Do You Really Know How to Properly Maintain a Car?


By: Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Having a car is as American as apple pie. Loving that car is as American as a bald eagle. Talking about that car to anyone who will listen is annoying and you shouldn't do it. Still, a certain amount of car chat is useful, because that's the best way to get your hands on the knowledge necessary to keep your car in tip-top shape. As it is with clothing and houses, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to cars. Replacing a spark plug, cleaning a battery, or changing some oil the first time you know something is wrong - or if you're really nailing it, before something is wrong, because you have an eye on how long it's been since you last checked - is key to making sure you don't end up with a vastly more expensive problem that might put your car out of commission, expose you to danger, or cost you thousands of dollars.

How well do you know car maintenance? Sure, any old person can change a tire, but there's a lot more to it than that. This quiz will figure out if you know how to keep your car ticking along, or if you need to talk to an expert. Let's see how you do!

How often should you rotate your tires?

You want to swap the tires around so they wear evenly. That way you get more out of them.


What is the right air pressure for tires in a normal-size car?

35 pounds per square inch is a great pressure for tires. If it is much lower, you start to slide around on the road.


What sort of car requires the least maintenance?

Electric cars have about 1% (not a typo) as many moving parts as other cars so they are much cheaper to maintain. Plus, no fuel costs.


How many miles should you go between oil changes?

Oil should be changed at 5,000 miles.


Roughly how often should you replace your serpentine belt?

The serpentine belt is a kind of drive belt that transmits power to all your automotive bits and bobs like the AC. It is made of a polymer and will degrade eventually.


You know how to check your oil - but what is it actually doing for the car?

Fuel and oil are not the same thing. Oil keeps things nice and lubricated so they don't crunch and stick.


What's one parking tip that will help with engine maintenance?

Parking on level ground helps stop the oil and other parts stay level.


What color should the oil be?

Amber is the right color. If it is black, see your mechanic.


What is coolant for?

It's called coolant for a reason! It takes the excess heat from the engine out of the engine so it doesn't overheat and pack up on you.


What is a hazard triangle?

A hazard triangle goes on the ground to warn cars not to run into your car if it breaks down.


What is the place on a car where you use a little lift to raise it so you can change a tire?

A jack point is a little flat reinforced area that is designed to not crack when you put the whole weight of that corner of your car on it.


What might cause a smell of burned fish in your car - other than actual burned fish?

If it is inside the car then it probably came from the engine or something else internal. Check clutch and brake pads.


What happens to fuel economy if you raise the weight of the car?

If the car is heavier but otherwise the same, it generally has worse fuel economy.


How often should you replace a copper spark plug?

Iridium ones are better and can go more than three times as long before they need changing.


How long does it take for an engine to be "run in"?

Running in an engine used to be done by the owner but now it is done by the manufacturer running the engine. The purpose of running in a new engine is to get it going by rubbing off abrasive edges on the piston rings. Using a car lightly for 500 miles is still wise, though.


What engine problem is prevented by higher octane fuel?

Knocking is when the fuel doesn't all ignite so it starts making funny sounds. Those are actually tiny explosions. Don't worry about them unless you hear a lot of them.


Does it matter what kind of paint you put on your car?

Detailing and bodywork prevent rust and other damage. They're not just about vanity.


What is it called when you connect your car battery to another car's engine and then turn your key?

Jump-starting a car works because the car doesn't run off the little battery - it just needs it to create the spark for ignition. It actually charges the battery while it's running. Leaving your lights on can run down your battery.


What is it called when electric car drivers get worried they're too far from the nearest charging station to reach it?

It's harder to carry more batteries than it is to carry more fuel. Still, modern electric cars are so much better than gas ones that they can go a long way on a single charge and recharge in under 10 minutes.


If you're about to do electrical work on your car, what is the first step?

Always disconnect the negative terminal first!


Your battery claims it is maintenance-free, but it's not working. After disconnecting it, what do you do?

If there is dirt in the battery's contacts, they might not connect properly and then power cannot flow. Check the contacts and clean them if necessary.


When replacing a headlight bulb, what it is important not to touch?

There is a special coating on the glass and your grubby mitts will put oil and grime on it that will ruin it!


What do you do if your wipers sound squeaky?

If cleaning doesn't work, check the rubbery underside of the wiper. If it's corroded, just replace them. Visibility matters.


Roughly how often should you replace the cabin air filter?

The air in the car will depend on what's outside the car, but generally the filter matters!


Which of these is NOT a car maintenance app?

CarTASTIC is clearly a better name than any of these other ones, but sadly it's not a thing that exists.


You've just changed your tire. What should you do in the next four days?

Unless you had a machine on you to tighten up the nuts, you probably didn't get it as tight as is ideal. Go to the garage and ask them to quickly tighten them up.


But seriously, what is the point of hubcaps?

Hubcaps help to stop dirt and moisture collecting in the wheel and corroding it.


What tool do you need to own to replace a spark plug?

Don't do this with the wrong tool. You will strip the spark plug and then getting it out is a nightmare.


What's a brake pad?

The pads clamp onto the wheel and slow it down.


What kind of water goes into the engine with the coolant?

Your car wants water, but don't put salt in there. Otherwise, anything goes.


You're checking out a pre-owned car. Where should you especially run your hands to check for rust?

Rust creeps in at the edges. Try feeling the wheel well.


If one of your lights isn't working, what is most likely causing that other than a blown bulb?

The fuse in a car is not a breaker, so if it blows you have to replace, not reset.


If your car battles you when you try to keep it straight on the road, but otherwise isn't dragging, what might be causing that?

Your car's tires should be level when the car is level. If they're not, it'll wander off.


Other than losing fuel, what problem can be caused by a leak in the fuel lines?

If fuel leaks, it might hit a spark and then turn into fire. A lot of fire.


What is the name of the engine piece that synchronizes the camshaft and crankshaft so that the valves open and close at the right moment?

It makes sure the values open in synchrony with the cylinder's intake and exhaust strokes.


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