Taking care of your car is, in many ways, like taking care of your health. While it is important to take your car to the shop for regular maintenance, as well as obvious emergencies, it is equally important to develop some basic habits for keeping your car in top shape at home. Here are 7 car maintenance tips for beginners.

1. Keep an Eye on the Fluids

Keeping the motor oil, power steering fluid, and coolant topped off is an easy way to maintain your car’s performance. Refer to your owner’s manual or Ask your mechanic to show you how to check your fluid levels and where to pour in more if needed. Fluids are the life blood of cars. Without certain fluids – expensive things happen. If you are consistently adding a fluid to your car there is a reason for it and you should discuss the situation with your trusted auto care person.

2. Owner’s Manual

Periodic references to your owner’s manual is extremely valuable. There is so much going on with our vehicles that no one can be expected to remember all of it. Crazy stuff like child seat installation or air bag safety might seem intuitive but it actually gets fairly complicated. Never be afraid to ask your auto care professional questions.

3. Watch the Warning Lights

Cars have elaborate systems of sensors and warning lights that will tell you everything from whether you forgot to replace the gas cap to the fact that one of your tires is low on air. Learn what each of your warning lights means and how to resolve it. Your owner’s manual is your friend. If any light comes on and you cannot immediately pinpoint and fix the problem, take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic right away.

4. Check the Tire Pressure

Correct tire pressure is absolutely essential for proper vehicle handling, and to minimize the risk for premature wear and even complete tire failure (blowouts). Yet tires lose air every day. Your car might have a tire pressure warning system, but it will engage only when a tire drops down to a dangerously low pressure level.

To keep your tires in top shape, check the pressure once per month and add air if needed. Check your owner’s manual or look for a placard attached to the inside of the driver’s door to determine the correct pressure. Never overinflate your tires, which can be just as dangerous as under inflating them.

5. Feel the Car’s Operation

Pay attention to the way your car feels when it is operating normally. Once you understand this baseline, you can begin to notice when something is wrong. When a new “feel, vibration, shudder, jerk, bump or hesitation sets in these are all signs that something has changed. Make specific note of times and conditions when the abnormal symptom occurs and carefully communicate this information to your trusted service advisor when you take it in for diagnostics.

6. Listen to Your Car

Machines do communicate audibly – they make all sorts of “Normal” sounds so when abnormal sounds begin to appear this is your car telling you to take it to your trusted car care center. Pay close attention to conditions, temperatures and times the abnormal sounds appear – your mechanic is going to ask you these questions. Accurate information is very helpful in getting to the root cause of the noises.

7. Lighting Check

Inspect exterior and interior lighting once a month. Also refer to your owners manual for a proper understanding of all lighting systems used in your car. This might seem simple and intuitive but some lighting systems only come on under certain conditions. For example Daytime Running Lamps (DRL) have become common so understanding when and how they work is important. Replace bulbs as needed of course but some are difficult and involved to replace and require a professional.