Disclosure: Ridester.com is supported by our users. We may recieve compensation from the companies whose products we write about, test, or review. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own. Please refer to our Affiliate Disclosure for more information.
When you depend on a working vehicle to make money, you need to take extra care to ensure your most important investment continues to do its job. Keeping your car rolling as a rideshare or delivery driver depends on a car maintenance schedule suited to your driving style.
Having a vehicle breakdown is every driver’s worst nightmare. The more stress you put on your vehicle, the more susceptible it becomes to damage that can slowly ruin the vehicle as a whole. To counteract wear and tear before it begins, you need to be proactive about keeping your car healthy in the long run.
In this article, we’ll dive further into the importance of following a car maintenance schedule and provide guidelines for your vehicle upkeep.
- Why Do I Need to Follow a Car Maintenance Schedule?
- General Car Maintenance Checklist
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do I Need to Follow a Car Maintenance Schedule?
Even if you’re driving on well-paved roads and in moderate weather, you’re likely driving in what are classified as severe driving conditions without realizing it. Severe driving doesn’t just mean driving in arduous conditions. It also includes frequent idling, short commutes, and the stop-and-go driving you do during rush hours and other peak hours.
That said, dedicated vehicle upkeep will protect your car from even the most intense driving conditions. It will also ensure you catch and repair minor damages before they become a huge expense that you, as an independent contractor, must cover yourself. In the end, some extra time and a bit of money spent on regular maintenance will end up helping you save money by reducing expensive trips to the mechanic that can keep you out of the job for days.
Plus, maintaining your car routinely will ensure your car will be in perfect shape in time for your annual 19-point vehicle inspection.
General Car Maintenance Checklist
Many vehicle maintenance schedules you’ll find online will provide exact timelines that you can mark in your calendar. While time-based schedules are easier to keep track of, it’s important to remember that most career drivers greatly exceed the estimated average of 1,000 miles driven per month. This means that maintenance on certain parts of your vehicle may be long overdue by the time your calendar sends you a reminder.
Especially for full-time drivers, we recommend tracking the miles you drive and basing the majority of your scheduled maintenance intervals on miles driven, as we’ll explain below.
Before following the general car maintenance schedule we provide in this section, we recommend consulting your owner’s manual. Most manuals provide more specific maintenance suggestions dedicated to your specific car model.
While the rest of our suggested car maintenance schedule will be based on miles driven, there are some routine checkups that rideshare and delivery drivers must complete frequently. This is short-term checkup is important because it ensures you catch any unexpected damages and protects the most vulnerable parts of your vehicle.
At the end of each week, take a look at your:
- Tire pressure: Compare your current tire pressure with what’s recommended in your owner’s manual and deflate or inflate with a portable air compressor if necessary. This will help you avoid flat tires and blowouts.
- Tire condition: Double check that your tires haven’t been damaged while driving throughout the week. As your tires approach six years in age, also routinely check to make sure your tread depth isn’t too low by sticking a penny upside down into the tire’s groove. If Lincoln’s full head is visible, you’ll need to switch tires.
- Engine oil level and condition: Pull out your car’s dipstick and ensure the engine oil level sits between the two notches on the lower side, then add or remove engine oil as needed. Also make sure your motor oil is tea or amber-colored, rather than a potentially problematic shade that hints a need for further maintenance.
- Lights: Interior and exterior lights should all be in working order. If your turn signals start blinking faster than usual, keep an eye out, as your lights might go out soon.
- Windshield wiper fluid: Your windshield wiper reservoir should be at least half full. Add windshield washer fluid to the fill line if needed. Once in a while, check to make sure the wiper blades are working well, too.
Every 3,000 Miles
For an average driver, completing the following every three months is enough to keep your vehicle healthy. However, because you’ll be driving the average three-month mileage equivalent far sooner, you should complete the following every 3,000 miles:
- Change your engine oil and oil filter. Note: If your vehicle model is 2013 or newer, or if your car takes pure synthetic oil, you may be able to get away with getting oil changes once every 5,000 miles or later. Consult your owner’s manual for the best estimate.
- Check your fluid levels. In addition to your wiper fluid, you’ll also want to regularly check your transmission fluid and power steering fluid. Take out your automatic transmission fluid dipstick and ensure the fluid reaches the full line. Do the same with your power steering fluid dipstick.
- Check for signs of exhaust system issues. Make sure your exhaust pipe is not dangling on the ground, leaking, or making any hissing sounds when on.
