Canadian car maintenance tips

13 minute read Published on Mar 16, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

Father and daughter standing in front of a car's open hood. The father is working on the car with one hand and handing the daughter a wrench with the other.

As Canadians, we understand the unique challenges that our diverse and often harsh climate can pose to vehicle maintenance. From the icy roads of the Yukon to the bustling city of Toronto, each environment demands specific care to keep your car running smoothly.

BrokerLink is excited to share nine essential tips for the Canadian climate and lifestyle. Whether you’re a seasoned driver or a new car owner, these tips will help you navigate through all of Canada’s seasons while ensuring your vehicle remains in top condition.

Why is car maintenance important?

From car safety to cost-efficiency, keeping up with your car maintenance is not just a chore but a smart move. After all, it’s not just about getting from A to B — it’s about enjoying the journey, and that’s where regular car maintenance comes into play. It’s a proactive approach that ensures your vehicle is not just a means of transport but a reliable partner in your daily life. Here are some of the biggest reasons why you should be giving your car the TLC it deserves:


It’s not just about avoiding breakdowns; it’s about ensuring you’re not a statistic in an avoidable accident. Those squeaky brakes or that slightly bald tire? They could be the difference between a safe stop and a fender bender. Regular checks are your best defence.

Performance and reliability

Ever noticed how a well-maintained car just feels better to drive? It’s like the difference between wearing a tailor-made suit versus one off the rack. Everything just works better, and your car responds to your every command with ease. That’s the magic of regular tune-ups.


Your car is an investment; like any good investment, it needs care to yield the best returns. With regular maintenance, you’re essentially ensuring your car ages like a fine wine, not like sour milk. Plus, avoiding those massive mechanical failures saves you a ton of money and headaches in the long run.

Fuel efficiency

This one’s a no-brainer but often overlooked. A well-tuned engine, properly inflated tires, and aligned wheels mean your car doesn’t have to work as hard, translating into better gas mileage. With gas prices the way they are, every little bit helps!

Resale value

Think about it – would you rather buy a car that’s been loved and cared for or one that’s just been dragged through its life? Regular maintenance means your car will stand out in the best way possible when it's time to sell. It’s about making your car a great catch in the used car market.

Top 9 Canadian car maintenance tips

We all know that driving in our beautiful but oh-so-varied Canadian climate can be quite an adventure. Between snowy, icy wonderlands to those surprisingly hot summer days, our cars really need to keep up with us. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the top car maintenance tips to ensure your trusty vehicle handles whatever our great Canadian outdoors throws at it. From winterizing your vehicle to regular checks and balances, these tips are designed to keep your car running smoothly and reliably, ensuring your vehicle's safety and longevity throughout the seasons. Let’s dive into these essential practices that every Canadian driver should know and follow!

Winterize your vehicle

Preparing your vehicle for the Canadian winter is crucial. This involves installing winter tires that provide better traction on snow and ice, ensuring your antifreeze (coolant) is at the correct concentration and level to prevent freezing, and switching to lower-viscosity engine oil is recommended for colder climates. Inspect your heater and defroster to ensure they work effectively, as visibility and comfort are key in winter driving. Packing a winter emergency kit that includes items like a snow brush, ice scraper, blanket, gloves, and a portable charger for your phone is also wise.

Perform regular oil changes and other fluid checks

Oil changes are vital in maintaining engine health, particularly in varying Canadian temperatures. Cold weather can thicken oil, hindering its ability to lubricate the engine effectively. Use the oil grade recommended for your climate. Besides oil, regularly check and maintain other fluids like brake, transmission, power steering, and coolant. These fluids play critical roles in the safety and efficiency of your vehicle, and their levels and conditions should be monitored regularly.

Check the air filter and fuel filters

Your vehicle’s air filter prevents contaminants like dust and leaves from entering the engine. A clean engine air filter ensures optimal air-fuel mixture, essential for engine performance and efficiency. More frequent checks may be necessary in environments with more particulates, like dusty or urban areas. Similarly, the fuel filter keeps debris and contaminants from your fuel system. A clogged fuel filter can decrease engine performance and fuel consumption. Regular replacement of these filters is important for maintaining engine health.

Take care of your tires

Tire maintenance is more than just keeping them inflated. Regularly check your tire pressure, as temperature changes can cause fluctuations. Driving on improperly inflated tires can lead to premature wear, decreased fuel efficiency, and even tire failure. Check the tread depth to ensure your tires can effectively grip the road, which is especially important in wet and snowy conditions. Rotate your tires as per the manufacturer’s recommendations to promote even wear and extend their life.

Do regular brake checks

The braking system is one of the most crucial safety features of your vehicle, and it becomes even more important in the slippery conditions of Canadian winters. Regularly check your brake pads for wear; thinning pads can reduce your car’s stopping power and increase stopping distances, especially on icy roads. Listen for any unusual braking noises, such as grinding or squealing, which can indicate brake problems. Check the brake fluid level periodically and look out for any signs of fluid leakage. Remember, moisture can get into the brake system and cause brake failure, so keeping everything in top condition is important.

