Your guide to basic car maintenance : Life Kit : NPR

Your guide to basic car maintenance : Life Kit : NPR


This is NPR’s Lifetime Kit. I am Gabrielle Horton. In the initially 12 months of the pandemic, I determined to get a new automobile lease. And believe in me it was even shocking to me for the reason that I am not a auto man or woman by any indicates. But I experienced a new puppy dog, and I observed myself using more and extra street journeys. So a lease produced sense for me at the time because even the notion of committing myself to a comprehensive-on car invest in – it just felt also too much to handle. To be straightforward, I’ve always experienced a relatively cautious connection to automobiles. The working day-to-day upkeep of it all has usually given me the most anxiety, anything that would often price me a fairly penny. And sad to say, all of that shortly proved to be accurate with my new vehicle.

There had been all of these electrical concerns that saved bringing me back and forth to the assistance center. And it was all the a lot more disheartening not only due to the fact I couldn’t determine out what the genuine situation was but due to the fact I did not often really feel protected in my motor vehicle. And when I did get to out for assist, I could not often comprehend mechanic talk. A little around a year in, my car was officially declared defunct. Now that I’ve had some time with no a motor vehicle, I received to say I am completely ready to take a look at the waters once more, but this time I want to really feel much more qualified dealing with and caring for my automobile. So it only tends to make feeling that I might get in touch with up Chaya Milchetin to aid me and us unpack it all.


CHAYA MILCHTEIN: It truly is your favourite queer automotive educator and what we phone a tune-up on most present day cars.

HORTON: Dependent in Milwaukee, Wis., Chaya is the founder of Mechanic Shop Femme, an automotive education and learning company that focuses on aiding ladies and customers of the LGBTQ+ community really feel empowered to order and treatment for their cars.

MILCHTEIN: Mechanic Store Femme’s purpose is genuinely to educate the frequent, everyday persons like you and me who are searching to just help save a tiny bit of money, choose care of their vehicles so that they past them a prolonged time.

HORTON: For this episode of Lifetime Package, Chaya breaks down critical protection features, how to uncover the mechanic for you and so substantially extra. So whether you are a new driver or a seasoned pro on the highway, buckle your seatbelts as we travel through car or truck upkeep 101.


HORTON: Initial and foremost, Chaya, I love that your TikTok videos truly motivate men and women to discover how to care for their cars and themselves, correct? And I feel that’s possibly most apparent in the great information that you happen to be consistently sharing about car security. So let’s just start off there. What are some techniques that motorists can grow to be a lot more relaxed discovering car or truck safety fundamental principles on their very own?

MILCHTEIN: So it can be actually data that quite a great deal everybody from all backgrounds and all ages can use to choose greater treatment of their car or truck. Even if they have a good mechanic that they go to, there are points you will need to do to get care of your auto concerning those mechanic visits. And tire stress is a wonderful instance of that. If you have a motor vehicle that has tire pressure sensors which are looking through the tire tension amount on your tires and your tire strain sensors are doing work, which is an vital distinction, then you should be however checking your tire pressure at the time a thirty day period. What I usually advise is you basically set a reminder in your phone to do it that as soon as a thirty day period. It must be done either very first issue in the morning or after owning been driving for 4 several hours. But if your tire strain sensors usually are not operating or you do not have tire pressure sensors, then you must be examining your tire pressure about twice a month.

Suitable tire tension is heading to aid you get better gas effectiveness. It can be also heading to enable you help you save dollars on tires on their own simply because if your tires are beneath- or overinflated for a extensive period of time, your tires can truly get ruined by this by wearing unevenly, triggering you to need to swap your tires considerably, considerably faster than you would normally. And we all know tires are high priced.

HORTON: Completely. And what about factors like wiper blades? How can drivers just take much better care of people front and again wiper blades?

MILCHTEIN: As often, when I communicate about wiper blades, I tell people today that, really, wiper blades must be changed about each 6 months with some exceptions if you get a a great deal better top quality blade, which possibly will very last you a small little bit extended. And every single time I communicate about this, I get bombarded with opinions from persons who are like, oh, my God, I haven’t improved my wiper blades in a few a long time or 4 many years, or, you know, I don’t know how to modify my wiper blades, which are definitely 1 of the quite, very straightforward things that you could take treatment of your self on your car or truck.

