The 30-60-90 rule can help you remember when your car is due for important maintenance, like changing or checking the fluids, belts, and
brakes. But other items, such as oil and filters, will need more regular attention.
Keeping your car regularly maintained can expand its lifespan by many years — and, in turn, prevent catastrophic breakdowns that cost you more in repairs.
But it’s not always easy to remember what you have to check out next, since different critical components have vastly different lifespans. Newer cars generally don’t need as much maintenance as older ones, since their parts have yet to begin noticeably wearing down.
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Outside of the 30-60-90 rule, there are some components of your car that will require maintenance roughly every 3,000 to 6,000 miles. These are basic, inexpensive maintenance checks that you can also learn to do yourself, although some require special equipment.
Oil and oil filters
Oil is what keeps your engine running smoothly by reducing friction between the moving metal components. Low or dirty oil can cause minor to catastrophic damage to your engine, so keeping your car loaded with plenty of clean oil and a clean filter is key to extending its lifespan.
The traditional rule for oil is to change it out every 3,000 miles, but this can be extended up to 7,500 miles if you opt for synthetic oil. Your filter should be changed with every oil change since it can clog with sediment.
If the cost of a new set of tires has your blood pressure rising, never fear. Maintaining your tires doesn’t mean replacing them every few thousand miles.
Whenever your car goes in for routine maintenance, have the mechanic check the tread depth of the tires and ensure that they’re keeping a consistent pressure.
Windshield wiper blades are the most fragile external component on your car, as they’re subjected to a lot of weather damage — in both rain and shine.
Because the wipers are made of rubber, they wear out through excessive use during rainy seasons. But dry seasons aren’t much kinder, as sun and heat dry the rubber out and cause it to crack and fray.
It’s usually recommended to change your wiper blades every 6 to 12 months, preferably before the rainy season starts. But if you’re driving in the rain and notice that your wipers are leaving streaks, squeaking, or not sufficiently wiping away water when you’re using them, it’s time for a new pair.
Key Takeaway Maintaining your oil, filters, wiper blades, and tires will ensure your car has what it needs to run smoothly — and prevent potentially pricey damage down the road.
Maintenance at 30,000 miles
Drivers put an average of 13,500 miles on their car per year, so plan to check out the following car components about every two to three years.
Fuel filters are responsible for keeping abrasive sediment and corrosion out of your car’s fuel pump and injectors.
The nature of their job means that they can easily become clogged, which means your engine can’t take in the fuel needed to run.
A mechanic can perform a simple pressure test before determining if the filter needs to be changed.
Your car has two primary air filters — the cabin filter and the engine filter — and issues can arise if they become clogged or dirty.
Dirty cabin filters can negatively affect the air quality in the car’s cabin, while a clogged engine filter impedes airflow needed for fuel to efficiently combust.
Both filters should be checked, but may not need to be replaced if they can be easily cleaned with compressed air.
Fluids are what make a car run smoothly, so make sure that they’re topped off and clean. Most of these shouldn’t need replacing at 30,000 miles, but low levels can indicate a leak, so you want to have them checked.
- Window washing fluid should be topped off. This is something you can do at home with the appropriate fluid.
- Transmission fluid should at least be checked out, though you likely won’t need to change it until you get up to 100,000 miles.
- Coolant should be checked and topped off. If your car uses silicate coolants, which are green and more common, it should be flushed every two years or 30,000 miles. Extended drain coolants, which are orange, can last up to five years or 100,000 miles.
- Power steering fluid should be changed out every two years or every 75,000 miles, whichever comes first. Two years usually comes first for most drivers, making the 30,000-mile maintenance check an ideal time to swap out power steering fluid.
Key Takeaway Fluids are a vital component in the efficiency of your car. It’s not always necessary to change them at 30,000 miles, but all of them should be checked for cleanliness and quantity.
This is only for older cars that use v-belts instead of serpentine belts. V-belts are not as sturdy or as advanced as serpentine belts, which means that they need to be replaced every 30,000 miles. A broken v-belt can render your car undrivable, so don’t skip on having yours replaced.
Spark plugs are responsible for starting the combustion reaction needed to make your car run — so when they fail, your car is at a standstill.
If your electrical systems are still turning on but your car isn’t starting, a faulty spark plug may be to blame. Check your spark plugs and replace them if needed. Newer ones made with iridium or titanium can be replaced every 100,000 miles, but older, cheaper copper ones may need to be replaced every 30,0000.
Maintenance at 60,000 miles
When you reach 60,000 miles you’ll need to repeat the 30,000-mile car maintenance schedule — plus do a few other things. This list is aimed at components of your car that are designed to last longer but are still subjected to standard wear.
Car batteries typically last about five years, but if your car is starting up sluggish or the battery isn’t holding a charge, it’s time for a replacement.
Your mechanic can test your battery for you. If it needs to be replaced, the mechanic will take care of recycling it at the proper disposal facility.
If your brake fluid level is low, you’ll want to have a mechanic check your brake system. This could be an indicator of a major problem.
You may also need to replace your brake pads. They’re designed to wear, but a good set can last you for about 50,000 miles.
If your brakes are squeaking, that means the pads have worn down to the wear indicators or even the metal pads beneath, which can damage your rotors. Even if they haven’t started squeaking, have a mechanic check the thickness of the pads.
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Most new cars use serpentine belts in lieu of v-belts, as they’re lighter, tougher, last longer, and are cheaper to replace. A good serpentine belt should last between 60,000 and 100,000 miles — so while you may not need to replace your serpentine belt at this point, it should still be checked for fraying or cracking.
Maintenance at 90,000 miles
Don’t forget to include the 30,000-mile list when you go in for the 90k checkup — especially since, at this point, you’ll likely need to change your transmission fluid.
Older cars typically use timing belts rather than chains. Timing belts need to be professionally inspected and replaced strictly after reaching a certain mileage, usually 75,000 to 90,000 miles. Newer cars use more durable and longer-lasting timing chains, which can last between 80,000 and 120,000 miles.
All cars use belts to drive engine components — older cars use V-belts and newer ones use serpentine belts. Serpentine belts have a typical lifespan of up to 100,000 miles, so if yours don’t need replacing yet, you’ll likely need to check them again within the next 10,000 miles.
Key Takeaway The age of your car determines what kind of belts are used to drive it. Older cars have more fragile belts that need to be changed more often, while newer cars use tougher, more advanced belts that are quick and easy to replace.
Hoses transport fluids from reservoirs to the necessary components where the fluids do their work. All hoses should be inspected for leaks and bulges. They should have a little flex, especially when warm, and stiffness or rigidity can indicate a hose failure (and the potential for leaks to develop).
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Regular maintenance keeps your car running smoother for longer — and can save you money in the long term by helping to prevent catastrophic breakdowns that your insurance policy won’t cover.
But life happens, and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of when maintenance needs to be done. Having a service like roadside assistance can be a lifesaver when things go wrong.
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How often do you need to service your car?
Regular maintenance should be done every three months for comparatively minor components like oil filters, fluids, tires, and windshield wipers.
For more major components and systems, stick to the 30-60-90 car maintenance schedule. It’s also advisable to keep a log of when you get your car serviced, what was checked or changed, and whether there’s anything you need to follow up on at a later date.
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