Do you know what to do when the dashboard lights in your car turn on or start blinking? Understanding how to maintain your car can prevent you from dealing with serious problems down the road, and will improve your vehicle’s performance. There is more to maintaining a car than just filling it up with gas each week. Here are four critical car maintenance tips to follow to keep your car running properly.

Tip # 1: Watch the Tires

Do you know what the tread depth currently is for your vehicle’s tires? Do you keep your tires correctly inflated? A number of car owners never check the tire pressure and rarely even take a look at the tires until one becomes flat. It is important to keep your tires correctly inflated to help reduce the car’s fuel costs. If a tire is over- or under inflated, it forces the car to work harder. Check the owner’s manual to find out the adequate tire pressure, or look inside the driver’s side door for a sticker that tells you the tire pressure for the vehicle. Then use a tire pressure gauge to check the pressure. When a tire is under inflated, it will actually force pressure on the sides of the tire, causing it to blow out. This can easily occur when you head out on vacations or travel long distances without checking the tire pressure. Overinflated tires have a different effect because they do not have enough contact with the road, causing the vehicle to have problems gripping the road in poor weather conditions. Check the tread depth on the tire by sticking a penny in the tread. If Lincoln’s head disappears, you have plenty of tread left. If you can see Lincoln’s head, contact your local repair shop to order new tires.

Tip # 2: Change the Oil

It is essential to change the oil in your vehicle every 3,000 miles. It is important to change the oil filter and air filter as well. Depending upon how often you drive your car, and the conditions that you drive in, your air filter can become clogged, leading to poor air quality inside the car. This is an easy thing to change, just check your owner’s manual if you don’t know where to find it and change it out. The oil is fairly easy to change, but many repair shops can do it for a small cost and they will recycle the old oil for you. Check your oil when traveling long distances to make sure you have plenty. Without oil, a car will be unable to work and will dry haul itself, freezing up the engine and likely damaging several components.

Tip # 3: Inspect Hoses and Belts

Another area of a vehicle you must inspect regularly is underneath the engine. Check the hoses and belts for signs of wear. If you have hoses with leaks or cracks, replace them. If you do not have the skills to replace them, call a local repair shop. Look at the belts and take note if they look slick. If they do, they need to be replaced. Every belt should be replaced around 36,000 miles when the car has had a lot of wear and tear.

Tip # 4: Change the Brakes

One area that every car owner needs to pay close attention to is the brake system. Check the brake fluid level and inspect your brakes frequently. The Better Business Bureau car maintenance tips recommend changing your brakes the moment you notice an issue. Failure to change brakes can lead to serious accidents and injuries.