Another issue that folks ask me about wiper blades a ton is, which wiper blades do I need to have for my car or truck? And wiper blades are offered by the duration. They range from vehicle to car, and you can go on any vehicle parts retail store internet site and input your car or truck information and facts to get the correct wiper blade size The only idea I give when changing wiper blades is that when you raise the wiper blades arms off of your windshield, it can be significant that you place anything down, regardless of whether it really is a towel or a blanket, simply because if you drop the wiper arm on the glass immediately after you have eliminated the wiper blade, you have a unique risk of cracking your windshield.

HORTON: You know, one thing else that you chat about a good deal on your TikTok site is seatbelt extenders. And I have to be truthful. I did not know that these even existed or what they were right up until I came throughout your TikTok. And so can you just discuss a little bit far more about what seatbelt extenders are, why they’re so vital and how folks can get started to use them and possibly even purchase them, right?

MILCHTEIN: So you could get a seatbelt extender from some dealerships, and that is unquestionably likely to be your to start with alternative. It’s vital that when you get a seatbelt extender, you invest in the accurate one for your unique motor vehicle as opposed to a common seatbelt extender. They are usually about $20 – so not genuinely highly-priced, which provides me to my subsequent place. If you are listening to this and you happen to be contemplating, ah, seatbelt extenders – I really don’t require a seatbelt extender, I entirely recognize. But what about the folks you love? Does your wife or husband or your kids or your family customers or your friends or your colleagues – are they greater? Are they ever heading to journey in your car or truck? Will they have to have a seatbelt extender in your car or truck? I am genuinely of the belief that it is significant that everybody have a seatbelt extender in their glove box just in scenario, at some stage, they are desired simply because they are unique to car or truck.

HORTON: Are there other form of protection checks that you imagine folks ought to be accomplishing each individual couple of months or each year with their car or truck that we haven’t previously touched on?

MILCHTEIN: So here’s what I counsel. Put in a reminder on your mobile phone to look at your tire pressure and also to check your engine oil level. Most autos – with pretty number of exceptions, especially Volkswagen and Audi – most cars and trucks require you to examine your motor oil stage also first factor in the early morning or soon after your car or truck hasn’t been pushed for four several hours since the motor demands to be chilly for an accurate looking at. What you happen to be heading to be wanting for is changes in the stage of the oil. So if the oil stage is far too small or often if the oil stage is too substantial, which is anything that would want to be tackled. You’re wanting for any variety of important variations in shade or regularity.

When you’re examining your oil amount, you also get a likelihood to, you know, get a swift peek less than your hood. You may well see that your battery has acid that’s leaking or some thing else that seems out of position for the reason that you have a baseline for what it can be supposed to seem like. What I like to say is if you have a car that has much less than a hundred thousand miles and you have no problems with burning oil, then I would verify it as soon as a month. If you have a auto that’s over a hundred thousand miles or you have a challenge in which your oil is burning and it is really applying additional oil than it should really, then I would be checking your engine oil twice a month. And this is a little something that could save you a whole lot of money in the long run.

HORTON: I am actually glad you stated mileage because I am wondering a whole lot about folks who have older automobiles or, you know, automobiles that have logged in excess of a hundred thousand miles. Are there specific protection measures that these drivers should really be thinking about in specific?

MILCHTEIN: You can find something else that I would have everyone else do also – it is really just on a significantly more time time frame – and that would be checking and modifying your car’s air filter. So what I commonly recommend is that every person should look at their engine air filter once a year. And your house owners guide will explain to you the minimal quantity of situations that you ought to adjust it, but you can inform by seeking at the engine air filter whether it may well need to be improved quicker simply because of the air top quality or disorders that you dwell in. So what you do is you take the motor air filter out, which – for most cars, it’s likely to be two clips or four clips or four screws, which is really, seriously, genuinely effortless. So you’ll take your air filter out, and you’ll fundamentally just search as a result of it at the sun. If it has much less than 50{e3fa8c93bbc40c5a69d9feca38dfe7b99f2900dad9038a568cd0f4101441c3f9} mild transparency, it really is time to swap it out.

HORTON: Truthfully, I don’t know if we can even discuss about car or truck upkeep with no speaking about the sheer stress that creeps around you when that dreaded test motor gentle will come on. Chaya, talk to us. What is the speedy subsequent step motorists ought to do as soon as they see that test motor light-weight?