Check your battery

In cold weather, your car’s battery can lose a significant portion of its charging capacity. Before winter hits, have your car battery tested to ensure it has enough power to start your car in cold conditions. Keep the battery terminals clean and free from corrosion, which can affect the battery’s performance. If your battery is over three years old, it’s a good idea to have it checked regularly and replaced if necessary.

Check your belts

Your vehicle’s belts, including the timing belt (or chain) and serpentine belt, play a vital role in keeping the engine running smoothly. Extreme cold can make belts brittle and more prone to cracking and breaking. Regularly inspect these belts for signs of wear like cracks, fraying, or glazing. If you hear a squealing noise from the engine area, it’s often a sign of a loose or worn belt. Replacing worn belts promptly is crucial, as a broken belt can lead to engine damage and costly repairs. Don’t forget the timing belt – if it fails, it can cause serious engine damage in many vehicles.

Check your spark plugs

Spark plugs play a critical role in your vehicle’s engine by igniting the air/fuel mixture which powers your car. Over time, spark plugs can wear out or become fouled, leading to various engine problems such as misfires, reduced fuel efficiency, and difficulty starting the engine. When inspecting spark plugs, look for signs of wear or damage, such as cracked insulators, burnt electrodes, or heavy carbon deposits. The condition of the spark plugs can also give you insight into the overall health of your engine.

Keep your windshield clear

Visibility is critical for safe driving, and in Canada’s varied climate, keeping your windshield clear is a must. Use a good quality winter-grade windshield washer fluid that won’t freeze in low temperatures. This helps in removing salt and grime that can accumulate during winter drives. Also, make sure your windshield wiper blades are in top condition; they should be replaced if they leave streaks or miss spots on the windshield. In winter, consider using heavier-duty wiper blades designed to handle snow and ice. Regularly inspect your windshield for any chips or cracks, as these can worsen quickly in cold temperatures.

Follow your regular maintenance schedule

One final added tip is to follow your regular maintenance schedule. Your car comes with a manufacturer-recommended maintenance schedule for a good reason. This schedule is designed to keep all parts of your vehicle in optimal condition and prevent breakdowns. It includes routine services like oil changes and tire rotations, as well as more significant inspections and replacements like spark plugs, timing belts, and fluid changes at specific intervals. Following this schedule helps in the early detection of potential issues, maintaining vehicle performance, and preventing expensive repairs in the future. Always keep track of your maintenance milestones, and don’t hesitate to visit your mechanic if you notice any unusual signs or performance issues with your car.

What does a regular car maintenance schedule look like?

In the past, changing the oil and oil filter every 5,000 kilometres or three months was standard practice. However, thanks to advancements in lubricants, many of today’s engines are now recommended to have their oil changed at intervals ranging from 8,000 to 12,000 kilometres or every six months. Furthermore, vehicles whose engines use full-synthetic motor oil could potentially reach up to 15,000 kilometres between services! However, be sure to check your owner’s manual for more specific figures for your vehicle.

Every 3 months

Nevertheless, most service centres still recommend that vehicle owners continue with the 5,000-kilometre (3 months) oil change, especially if they drive their vehicles often. At this appointment, your lube technician will typically check your other fluid levels, including the transmission fluid, power steering fluid, windshield washer fluid, brake fluid, and coolant; however, it’s best to check this yourself monthly to ensure your levels never run low.

Every 6 months

It is standard practice to have your tires inspected and rotated in addition to your oil change and fluid checks at every other oil change or every six months. You should also consider having your brake pads checked.

Every 12 months

Finally, it’s best to have a full car inspection done every 12 months to ensure everything is in good working condition. In addition to an oil change, tire rotation, and checking your fluid levels and brake pads, your technician or mechanic should also change the windshield wipers and check your air filter, fuel filter, battery, belts, and spark plugs, among others. In some provinces, these checks are required every 12 to 24 months, ensuring you abide by provincial laws.

What should I do if my check engine light comes on?

So, your check engine light just popped on. Don’t sweat it, but definitely don’t ignore it either. This little light can be your car’s way of whispering or shouting that something needs your attention, and it could be anything from a quick fix to something more serious. Addressing this early can save you from a bigger, pricier headache down the road.

First off, don’t panic. The check engine light can indicate many things, but not all of them are immediate emergencies. Second, while the issue might be minor, ignoring the check engine light can lead to more serious problems and more costly repairs down the line. Here’s what you should do:

Check for serious problems

First, check for any noticeable signs of serious problems, such as loss of power, strange noises, or smoke. If you experience these issues, stop driving as soon as it’s safe to prevent any risk of an accident and seek professional help.

Check your gas cap

A loose or damaged gas cap is a common and easily fixable reason for a check engine light. Tighten the cap and see if the light goes off after a short drive. If the cap is cracked or damaged, replace it.

Look at the dashboard for other warning lights

If other lights, such as temperature or oil pressure warnings, are on, the situation could be more urgent. In such cases, especially if you’re driving when the light(s) come on, it’s better to pull over and turn off the engine to avoid potential damage.

