A summer filled with weekend excursions, road trips and a family vacation has left you tired and quietly happy that school is back in session. All that travel, plus the usual day-to-day driving, takes a toll on your vehicle, too.

It seems a long way off now, but the change of seasons will be upon us soon. This is the best time to get your ride ready for what’s coming. (Sorry, can’t bring myself to type the “s” word just yet.)

Why now? Because a problem spotted early is easier and less expensive to fix. Left unattended, the little things can grow into bigger, checkbook-denting repairs.  Also, it’s easier to check things out when the weather is still warm and there’s plenty of daylight.

The Mopar Service specialists at your nearby Chrysler Group dealership are well equipped to handle this routine maintenance for you. Mopar and your dealer will even give you a deal – check out the virtual coupon library for offers tailored to your vehicle.

One easy way to track to track the maintenance performed and what you’re due for is by registering your vehicle at Mopar Owner Connect . There you’ll also find downloads of owner’s manuals and guides to your vehicle’s features.

Now, let’s start a rundown of items to check to make sure your car, truck or SUV is in tip-top shape for whatever the road and Mother Nature throws at it. We’ll have more items in the next couple of posts on the Mopar blog.

First, take a close look at your ride. A perfect time to do that is when you’re vacuuming out the beach sand from the carpets and washing off the dirt from your summer fun. Take note of anything that looks out of the ordinary so you can mention it to the service writer.

Our checkup begins with a look under the hood. Not sure what you’re looking at under there? Check out our Interactive Vehicle Maintenance Guide to help you tell the coolant reservoir bottle from the oil dip stick.

  1. Oil is the lifeblood of your engine – there is no more important fluid. Do you know how to check the oil level? It’s easy to do when you’re filling the gas tank. Just let the car sit for a few minutes with the engine off before you pull the oil dip stick. Don’t know where that is? Just check the owner’s manual for help, or ask the Mopar Service technician to show you the next time you have your car in for service. Also, regular oil changes are critical. A growing number of new vehicles have oil life monitors that alert you when the oil needs to be changed. Or check the maintenance section of your owner’s manual for the recommended change intervals (usually expressed in miles or number of months.) Make sure you use the recommended oil weight – this is key, particularly as temperatures drop. You’ll find that specification in the owner’s manual, and sometimes it’s also inscribed on the engine’s oil cap. Your Mopar Service technician will know the correct oil weight for your car.
  2. Since the hood is up for the oil, make sure to check your car’s other vital fluids. These include:
  • Washer fluid. You probably used some this summer getting the bugs and dust off the windshield. Refill it now so you don’t get caught out this winter.
  • Engine coolant. Usually easy to check by looking at the side of the coolant reservoir bottle. CAUTION: Don’t ever open the reservoir bottle or the radiator when the engine is hot, you could be badly burned by steam.
  • Brake fluid. Be careful, brake fluid can damage painted surfaces.
  • Power steering fluid.
  • Transmission fluid.

3. Belts and hoses. Overlooking this small detail could leave you parked on the side of the road. Regular inspection of the drive belts and hoses in the engine compartment gives advance warning of a potential problem. Replacing a worn belt or hose before it breaks saves a call for roadside assistance.

Next time, we’ll take a look at where the rubber meets the road.

When’s the last time you had the oil changed in your car?