Hooniverse Asks- What's the Most Overlooked Automotive Maintenance Task?

I like to think that I take good care of my cars. After all, I’ve got a bunch of them and they do represent a pretty big investment. I’m also sure that you all do the same. After all you’re here aren’t you, and that shows evidence of an interest in both cars and their upkeep. That being said, I’m sure that you, like me, have on occasion put off one or the other regular maintenance task longer than you should have. That’s just part and parcel with our busy lives.
I think the one task that I dreaded the most owing to its pain in the ass-ness was changing the spark plugs on my FWD V6 daily driver. They were supposed to go at 100K but I dragged it out an extra 10K because I didn’t look forward to pulling the intake and all the crazy vacuum hoses required to reach the back three plugs. Oh, I eventually did the deed and it all turned out okay, but it wasn’t what I’d call fun.
There are other tasks that I dread; transmission flushes, renewing brake fluid on an ABS-equipped car, and apparently cleaning all the Home Depot receipts out of my trunk being among the most hated. What about you, is there a particular maintenance task that you put off or perhaps even overlook? When was the last time you changed your car’s fuel filter? How about adjusted your headlights? Do people still adjust headlights? What do you think its often the most overlooked auto maintenance task?
Image: TheHappyCode

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  1. Moparmann Avatar

    Since I drive a fleet of “old” cars, and with a military background in preventative maintenance, I tend to stay on top of maintenance needs. Having said that, IMO, the average person driving wouldn’t have a CLUE about adjusting headlights, as evidenced by the number of misadjusted ones in older cars I see. The headlights on my DD Honda Fit have a simple knob to adjust the height. Also (pet peeve here!) TPMS was inflicted upon us, because people were too lazy to check air pressure; now they drive around w/ the little yellow light on, wondering what it’s for! 🙂

    1. engineerd Avatar

      Adding to the headlight comment, people who use their high beams because one (or both) low beams are burnt out. Seriously. Get that sh*t fixed and stop blinding people in oncoming lanes.

      1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

        I’ve done that before many years ago. I had a ’78 Mercury Grand Marquis were both low beams burnt out simultaneously. I live out in B.F.E. and the autopart stores were closed for the weekend, so I had to drive with the high beams on for a couple of days.

    2. racer139 Avatar

      Hey. I know what that yellow light is for.. but much like you i prefer do do it the old fashion way. The light stays on because one or more of the sensors may be nackered. Recently the check engine light came on in the pig (08 Pontiac g5) i thought it was the o2 sensors because the flex pipe had cracked and not all of the exhaust was getting to them. Well the flex was replaced yesterday and i plugged the scanner in to erase the codes, it turns out there are five codes, two of which are o2 sensors and a lean condition and maf sensor And another that i don recall. I erased the codes and cleared the cel but it lit again imediatly after startup. Seems that having a leaking exhaust causes all sorts of trouble with other sensors and itll be in the shop for the required service

  2. GTXcellent Avatar

    Here’s mine – and it is the easiest task there is:
    It was -24(F) here this morning (approx -40 if you go with the windchill). I don’t want to go through the effort to check tire pressures at -24. I don’t want to take my gloves off to unthread the valve stem cap. Even if a tire was low, my air compressor (oil lubed) has no chance of operating. It’s lazy and almost inexcusable, but -24 is really damn cold!

    1. jayp2112 Avatar

      After picking the Mustang up in Portland I drove to Dallas with 17psi in each tire.

    2. Devin Avatar

      Heh, thats been me ever since winter started. “I really need to check the tire pressure, but that means taking my gloves off, so they’re probably fine.”

      1. jayp2112 Avatar

        Only flat on the bottom.

  3. potbellyjoe Avatar

    Can we just say tires in general?
    -Air pressure
    -Tread Depth
    -Wear patterns
    -Blisters, damage or rot
    These are all indicators of needs of the car whether it’s specific to tires, or suspension, or bad driver (haha)…
    People who are not car people, or are not “Car Detail” oriented will not notice very simple to catch issues that can save major issues down the road.
    There is something to be said about giving your teenager a reliably unreliable car. That teen will grow up and know warning signs in cars. That’s how i learned.

  4. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Pretty much any fluid that isn’t engine oil.
    Coolant? Does anyone check their coolant with a hydrometer any more?
    Brake fluid? It’s got some, right?
    Transmission fluid? If it ain’t slipping, or grinding, the fluid that’s in there is doing the job adequately, so why change it?
    Rear axle lube? See “Transmission fluid” above.
    Blinker fluid? Now you’re just screwing with me.

    1. potbellyjoe Avatar

      Nowadays the coolant is the dextron stuff that is pink and “shouldn’t be an issue for over 100,000 miles” according to salesmen, so the driver pay no mind to it.
      I laughed when a service shop tried to spook me with a floating ball hydrometer for my coolant. If they had known how to read it, they would have known I was fine.

      1. GTXcellent Avatar

        That’s awesome!
        Short story that probably no one but me cares about, but a hydrometer is my oldest car/mechanic recollection. I can remember being fascinated with my Dad’s. The different colored balls, I’d play with it all the time – frustrating my father to no end I’m sure. He finally got fed up enough that he showed me how it was really used and I was hooked. I was maybe 5 years old, but it’s one of those memories that has stayed with me.