You’ll also want to check the condition of the following, making sure to clean off any debris and looking for any cracks or other damage:
- Battery and cables
- Engine air filter (replacement typically needed every two or three years)
- Engine hoses
- Lug nuts and bolts
Every 6,000 Miles
Some aspects of car maintenance need to be completed biannually for the average driver (once before summer and once before winter). Delivery and rideshare drivers must be more diligent to make up for their severe driving, completing the following tasks every 6,000 miles:
- Clean your car battery terminals. In order to extend the life of your battery to its full five years, you need to clean your terminals to remove any dirt or grime that may prevent it from performing at its best.
- Lubricate your car chassis. Some auto mechanics will include chassis lubrication in your oil change if you purchase the right package.
- Get your tires rotated. Tires will last longer if they’re evenly worn down. Because front tires typically get worn faster, it’s important to get tire rotations once in a while to prevent a faster replacement than necessary.
- Check your brake fluid. Make sure your brake fluid level sits between the minimum and maximum lines. Adjust if needed.
- Check your cabin air filter. Take a look at the condition of your cabin air filter. Typically, a replacement is needed at least once every 25,000 miles. Your owner’s manual will provide more exact guidelines.
- Test your spark plug and wires. Make sure your spark plug and wires are still in good working condition. These usually only need to be changed every 30,000 miles with good upkeep.
- Check your engine coolant. If your coolant level is low, fill the engine coolant reservoir up to the max fill line.
Every 12,000 Miles
Maintenance tasks that are traditionally completed annually should be completed every 12,000 miles by on-demand drivers. These are typically larger-scale tasks that can be completed by your mechanic all in one service appointment. When you hit the big 12,000, make sure to:
- Complete a brake system inspection. Mechanics can help you check your brake pad wear, replacing if needed, and do an in-depth inspection to check for any repairs needed in your brake system.
- Get a full AC system checkup. Professionals will check your refrigerant levels, ensure there’s no leak in the system, and perform a full tune-up if needed.
- Get your wheel alignment checked. While you only need to actually get your wheels aligned every two or three years, it’s a good idea to ask a professional to double check your alignment while it’s in the shop to ensure your frequent driving hasn’t created an earlier need. You may also want your steering and suspension system inspected to improve safety, as well.
- Get your timing belt checked: Your timing belt plays a major role in helping your engine function properly. Again, this inspection is best left to a professional.
Older vehicles may need an engine tune-up every 12,000 miles, but newer vehicles that are eligible for your gigs typically can go at least 25,000 miles (and even as much as 100,000 miles) without one. Consult your owner’s manual for more exact recommendations on this.
Frequently Asked Questions
By following the car maintenance schedule we’ve provided, you’ll keep your vehicle in tip-top shape for as long as possible. To help you provide great care for your car, we’ve answered a handful of drivers’ common questions about vehicle maintenance:
1. Are there any cases where a rideshare or delivery driver should follow time-based intervals for their car’s maintenance?
If you expect to always hit the average monthly equivalents that we mentioned before reaching the miles driven, we recommend following time-based intervals. This is rare for rideshare and delivery drivers, since even part-time drivers are driving at least a few hours nonstop per week — on top of driving to work, school, grocery stores, and social outings — putting you well over the average 1,000 miles per month. However, this can easily be the base if you have a separate car dedicated to driving for on-demand apps.
2. How do I know if my vehicle has a recall and a repair is covered?
You’ll typically be notified by mail about any recalls on your vehicle model. However, some experts still recommend checking for recalls on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s search page to ensure you haven’t missed anything. All you need to do is search by your vehicle identification number (VIN).
You can usually find your VIN on your vehicle exterior, where your dashboard and windshield meet on the driver’s side. It also may be on the driver’s side door jamb, under the hood near the front of the engine, or on your vehicle insurance card.
If you find that a recall is needed, schedule an appointment with your local dealership and the recalled part should be fixed for free.
3. My check engine light turned on. Do I need to go to a mechanic or can I fix this as part of my regular maintenance schedule?
We don’t recommend waiting until the next checkup date on your car maintenance schedule to find out what’s causing your check engine light to turn on. However, you may not have to go to your mechanic. Investing in an OBD2 scanner will help you diagnose problems at home and only bring your vehicle into the mechanic if a DIY fix isn’t possible.
Keep Your Vehicle’s Health in Check
Performing routine maintenance on your vehicle is a necessity when driving is your gig. By following our car maintenance schedule, you won’t have to worry about irreparable damages occurring before you expect a replacement part to be needed. This will ultimately reduce your expenses and keep you on the road in the long run.
If you’re an Uber or Lyft driver, your car maintenance doesn’t stop at keeping your vehicle safe and running — it also needs to look great for riders, too. Learn how to clean car seats to impress your passengers and receive a five-star rating.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.