For most Filipinos, cars rank as the second biggest investment they make in a lifetime, next to a home. Since buying a car can cost you a lot of your hard-earned money, you need to be concerned about making your vehicle last a long time. Thus, you need to give it a good checkup every now and then, as well as provide it with a regular car tune up to keep it in good running condition.

To help you provide your car with the proper care it needs and keep serious auto repair expenses at bay, follow these top 10 tips to maintain your car.

1. Comply with your vehicle’s maintenance schedule

You’ll be surprised to learn how many car owners out there—even those whose cars are brand new—fail to stick to their vehicle maintenance schedule as laid out in the owner’s manual.

Like anything else, cars have a lifespan, and to get the most bang for your buck, you need to follow your vehicle’s required maintenance schedule and take your vehicle to a car repair shop with some regularity. Especially when the car is new, following this schedule is important to ensure the warranty remains active.

Below are the different upkeep steps that your car may go through with each car maintenance schedule, depending on its mileage:

  • Oil change/oil filter replacement
  • Spark/glow plug replacement
  • Tire rotation
  • Tire balancing
  • Wheel alignment
  • Drive belt and tensioner replacement
  • Air/fuel filter replacement

2. Go easy on your start-ups

Have you heard a fellow driver say that flooring the accelerator right after starting the engine helps warm it up? Don’t believe it. In reality, doing so can actually harm your engine. When a car hasn’t been running for a whole day, all the oil that lubricates the engine is pulled down by gravity into the oil pan underneath.

During start-up, the oil pump sucks the lubricating oil from the pan and delivers it to the parts of the engine where it is needed, which can take a 30 seconds to one minute, depending on how long your car was last in operation. During those precious few seconds, you need to keep engine rpm to a minimum and give it time to get fully lubricated.

3. Maintain the correct tire pressure

Tires lose pressure constantly through the process of permeation. Ideally, you should check tire pressure every time you fuel up. The correct air pressure for your tires can be found in the vehicle owner’s manual or tire plate attached to the vehicle door edge, fuel door, glove box door, or door post. Properly checking tire pressure requires the use of an accurate tire air gauge.

Maintaining the correct tire pressure

4. Check the fluids regularly

One of the easiest maintenance steps a car owner can do is to check the fluids and ensure they are at an optimum level. Here are the five car fluids you need to check on a regular basis, and how you can check them. If any of the fluids are below the safe level, then you need to top them off.

Engine oil – In most cars, checking the engine oil requires pulling out the engine dipstick, wiping it clean, reinserting it, and pulling it out again to obtain the actual engine oil level.

Transmission fluid – Similar to an engine oil dipstick, your car has a transmission fluid dipstick as well. Checking for transmission fluid level is done the same way as you do your engine oil, except your car should be running. If the level is below optimal, or if to fluid is dark and smells burnt, it’s time to take your car to an auto mechanic.

Coolant – The coolant inside your radiator should only be checked when the engine is off and cool. Never open the radiator cap if the engine is hot and/or running. Once you lift the cap, you should see a line that declares the ideal amount of coolant to have.

Brake fluid – The brake fluid reservoir is usually located at the driver side of your car’s engine bay. You can usually see the level just by looking at the container, as most brake fluid reservoirs are transparent. Just like your transmission, your brake system is a closed system, so the brake fluid should never go down. If it drops below the safe level, that’s a sign that you have a leak.

Power steering fluid – The power steering reservoir is usually located near the brake fluid reservoir, and is also transparent. If the level is low, it’s worth taking your car to a brake repair mechanic to look for a leak.

5. Drive safely

Driving safe means not pushing the engine too hard and taking it easy on the brakes. A panic stop or full throttle acceleration is okay from time to time, but a constant speedster attitude only serves to put more stress than the engine and brakes can handle.

The same mentality applies to gear-shifting as well. Put the car at a complete stop before shifting in reverse. Likewise, be sure you’re fully stopped before changing to a forward gear.

6. Be wary of abnormal noises

If you’ve had your car for some time, then you’ll be familiar with the regular noises that it makes. You’ll also be more attuned if there’s something out of the ordinary. Listen for odd noises when you’re idling or on the road. A few of the potentially problematic car noises to look out for include:

  • Hissing – an indication of a leak in the cooling system or vacuum line
  • Clunking – bad ball joints, worn suspension bushings, and loose chassis components are the common culprits of this problem
  • Squealing – often caused by an old and brittle drive belt or a failing tensioner
  • Screeching – if you hear a metallic screeching sound every time you brake, that could mean your brake pads have reached the end of their useful lives and need to be replaced
  • Knocking – if your engine makes a knocking noise that gets louder as you step on the gas, an engine overhaul is likely in order

If you cannot identify the source of the noise, have a car repair mechanic take a look at your vehicle for a more informed opinion.