    2. ptschett Avatar

      The OAT long-life coolants really do work, as long as they’re not mixed with the prior types (small percentages decrease the lifespan; high percentages can make all the corrosion inhibitors precipitate out) and the right formula is used (don’t use DexCool or its “universal” clones that contain 2-ethylhexanoic acid unless it’s in a system that’s actually designed to handle 2-EHA.)

  5. engineerd Avatar

    All the low hanging fruit is taken, so I’m going to say windshield wipers. I was talking to an engineer for a major windshield wiper manufacturer several years ago and we were talking about when/how often to replace your wipers. He said they only design them for a life of 1 year under optimal conditions. Up here in the great white north I change mine every fall and spring because they take a beating during the summer from dirt/dust and in the winter from ice and salt.
    I like to see where I’m going. It scares me how many people I see with bad wipers hurtling 4000 lb. down the freeway at 80 mph.

    1. potbellyjoe Avatar

      I am always scared when I see that tell-tale sign of the people driving around with their wipers on way too fast for the rain that is falling. You would figure they know that their wipers are shot, but they can’t be bothered. It makes me wonder what other obvious signs they are ignoring from their car.

      1. Moparmann Avatar

        Not to mention those that leave the wipers on a “mist” setting, continuosly scraping a DRY windshield, as no rain or mist is coating the windshield. Then you have the rear wiper blades that are so worn, you can see the contact patches through the dirt!! 🙂

    2. salguod Avatar

      I switched to silicone wipers years ago for two reasons.
      1 – They last 3-4 years
      2 – They apply a Rain-X like coating to the glass.
      I first used Silblades but later switched to Piaa when I felt Silblades quality slipping. Seriously superior performance.

    3. PeugeotDude505 Avatar

      The michelin wipers that Costco sells for $9.99 seem like a great deal until you realize they only last 2-3 months.
      So I paid $25 for some Bosch ones this time we’ll see how long they last.

  6. dukeisduke Avatar

    The PCV valve. I changed the one in my ’95 F-150 a couple of times, and it was a pain to get to – on the right valve cover, toward the back, hidden under the upper intake manifold. You had to do it blindly, unless you wanted to take a whole bunch of stuff off to get to it. I don’t even know where the one is on my Tacoma, or Sienna. Gotta find out where it is on the Sienna, since I don’t know if it’s ever been changed, with 132,000 miles.

  7. Kazo Avatar

    Timing belt? Go ahead and change it. Wait, it’s going to cost how much?

    1. Devin Avatar

      I remember badgering a coworker to get his timing belt replaced for a full month, he eventually did it.
      “But it’s expensive!”
      “Entire engines are even more expensive.”
      “Yeah but…”

  8. Devin Avatar

    Something that I’m betting nobody thinks of, though it’s an item that has only really been around for maybe 20 years – Cabin Air Filter. Which is why on the rare instances when I remember mine exists it looks sort of like the anti-smoking warnings on Canadian cigarettes.
    It’s not essential, but still kinda important if you want air to flow, which is really important in a cold weather country.

  9. Colonel Panik Avatar
    Colonel Panik

    I cannot even keep up with all the car sites how can I find time to wrench?
    267,??? on the Civic so I guess I am not doing too bad.

  10. Batshitbox Avatar

    Tire pressure and rotation.
    (I can’t see comments when I load the page until after I post a comment, so sorry if this is a repeat.)

  11. mzs Avatar

    Clean out the car – someone on here recommended that every time you leave the car, take some trash with you. I do that now, but there are a lot of cluttered cars out there.

  12. Mzaite Avatar

    My two worst are coolant flush because I genuinely have no Idea what to do with the big pan of poison when I’m done. I have fluid dusposal anxiety.
    The other is diff fluid. And that I have zero excuses for. All my stuff has fills and drains. It just never gets done.

  13. salguod Avatar

    Every owner’s manual I’ve read called for lubricating the door hinges and latches every so often. I’ve never done that, has anyone else?

    1. ptschett Avatar

      My Dakota’s driver door hinges need a shot of WD-40 every now and then, or they start to sound like vocally-unhappy pinnipeds.

  14. cap'n fast Avatar
    cap’n fast

    two of my all time favorites that never seem to get any attention until its way too late-electrical maintenance(battery/alternator/starter) and fuel filters.
    which is easier to change on EFI cars; fuel filters or the in-tank fuel pump? deadheading a positive displacement electric pump causes all the electrons in the wiring to escape as smoke and heat. a quick way to kill a pump is to clog the fuel filter with cheap gas and all the crud that comes with it. pay attention to what your pumping now or pay me later.
    and who hasn’t been brought to tears by unserviceable electrical faults on a cold morning. the simple art of cleaning corrosion from an electrical connection is lost in time.

  15. Perry Shoar Avatar

    Valve lash adjustment (I have a Civic with a D-series 1.6). Who can you trust to do it with the engine stone cold? How can you be sure the shop actually did it? This is something one must do on their own.