5 Tips for Car Maintenance (From a Real Mechanic)

Wish you had a friend who was a skilled mechanic to help you better understand your car? Now you do.

mechanic black and white

Sure, you can ask your friend’s cousin, or your cousin’s friend, to take a look under the hood and see about that whirring noise. But it’s 2015, and you have all of the internet at your fingertips—and Quoted‘s got some powerful internet-based friends who can offer you real insight into the care and keeping of your precious ride. Startup pay-per-mile insurance company Metromile is a fellow innovator in the insurance space, and up their proverbial sleeve is Mechanic Matt, a certified ASE Master Technician and owner of a California-based local repair shop. Matt responds to Metromile customers about their automotive needs, and Quoted is lucky enough to field some of his sage advice, too.

Mechanic Matt’s Top 5 Tips for Car Maintenance

Meet Mechanic Matt.
Meet Mechanic Matt.
  • Have your oil changed regularly. This isn’t a ploy for repair shops to make more money. It is important to change oil either at the recommended service interval or every 6 months, whichever is sooner. Engine oil can degrade and collect moisture if the car sits for too long, and moisture inside of an engine can be detrimental.

Quoted editor’s note: We’ve heard varying opinions on the question of how often an oil change makes sense. Lifehacker reports that manufacturers recommend oil changes at 5,000, 7,000 or even 10,000-mile intervals, while most service providers recommend every 3,000 miles.

  • Check your (spare) tire pressure. Most tires will hold air indefinitely, however, some leak very slowly thus creating problems when you embark on a road trip. My advice? Check the spare also. The spare gets overlooked at most garages and is useless if it’s flat when you need it the most. The spare tires are usually in the trunk beneath the carpet.
Your spare tire is usually in the trunk beneath the carpet.
  • Protect your vehicle from the elements. Spring brings sunshine and birds chirping, but that also means potential damage for your car. Wash it regularly to remove any contaminants that may be harming the paint (such as bird poop) and get it waxed at least once a year for protection. Ultraviolet rays can also degrade both the exterior and the interior. Keep the interior nice and pretty by installing a sunshade to keep direct sun off of the dashboard and lower the interior temperature of the vehicle tremendously.

  • Keep your battery charged. Even while your car is turned off, all vehicles have very small battery drains for the clock, radio presets, and computer memory. If your vehicle sits for long periods of time make sure to unplug cell phone chargers, GPS devices or anything else that uses a power port. If you are planning on storing your vehicle you should look into a battery tender, a small charger that keeps your battery topped off every day. It uses 110 A/C power so keep it close to an outlet.

  • Pay attention. Nobody knows your car quite like you do. You know how it sounds, feels, drives, and smells. When your car sounds, feels, drives or smells different, it is trying to tell you something. If you aren’t sure what an indicator on the dashboard is trying to tell you, check your owners manual. And if you are using the Metromile app it can also give you a diagnosis of your car’s running condition.

Bonus Tips: Easy Maintenance Solutions

Hungry for more solutions for easy at-home maintenance? We’ve got you covered:

  • The best way to check the tread on your tires: “The easiest way to check the tread on your tires is by taking the penny test,” says Fred Mannix, Product Specialist for Bar’s Leaks and Rislone. “All you have to do is place a penny, head first, into several of the tire grooves. Do you see the top of Lincoln’s head? If so, your tires are definitely worn and should be replaced. On the other hand, if part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you’re good to go. No need for new tires!”

  • How to check your engine filter to know if it needs replacing: “Checking your engine filter to see if it needs replacing is very simple and very important to do before the hot summer months take over,” Mannix says. “All you have to do is open the air filter housing and remove the filter. Now hold it up to a bright light to see if the filter transmits light. If it’s very dark and transmits little light, then the filter is dirty and needs to be replaced.”

  • How to clean your own engine: “Cleaning your own car’s engine might sound a bit intimidating. But it’s actually much easier than you think! All you have to do is grab a bottle of Rislone Engine Treatment and pour it into your engine crankcase, which is best done during an oil change. This product contains high quality penetrating lubricating oils and race-proven protective oil additives that help reduce friction and wear and prevent sludge from forming.”

How do you prep your ride for summer? We mean, aside from the coconut air fresheners and sunroof-open-only policy you’ll put in place?

  • Deanna R. Jones

    Thanks for the tips! My engine has been making some really odd noise for the past few weeks. I thought that I was doing everything that I needed to do to maintain it, but now I can see that I should be doing more. I’m glad that you pointed out the replace the engine filter when it’s dirty. It seems like I should take a look at the filter so that I can know whether it really needs to be replaced.


  • Gary Birtles

    I agree that one should pay attention very closely to their vehicle. It is also important that one shouldn’t put off taking their vehicle into the mechanic if anything seems wrong. If you are paying attention and are proactive, you can avoid a lot of problems. http://www.pmmechanics.com.au/about

  • Jane Fox

    Your advice to just pay attention is great. I think a lot of serious problems could be avoided if people just listened to their cars. If something is wrong, you’ll want to get repairs done immediately, before it becomes a serious problem. Even something as simple as poor alignment can hurt your car over time. It’s best to get the auto repairs you need as soon as you recognize a problem.


  • Elias Rufus

    My wife wan’t aware that you had to change the oil at either every six months or the mile marker. Her care ended up sitting over spring and summer. After her first drive around, she cracked her block. I think that’s a great tip. People often look at the mileage alone to change the oil.


  • Regina Peterson

    I have ruined two cars because I didn’t maintain them well enough. I used to clean my engine every month, and that car ran smoothly the whole time I had it and I want to get back to that. More important than cleaning the engine is making sure all the parts that need fluid are filled.

  • Well shared! Your post highlight some of the important factors that one need to consider for the car maintenance. I really liked your tips on engine cleaning. Most of the people are not aware of this facts and don’t consider them.Thanks for sharing useful tips.

  • Emily Williams

    If the weather is more extreme, like the middle of summer, or the dead of winter, are oil changes more necessary? It seems like the oil would evaporate quickly if it’s too hot out, and freeze over in the winter. I’m not a car expert, so I could be completely wrong. Thanks for all the car maintenance tips, I want to take good care of my car.

  • Caleb Hart

    I have never heard of the penny test before. I think that’s really helpful and an easy way to measure your tires. Is there a test like this to check other parts of the car? I’m not a very car savvy person.

  • Alex Lane

    Thank you for these tips. I just bought a car recently and need to make it last as long as possible. I did not realize that the battery is used even when the car is off. I will definitely make a point to unplug everything as you suggested.

  • Aaron Kriegerson

    Thanks for the tips on how to maintain your car. Your car can be a significant investment and you need to take care of it so it will take care of you. You make a great point to check the engine filter. That can be an easy way to help gas mileage.

  • Thanks for sharing tips for car maintenance. These are things which should be followed keep health of car health. Keep sharing your blog with more updates.