Texas Living

Auto Tune-Up Guide for First-Time Car Owners

By Jillian Kring 4.8.22

Being a first-time car owner is exciting, but learning how to properly maintain your new vehicle can be daunting. Especially when you show up for a repair and they start saying car words that you don’t know — how do you know what’s urgent, what’s necessary, and what’s optional to repair or upgrade? Don’t throw in the towel yet — our guide for first-time car owners covers all the basic information you need. Next time, go in for that auto tune-up prepared and in control.

1. Read the Owner’s Manual

The best way to familiarize yourself with your car’s needs is to read the owner’s manual. This might sound tedious, but it will tell you how to check fluid levels, what those warning lights mean, and the suggested maintenance for your car’s specific needs. Knowing at what mileage interval to schedule maintenance will help you avoid paying for unnecessary services before they are needed.

2. Develop Car Competence

Familiarizing yourself with car parts and the basics of car care will provide you with knowledge and awareness about your car that is useful when scheduling any service. Inspecting tire wear and pressure, fluid levels, brake pad status, air filters, wipers, and lights are all basic enough for car owners to perform themselves and avoid paying for — here’s how.

3. Service Regularly

Routine maintenance and regular service are important to keep your car running safely. Familiarizing yourself with the owner’s manual is a must for developing a schedule, but these general guidelines are a helpful overview of routine car maintenance. Remember, service advisors may try to upsell you on unnecessary services. Knowledge and awareness of your car will enable you to be assertive and confident when scheduling services, avoiding unneeded additional costs. Note any nonemergent problems found during service and get a second opinion if you are unsure.

4. Repair With Confidence

Finding a mechanic you can trust is key. Make sure you read reviews of mechanics and auto body shops before bringing in your car for a tune-up. Once you notice a problem with your car, troubleshoot first so you can prepare yourself with a general idea of the problem. This tool is incredibly helpful for troubleshooting any issues. Once you have pinpointed several potential issues, research those problems and be aware of suggested repairs and general pricing so you can go into a repair appointment prepared.

5. Price Awareness

Get familiar with the general price of service and repair work before scheduling your auto tune-up. Kelley Blue Book’s maintenance pricing tool can help you determine if the costs are fair. And remember to check the warranty! Routine maintenance is not covered under warranty, but any mechanical problems generally would be if your car is less than three years old or has fewer than 36,000 miles.

If your new vehicle is for a teenage driver in your home, here is a guide to choosing the right car for them.

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