MILCHTEIN: So that is a excellent concern. If your test engine gentle arrives on and it commences flashing, this is an crisis. You will need to go in. You want to get your automobile towed. I would pull it more than right away. Most of the time, this is going on because you have a several misfire. But whatsoever it is, your car’s telling you, this is an emergency suitable now. Most check motor mild comes on, and almost nothing comes about with the car. The light comes on, the vehicle drives particularly the way it does. If which is the circumstance, there’s a pair ways you could go about it. 1, you can go get it to your mechanic. You can get it checked. You can get it diagnosed, and you can get it fastened. Nonetheless, for a ton of individuals, when this mild will come on, it brings about a whole lot of panic, and they are anxious about how substantially of an expenditure are they likely to have to make in their automobile? What form of damage is this heading to do?

For all those individuals, they could use a code checker to pull the code that the motor computer has saved, and then they can form of do some exploration all around the code to obtain out what the most popular challenges are. The one particular detail which is actually significant to maintain in intellect, if you happen to be any individual who wants to use a code checker, is that a code checker is not a diagnostic software. A code checker is just telling you the area of the process that there’s a challenge. But except if somebody essentially goes in and bodily verifies all of individuals distinctive problems, you may well be correcting a little something which is the symptom of what the true challenge is and not the trouble. So it can be important that you truly go and get your automobile identified when you get a verify engine light at some point due to the fact you’re going to want to make an educated selection on what you do subsequent.

HORTON: This is a perfect transition for the reason that to your position, Chaya, there are likely to definitely be cases exactly where you’re going to need some extra support. And that means that you are heading to probably start off on the lookout for a close by car physique shop, and you’re in all probability likely to want to come across a mechanic. So what quality really should people be wanting for as they research for a new mechanic?

MILCHTEIN: I like to feel of discovering a mechanic, sort of like relationship. You are going to want to go to a few locations, determine out which a single feels good and then gradually create that relationship about time. And it can be significant that you do this procedure prior to you really have a automobile crisis since it really is very tricky to construct a partnership when you happen to be panicking about what is occurring with your vehicle. So there is a couple strategies you could do this. You can go on to your neighborhood Facebook groups or WhatsApp teams, neighborhood local community boards, and you can question individuals, what are the mechanics that you go to that you’ve got been heading to for a lengthy time that you certainly really like? And what I counsel is you make a list of two, a few, maybe 4 destinations that you are likely to want to, quote-unquote, “job interview.” You’re heading to choose a services that you happen to be heading to want to do so that you have a chance to get to know the shop.

Normally, I am going to advise you do something like an oil modify, a pre-acquire inspection, a pre-street excursion inspection, a thing wherever they have the skill to check out extra than just just one detail on your car, so you have one thing to discuss about. And I recommend you check with issues, even if you know what it needs and even if you know the support that it has, simply because you want to see how they talk with you. Do they address you with regard? Are they ready to demonstrate matters that you really don’t realize in further depth? Are they prepared to present you the difficulty on the vehicle?

Once you’ve got taken your vehicle property, soon after your very first check out, you type of assess, just like right after that initial date, and assume, hey, how did that go? How did I come to feel? Did they connect with me in a way that felt sincere? Was it Okay with them if I determined this is a assistance that I wanted to push off for a minimal little bit? Were being they equipped to make clear to me which companies had to be accomplished suitable now and which ones could wait around a very little little bit? Like, were they able to prioritize the repairs for me? And, you know, you kind of maintain subsequent the course of action right until you really feel cozy and self-confident. And if you go to the shop and you go away and you’re like, I am not completely guaranteed if this is the right thing for me, then transfer on to the upcoming shop on your list. Which is entirely Alright. It truly is genuinely significant, when it will come to taking care of your motor vehicle, that you trust your gut.

HORTON: Ok, so let’s say you have this amazing mechanic that you have been going to for a while, but you happen to be at a issue the place you’ve set all this time and income into the automobile and the difficulties you should not really look to be heading absent. When must drivers get started to take into consideration – you know what? It may possibly be time for a new vehicle.

MILCHTEIN: When a good deal of men and women get questioned this question, they converse about how considerably the car’s worth compared to how much do the job you have to set into the car or truck. And I really don’t like to glimpse at it like that simply because how considerably your car’s technically truly worth on the resale sector isn’t going to element in how considerably your car is value to you. So if your vehicle is receiving you to work each individual single working day and you will not have the cash to substitute the car or truck, then your car’s really worth extra to you than the dollar sum that it is value essentially indicates, right?