Use an OBD-II scanner

If you have an onboard diagnostics (OBD-II) scanner, you can plug it into your car to get a specific error code. This code can give you a better idea of what the issue might be.

Consult a professional

Ideally, and to save you any stress, visit a mechanic or an automotive service center as soon as possible. They can diagnose the problem accurately and advise you on the necessary repairs. If you’re unable to determine the issue on your own, it’s wise to reduce your driving or drive gently, avoiding high speeds and strenuous driving conditions like towing until you can get the issue checked.

What is the most neglected car maintenance?

The most neglected aspect of car maintenance is often the regular checking and changing of fluids, which includes engine oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant. These fluids play a critical role in the smooth operation of your car, but since they’re not always visible, they can be easy to forget about. Unlike more apparent issues like a flat tire or a broken light, there’s no immediate, obvious sign to remind you that these fluids need attention.

Many car owners may not fully understand the importance of these fluids, or they might not know how to check their levels. Additionally, some of these fluids, like transmission fluid or coolant, don’t require as frequent changing, which can lead to them being overlooked. There’s also a tendency to focus on the more commonly known oil changes while neglecting other fluids that are equally important for the vehicle’s health and longevity.

Furthermore, people often skip or delay the scheduled maintenance recommended by the car manufacturer, not realizing the long-term impact this has on their vehicle. Sticking to the recommended maintenance schedule, including regular fluid checks and changes, is crucial. It’s not just about keeping your car running; it’s about avoiding costly repairs and ensuring the longevity and safety of your vehicle. Remember, caring for your car’s fluids is an investment in its health and performance.

Protect your car further with the right car insurance

Securing the right car insurance is as essential as regular maintenance in protecting your vehicle, particularly in Canada’s diverse and often challenging driving conditions. Accidents can be expensive, involving repair costs, medical bills, or even lawsuits. Car insurance helps cover these costs, safeguarding you from significant financial burdens. Without insurance, you’re personally responsible for covering all damages.

In Canada, you’re legally required to have at least basic car insurance. This includes third-party liability coverage and accident benefits coverage, as well as direct compensation-property damage and uninsured motorist coverage, depending on which province you live in. Beyond basic liability, many drivers consider a more comprehensive insurance policy. Popular optional coverages like comprehensive coverage, collision coverage, and even accident forgiveness offer a comprehensive shield against the many risks associated with driving.

Ultimately, the right car insurance provides peace of mind. Knowing that you’re covered in case of an accident allows you to focus on the road and your safety rather than worrying about potential financial repercussions.

Final thoughts

Maintaining your car in Canada isn’t just about handling the rigours of winter; it’s about consistent care and attention throughout the year. Each of these tips plays a role in ensuring your vehicle remains reliable, efficient, and safe, no matter what the Canadian roads and weather throw at you. Remember, a well-maintained car is not just a pleasure to drive but also goes a long way in ensuring your safety and that of your fellow road users. Stay safe and enjoy the ride!

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FAQs for car maintenance tips

What are important maintenance tips for a car?

Maintaining a car effectively involves several key practices: regularly checking and changing engine oil for engine health, keeping up with brake checks and fluid changes for safety, and maintaining proper tire pressure with periodic rotations for longevity and efficiency. It’s also important to monitor and top up other vital fluids like coolant and transmission fluid, replace air filters when necessary, and ensure the battery and belts are in good condition. Above all, following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule is crucial for keeping your car in top shape.

What is the most basic maintenance for a car?

The most basic maintenance task is regularly checking and changing the engine oil. It’s essential for the health and longevity of your car’s engine.

What is the most frequent maintenance task for a car?

The most frequent maintenance task is checking and maintaining the correct tire pressure. This simple task should be done at least once a month if not more often, to ensure safety and fuel efficiency and prolong the life of the tires.

Does car insurance cover vehicle maintenance checks?

No, car insurance typically does not cover routine vehicle maintenance checks. Regular maintenance, such as oil changes, tire rotations, and other general upkeep tasks, are considered the car owner’s responsibility and are not covered under standard insurance policies.

How often should I have my car serviced?

The frequency of car servicing largely depends on the manufacturer’s recommendations, usually found in the vehicle’s manual. Generally, it’s recommended to have your car fully serviced every 12 months.

How often should I change my car’s oil?

Generally, for most vehicles, changing the oil and oil filter every 5,000 kilometres if using conventional oil is recommended. However, if you’re using synthetic oil, which is often recommended for harsher climates and driving conditions, the interval can extend up to 12,000 kilometres or more. Always check your vehicle’s manual for the manufacturer’s specific recommendations, and consider adjusting the frequency based on extreme weather conditions and your driving habits.

Why is car maintenance important?

Car maintenance is important as it ensures your vehicle’s safety, reliability, and efficiency. It helps prevent breakdowns, extends the lifespan of your car, improves fuel efficiency, and can save you money on expensive repairs in the long run. Additionally, well-maintained cars are safer to drive, reducing the risk of accidents caused by equipment failure.

If you have any questions, contact one of our local branches.