repair any nicks or scratches.

2. Remove all dirt, wax, and silicone from the area to be repaired.

3. Using a small #1 or #2 artist's brush, build up the paint in layers.

4. If you have an older car, remove dead paint with a polish. Do not use a rubbing compound-it can remove all the paint.

Cover all of the exterior paint and chrome with the sealant. A conditioning coat should be applied every 6 months.

Washing and Waxing

Wash the car with mild soap and warm water at least once a month. Do a thorough job, including the inside doorjambs, wheels, etc., as follows:

1. Rinse the surface completely.

2. Dry the surface with a chamois.

3. Remove road tar and other stains with an appropriate solvent. Use degreaser on wire wheels and custom alloy wheels.

4. Repair any nicks or scratches and finish them with a seal and conditioner.

5. Clean all windows with an ammonia glass cleaner and newspaper. Newspaper works much better than paper towels because it is lint-free.

A car should be waxed every 3 months. If a silicone conditioner is used instead, the job should be done every 6 months. For the wheels, use a heavy-duty wheel wax or two coats of silicone spray. Tires and rubber bumpers should also be sprayed with silicone, but be careful not to get any spray on disc brake pads or discs. Vinyl roofs should be cleaned, conditioned, and treated with silicone.


Always start at the top and work down. Following are some additional interior cleaning tips:

  • Vacuum the headliner, seats, and carpet.
  • Clean all vinyl with a nonabrasive vinyl cleaner and a soft cloth.
  • Clean all cloth in the same manner as material that is dry-cleaned.
  • Use a leather spray cleaner on all leather surfaces and replenish lost lanolin with a ~hide food." To protect the leather, be sure to remove all excess cleaners and conditioners.
  • Clean any real varnished woodwork with glass cleaner and use lemon oil on unvarnished woodwork.
  • Clean metals with ammonia glass cleaner.
  • Remove grease from doors and doorjambs using lacquer thinner, then wax.
  • Clean the carpets with a foam-style carpet cleaner.
  • Spray everything that is not fabric or glass with silicone and buff thoroughly. Use an upholstery stain proofing spray on fabric.


Check your owner's manual or an independently published shop manual, or ask the service manager at your dealer for information about a maintenance schedule. The one presented below is a 10year maintenance plan for a front-engine/rear-wheel-drive car.

Weekly Check

  • Engine oil level
  • Tire air pressures
  • All exterior lights
  • Brake operation
  • Emergency brake operation
  • Horn

Monthly Check

  • Battery fluid level
  • Windshield washer fluid level
  • Coolant level
  • Air conditioner belt
  • Tire wear
  • Brake fluid level
  • Power steering fluid level
  • Power steering belt
  • Spare tire pressure

If you haven't been using the air conditioning, run it at full power for at least 5 minutes.

Semiannual (or every 7,500 miles)

  • Check All drive belts
  • Check Starter connections
  • Check Alternator connections
  • Check Radiator hoses
  • Check Clutch play
  • Check Radiator cap pressure
  • Check Manifold heat valve
  • Check Air conditioning system for leaks
  • Check Air conditioning refrigerant level
  • Check Windshield wiper blades
  • Check Windshield washer system
  • Replace Engine oil
  • Replace Oil filter
  • Lubricate Front suspension, including the drive shaft and universal joints
  • Adjust Timing
  • Rotate Tires

Put a coat of conditioner or wax on the exterior of the vehicle and respray everything with silicone.

Annually (or every 15,000 miles)

  • Check Entire brake system
  • Check Tire tread depth
  • Check Shock absorbers
  • Check Engine mounts
  • Check PCV valve
  • Check Spark plug wires
  • Check Rear axle fluid level
  • Check Steering linkage
  • Replace Spark plugs, points, and condenser (not on capacitor discharge ignition (CDI) systems found on older cars)
  • Replace In-line fuel filter
  • Replace Windshield wiper blades
  • Replace Coolant (after flushing and back flushing radiator and block separately)
  • Lubricate Universal joints
  • Lubricate Shifting linkage
  • Lubricate Wiper linkage
  • Lubricate Flood release
  • Lubricate All body hinges
  • Adjust Dwell
  • Adjust Clutch pedal free travel
  • Clean Air filter

Every 2 Years (or every 30,000 miles)

  • Check  Emission-control system
  • Replace All drive belts
  • Replace Air filter
  • Replace Spark plug wires
  • Replace Distributor cap and rotor (not on CDI units)
  • Replace Crankcase breather air filter
  • Replace Transmission lubricant and filter
  • Replace Brake fluid
  • Adjust Automatic transmission
  • Adjust Front suspension and steering
  • Adjust Automatic choke

Every 3 Years (or every 40,000 miles)

  • Check CDI for voltage output
  • Check Wheel bearings (always repack and replace seals)
  • Replace Radiator cap
  • Replace All hoses
  • Replace PCV valve
  • Replace Differential gear oil
  • Replace Original equipment shock absorbers

Every 4 Years (or every 50,000 miles)

  • Replace Battery and cables
  • Replace Coil
  • Replace Brake linings, wheel cylinders, and master cylinder
  • Replace Tires

Every 5 Years (or every 60,000 miles)

  • Replace All light bulbs
  • Replace All fuses
  • Replace Complete exhaust system, including catalytic converter
  • Replace Manual transmission clutch

Every 7 Years (or every 70,000 miles)

  • Replace Thermostat
  • Replace Water pump
  • Replace Fuel pump
  • Replace Universal joints

Every 8 Years (or every 80,000 miles)

  • Replace Wheel bearings
  • Replace Ball joints
  • Replace Tie-rod ends
  • Replace Steering idler arms

Every 9 Years (or every 90,000 miles)

Replace (or rebuild) Carburetor (complete with choke) Replace (or rebuild) Starter and solenoid Replace (or rebuild) Alternator Replace (or rebuild) Voltage regulator Replace (or rebuild) Power brake booster Replace (or rebuild) Power steering pump

Every 10 Years (or every 100,000 miles)

You've reached your goal. Even if the engine requires a complete overhaul at this point, you should still have a car that looks and runs as good as new. It might even serve you for another 100,000 miles or more.

Always buy top-quality replacement parts. Although they cost more initially, in the long run they are more economical than their less expensive equivalents because they last longer and are more dependable. Also, make system repairs instead of unit repairs. For example, when you buy a new battery, get new cables as well.

Keeping a Log

For a log, use a small notebook that fits in the glove compartment. Divide it into two sections: one for gas mileage, the other for maintenance/replacement. Keeping track of the mileage aids in troubleshooting and helps achieve optimal mileage. When you stop for gas, record the date, current odometer reading, amount of gas required to till the tank, and miles per gallon obtained.

To compute the gas mileage, subtract the current odometer reading from the previous one recorded. This shows the number of miles driven since the last time you stopped for gas. Divide this number by the amount of gas required to fill the tank for the mileage per gallon.

In the other half of the notebook, keep track of any maintenance performed and parts replaced. For each notation include the date, mileage, and a short description of the service done. This will help you n troubleshooting any problems.


If you decide to store your car for the winter (or any period of time longer than a month), put it on jack stands to keep the tires and suspension off the ground. Run it once a month for about 1/2 hour. Be careful when you remove the car from storage-the brakes might stick from lack of use.


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