Pro Maintenance And Oil Change Tips

You can change your car's oil if you have the tools and knowledge, but it's best handled by an automotive service professional. (Photo by Rob Campbell)
You can change your car’s oil if you have the tools and knowledge, but it’s best handled by an automotive service professional.
(Photo by Rob Campbell)

Car maintenance can be tricky, especially when you don’t know what is safe to handle yourself and what requires a professional. Sure, an oil change sounds simple enough, but without the skills and know-how of a seasoned mechanic, is it really smart to attempt yourself?

Follow these helpful tips and hints from Ricky Jackson and Scott Cudini of Jiffy Lube International to keep your car in the best possible condition this season and year-round.

What kind of preventive maintenance can car owners take care of on their own?

“Generally, we would recommend four key areas,” said Jackson. “Check your oil level, tires, lights and wipers.”

• Engine oil level—should be done on a periodic basis or at the recommendation of the owner’s manual
• Tire inflation—once a month
• Exterior lights—headlights, turn indicators and brake lights
• Washer fluid level and wiper condition

“Regarding tires, lighting and wipers, not only are these good maintenance recommendations, but more importantly, good safety practices,” said Cudini.

What fluids should a car owner check?

Should a car owner attempt to change their own oil? “Beyond the engine oil level, the transmission fluid level is important and readily accessible in most vehicle applications,” said Cudini.

When checking the transmission fluid level, the vehicle needs to be on a flat surface and at normal operating temperature. Other vehicle fluids, for example rear differential fluid, are generally best left to automotive professionals with the appropriate technical training, tools and equipment.

“Do-it-yourselfers who possess the knowledge, tools and equipment to perform an oil change can do so,” said Jackson. “For those who do not, it is best advised to seek out an automotive service provider.”

If something is leaking, should car owners attempt to fix it themselves?

“Simple rule: vehicle fluids should not ‘leak’,” said Jackson. “If an owner notices fluid pooling under their vehicle, it is best to allow an automotive professional with the appropriate technical training, tools and equipment to diagnose the issue.”
Certain belts under the hood tend to wear out and need replacing. Can they change it on their own? “Certainly, perform a belt change if you have the tools and knowledge,” said Cudini. “Where this can get difficult, however, is having the appropriate diagnostic tools to inspect the belt and other subcomponents to ensure accurate diagnosis.”

Can car owners know when it is time to replace a battery? Should they clean it or replace it themselves?

“Historically, battery life was more easily detected through experience of slow cold-start cranking,” said Jackson. “Today, this is less evident.”

Have the battery checked on a periodic basis by an automotive service provider. Cudini said someone who has the knowledge can do it themselves, but it is something that a automotive service provider should tackle in any other case.

Can car owners replace wipers, filters, tires, spark plugs, brake pads, etc.?

“Certain maintenance, such as replacing a light bulb, windshield wipers or even an engine air filter can be easily performed by most owners,” said Jackson. “However, broader maintenance needs such as tire replacement, spark plug replacement or brake service should really be performed by an automotive professional with the appropriate technical training, tools and equipment.”

How do car owners know when a problem is minor or serious?

“Simple rule: When an issue is first detected, it is best to have it inspected before it becomes a more serious issue,” said Cudini. Squeaky brakes should be addressed quickly to avoid more serious and expensive issues down the road.

What car maintenance or repairs should a car owner absolutely not attempt without a professional?

“One should not do preventative maintenance or repair without the proper technical training, tools and equipment,” said Jackson. “Performing an oil change needs to include the safe and environmentally-friendly disposal of fluids and filters.”

As with any maintenance and repair, when in doubt, seek advice from a professional.

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Kimberly Dijkstra
Kimberly Dijkstra is the web editor for Anton Media Group, a writer for Long Island Weekly and recipient of several Press Club of Long Island (PCLI) and New York Press Association (NYPA) awards.


  1. Thank you for the great car maintenance tips. I’m not personally experienced with automotive work and have never changed the oil by myself. These tips will help me keep in mind what areas need to be covered when taking my car in for routine maintenance. It’s great to know which areas I can perform myself and which are best left to the professionals.

  2. A few years back, my sister was due for an oil change. She is a little forgetful so needless to say, the oil change didn’t get done. It did a lot of damage to her car and there was even more maintenance that needed to be done. I think that being diligent about the oil in your car can really prolong the life of it and prevent other problems.!services

  3. I thought this article had a lot of great information about car maintenance. I totally agree that you need to monitor your oil level and tire pressure almost religiously. I am one of those people who changes their oil at exactly 3000 miles and my car has over 200,000 miles on it. I am not sure if that has to do with the oil or any other factors, but I think car maintenance is extremely important. Thank you for sharing.

  4. This is some really great information for any DIY aficionados. I know a lot of people who prefer to do most of their own auto maintenance, but I have seen far too many articles like this to ever consider it. Even things like changing the oil, I have always felt, should be done by a trained professional, because they have a lot more experience than the every-man. Thanks so much for writing!

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