How To Find Your Way Under the Hood and Around the Car

a person looking into the hood of a car

Under the Hood

1. Check Anti-Freeze/Coolant

Newer cars have see-through reservoirs with level markings, so you can check weekly without too much effort. Top off with 50/50 solution of permanent anti-freeze and water.

Caution: Don't remove the pressure cap when the engine is hot.

2. Inspect Belts Monthly

Replace worn, glazed or frayed belts, and tighten them when they have more than 1/2" of slack when depressed between the pulleys. Replace bulging or rotten hoses and tighten clamps.

3. Check Transmission Fluid

Do this with the engine warm and running, and the parking brake on. Shift to drive, then to park. Remove dipstick, wipe dry, insert and pull it again, add fluid if needed. Do not overfill!

4. Check Oil Every Other Fill Up

Remove the dipstick, wipe it insert it and remove it again. If it's low, add oil.

5. Check Air Filter Every Month or Two

Replace it when it's dirty or as part of tune-up. It's easy to reach, right under the big metal "lid."

6. Check Brake Fluid Monthly

First wipe dirt from the brake master cylinder reservoir lid. Pry off the retainer clip and remove the lid. If you need fluid add the approved type and check for possible leaks.

7. Keep Windshield Washer Reservoir Full

When topping off, use some solvent on a rag to clean off the wiper blades.

8. Check the Battery

Do this monthly in cold weather, weekly in hot weather and daily on long trips. Make sure the cables are attached securely and free of corrosion. Check fluid level. If yours has filler holes add water as needed. Note: do not smoke or light a match near a battery.

9. Power Steering Fluid

Check level once a month. Simply remove the dipstick. If the level is down, add fluid.

Around the Car

10. Inspect Wiper Blades

Make this a habit whenever you clean your windshield. Do not wait until rubber is worn or brittle to replace them. Wiper blades should be replaced at least once a year. More often if smearing or chattering occurs.

11. Check Lights

Be sure all your lights are working, including brake lights, turn signals and emergency flashers. Keep them clean, too.

12. Keep Tires Inflated

Inflate to the recommended pressure printed on your tires (it helps to own a gauge). Check for cuts, bulges and excessive tread wear. Uneven wear indicates misalignment or out-of-balance.

13. Look for Signs of Oil

Check your shock absorbers, and test their shock action by bouncing car up and down. The car should stop bouncing when you step back. Worn or leaking shocks should be replaced. Always replace in pairs.

14. Look Underneath

Poke around for loose or broken exhaust clamps and supports. Check for holes in muffler or pipes. Replace rusted or damaged parts.