A further detail that you want to look at is protection. What is the ailment that the auto is in? Are – is there significant rust that could result in the automobile to be unsafe to you or to other folks on the road? Is there significant rust on your brake lines or your gasoline lines? Is your frame rusted? Big, important problems and issues that you happen to be not going to be in a position to devote the money in order to fix.

Another element is if you have a vehicle which is been discontinued or is a great deal, significantly more mature, and each individual solitary time you might be wanting to have a kind of restore finished on your auto and it starts to develop into more difficult and tougher to discover elements, it may well make perception for you to begin hunting for a auto at that position. And then, you know, of class you have other factors that you will have to individually get into account when it will come to determining no matter if it can be time for a new vehicle. Perhaps you just want a new car.

HORTON: This has all been so beneficial. And I guess I am curious to know, what parting guidance do you have for individuals like me who may well be nervous to get back again out there and maybe ended up even a very little intimidated at the concept of even protecting a automobile in these occasions? You know, what do you say to us?

MILCHTEIN: Here’s the thing – your proprietors manual, which we haven’t talked about, is really the guide to your car. And it is really likely to have the minimum servicing requirements that you require to do for your auto. It can be heading to explain to you when to alter your oil, when to transform your air filter, when to change your transmission fluid, when to adjust your spark plugs. And it is – it really is one of the finest resources when it will come to vehicles’ specific details that you can access at your fingertips. And some folks will be like, initial of all, Chaya, like, come on, nobody’s studying the homeowners manual. And I get it. Nobody explained you had to read the whole entrepreneurs guide, but read through the part in the entrepreneurs guide that addresses routine maintenance and what upkeep you have to do.

But also, people have been using care of cars and trucks for generations. It’s a rite of passage. It can be a thing that just about every person in this place at some point is going to do. If you have your owner’s manual, you just take the methods you require to find a excellent mechanic appropriate away as an alternative of waiting until eventually you have an unexpected emergency, you know, you do the couple primary upkeep matters that you need to be undertaking on your own at dwelling, you might be likely to be off to a much improved start than most people have.

HORTON: That was Chaya Milchtein. You can find her films @mechanicshopfemme on Instagram and TikTok, and you can learn far more about her forthcoming lessons at her internet site,

This vehicle routine maintenance 101 journey has been a lot of exciting, but we are coming to an end. So let us recap. Prioritize car security. Make certain you might be setting up regime checks for tire tension, wiper blades and oil degrees. Spend in seatbelt extenders to retain all of your travellers safe and sound. For more mature vehicles, make positive your motor air filter is doing the job adequately. And when that test motor gentle will come on, do not dismiss it. And let us say you require a lot more support. Make confident you find a mechanic you can go constant with. As Chaya reminds us, discovering a mechanic is a great deal like relationship. Try out a few distinctive choices just before you land on the ideal match for you, but also know when it truly is time to go on – to a new motor vehicle, that is. You can want to consider your car’s security issue and access to car or truck alternative pieces prior to earning any huge decisions. And when all else fails, select up that proprietors manual, which can quite often be downloaded online and even in languages aside from English or available in smaller sections on YouTube. But much more importantly, have faith in your gut. Driving a vehicle is critical stuff, and we all ought to have to feel competent and risk-free no issue how much the journey.

For much more Life Kit, examine out our other episodes on vehicle camping, biking and how to find your footing outdoor. You can locate people at And if you really like Daily life Kit like I like Lifetime Kit, and you want some a lot more, subscribe to our e-newsletter at And now a entirely random suggestion.

RYAN MULHEARN: Hey, this is Ryan Mulhearn (ph), and my idea for you is if you want to measure anything and you don’t have a ruler on you, the length of a greenback bill is close to six inches.

HORTON: If you assume you’ve acquired a very good suggestion, we want to hear it. Depart us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or e mail us a voice memo at [email protected]. This episode of Life Kit was developed by Sylvie Douglis. Meghan Keane is the running producer. Beth Donovan is the senior editor. Our digital editor is Dalia Mortada, and our visuals editor is Beck Harlan. Our manufacturing workforce also involves Andee Tagle, Audrey Nguyen, Mansee Khurana, Michelle Aslam and Vanessa Handy. I am Gabrielle Horton. Thanks for listening.

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