Other than buying a home, buying a car is one of the most expensive purchases most people make. And if you’ve invested a lot of your hard-earned money in your car, you should be equally invested in keeping your wheels in tip-top shape. Here are six regular maintenance tips to help you care for your car.

  1. Change your oil. Oil is responsible for lubricating the metal parts of your engine, which in turn, reduces friction and cleans this critical component of your car. Over time, the oil breaks down and becomes less effective at all those important tasks – which is why you want to regularly replace it with new oil. Regular oil changes will prolong the life of your engine and, because your engine will be running more efficiently, improve your gas mileage.
  2. Replace your air filter. The air filter traps dirt and debris that could potentially harm your engine. A clean air filter will reduce your emissions, improve your gas mileage, and extend your engine’s life. Your owner’s manual will give you an idea of how often you should change your filter, but you might need to replace it more often if you do a lot of driving on rural and dirt roads.
  3. Wash and wax your car. Dirt on your car doesn’t just look bad, it also has the potential to wear down the paint sealer that protects your vehicle’s body. When paint starts to crack and chip, the car’s body becomes vulnerable to moisture, which causes rust and corrosion. Again, this isn’t just a matter of appearances: untreated rust can weaken the body of your car and cause serious damage. Teach your kids the basics of a proper car wash and you’ll only need to spend the price of their weekly allowance to cross this task of your list.
  4. Inflate your tires. Your tires are a bit like Goldilocks: if they’re over-inflated, they won’t have proper grip and you’ll experience a bumpier ride; if they’re under-inflated, too much tire will come in contact with the road and your wheels will overheat and become prone to damage. But if you get it just right, driving on properly inflated tires will  extend their life and improve your fuel economy. Your car’s ideal tire pressure is specified by its manufacturer and can be found in your owner’s manual.
  5. Check your lights. It’s dangerous to drive without working lights for obvious reasons: you need to see where you’re going in the dark, and drivers behind you need to know when you’re braking, turning and changing lanes. Even using your low beams during the day can lower your likelihood of a collision by 20 percent. A quick check to make sure all your lights are in working order should be part of your routine car maintenance plan, and you can easily clean or replace lights yourself if you’re looking to save some money.
  6. Review your insurance coverage. When was the last time you got an insurance quote? If you’ve been renewing with your current provider every year, you could be missing out on an opportunity to save money on your coverage. Insurers regularly change their rates, so your current plan might not be your best option anymore. There are many sites that will allow you to compare quotes online, so you can quickly and easily find the ideal plan for you and your car. Review your options each year to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.

If you’re serious about taking care of your car, there’s one last chore you should put on your to-do list: review your owner’s manual. Each vehicle is different, and your owner’s manual will have all the details on what you should be doing to take care of your car, including a maintenance schedule that is specific to your vehicle. Although you’ll need to account for this extra maintenance in your budget, you’ll be preventing bigger and more expensive problems in the long run, and increasing the lifespan of your car.