Reader Roberta submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
Do you have any tips to keep track of upkeep for your vehicle, such as when to have tires rotated, etc.?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a cross-the-board answer to this question. All cars need regular oil and filter changes; brake, hose, spark plug, and belt inspections; coolant system flushes; tire rotations; and some need distributor cap, rotor, power steering, manual line, and gas line checks. However, when your car needs these things done is based on the car’s manufacturer, model, production year, and type of engine under the hood. For example, my old Dodge Colt could go 7,500 miles between oil changes, but my VW’s engine needs it every 5,000 (or earlier).
The specific information for when to have your car serviced can be found in your car’s owners manual. If you don’t currently have your car’s manual, you can likely find it in its entirety online or at least order a new one. The website Edmunds.com has a comprehensive list of “Where To Find Your Car Owner’s Manual Online.” (Porsche and Mitsubishi owners will need to contact your dealerships directly to obtain a new manual.)
My car’s manual feels like it is written for a 10-year-old with a first grade reading level, so it was really easy to create a spreadsheet of all of my car’s maintenance requirements. If your manual isn’t written as basic as mine, I suggest finding an online community of people who own the same make, model, year, and engine you do. Someone in the community has probably already created a similar spreadsheet and would eagerly share it with you. If you can’t find an owner’s online community, turn again to Edmunds.com and their recommended maintenance schedule to at least learn what basic work you need done at your car’s current mileage. (The recommendations for my car aren’t 100 percent in line with my manual, but they’re close enough that I think it’d be fine to follow it in a pinch.)
I taped the maintenance spreadsheet I made to a page in the front of a Moleskine notebook that I keep in my car’s glove box. In this notebook, I also record work I have done on the car, dates, mileage, and store my registration and insurance cards in the notebook’s front pocket. If I sell the car, I’ll take out my cards and just pass the notebook along to the new owner. Nothing fancy, but I’m not certain my little VW really needs fancy.
Thank you, Roberta, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
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