4 basic maintenance tasks every driver should know

Owning a car is a big responsibility. While your wheels certainly endow you with a sense of freedom and independence, there's also much that you need to be aware of as a vehicle-owner if you want to avoid spending tons of money on repairs.

Of course, cars are incredibly complex machines, and mechanics spend years learning the literal ins and outs of automotive repair so they can help you keep your ride on the road. But there are a few basic things that every driver should know.

Here are four preventive maintenance measures that you don't have to be a mechanic to know.

"The most complicated part of checking your oil is figuring out exactly how often to do so."

1. Motor oil
Checking and changing your oil is a key thing to learn in terms of keeping your car running smoothly. Fortunately, it's also one of the simplest. In fact, one of the most complicated parts of checking your oil is figuring out exactly how often to do so.

Ever make and model will be different, but conventional wisdom holds that you should change your oil and oil filter every 2,000 to 3,000 miles if you want to be especially fastidious. Don't worry if that sounds like a lot to you – the Department of Motor Vehicles admitted that you can still drive safely if you change your oil every 5,000 miles. 

While changing your oil may require a trip to the mechanic, checking it is very simple and should only take you a few minutes once you know what you're doing.

2. Windshield wipers
If you've ever been driving in the rain and found that your windshield quickly became a nearly opaque smear of wet streaks, chances are your wipers need to be replaced. You may not realize it, but your wiper blades can wear down, making them less effective and even potentially putting you in dangerous situations with reduced visibility. 

The good news is that wipers are fairly inexpensive, and most people are even comfortable changing them at home. Most modern wiper blades clip directly on to the arm, making for fast and simple snap-together replacement when needed. 

Checking your tires is a fast and simple process that you should learn right away.

var atlantisVideo = AtlantisJS.Init({videos: [{id: “2970”}]});

3. Tires
Proper tire maintenance is critical for keeping you safe in your car. These unassuming rubber donuts can affect everything from how well your car handles on the road to what kind of gas mileage you'll get. 

When it comes to tire maintenance, there are two things you should look at: air pressure and tread. Both can be checked quickly and easily. You should check your tire pressure weekly using a pressure gauge – just make sure you refer to your car's owner's manual to learn what the optimal range is. Underinflated tires can compromise responsiveness and therefore safety, while tires that have too much air in them aren't any better. Overinflated tires can reduce the surface area of the tire that comes into contact with the road, which can limit the control you have over your car and increase the amount of fuel it has to use. 

4. Spark plugs
First-time car owners or those who are less mechanically inclined may not even know what a spark plug is, let alone how to perform basic maintenance. But it's a critical component of your car's engine, both helping it efficiently burn fuel as well as transferring excess heat away from your engine.

While many newer cars have spark plugs made from modern materials that are much more resilient than their older counterparts, cars more than 10 to 15 years old will likely have the copper core variety, which require more regular maintenance. As a general rule, have your spark plugs inspected every 30,000 miles or so. If you aren't comfortable taking on the task of changing them yourself, your local mechanic can quickly do so for you.

For more tips on buying, repairing and owning a used car, head to www.njstateautoauction.com