Every 2 weeks or 3,000 miles check engine oil, transmission fluid and coolant.
Once a month or 1,000 miles check tire pressure - with tire gauge. Check transmission fluid and brake fluid. Wax car to protect finish and a smooth finish will reduce wind drag increasing your fuel economy. Check belts and hoses for excessive wear.
Every 3 months or 3,000 miles Change oil and oil filter or every 6 months or 3,000 miles depending on your driving habits. You will also want to lubricate chassis check transmission fluid and check all drive belts (fan belts) replace frayed or cracked belts.
Every 6 months or 6,000 miles inspect suspension, rotate and inspect tires.
Every 12 months or 12,000 miles flush radiator, replace anti-freeze, check air conditioning system. Replace air filters and lubricate chassis.
Every 2 years or 24,000 miles replace spark plugs (30,000 miles average suggested for unleaded gas) and PCV valve. Change automatic transmission fluid, filter and pan gasket. You should also inspect brake linings at this time.
Every 3 years or 30,000 miles check and test ignition wires, test cooling system, heating hoses and drive belts, check brake shoes. (replace if needed)
Replace fluid in differential and manual transmission. (Every 50,000 miles)
If you have a major repair to do, it's wise to get at least 3 estimates, if possible, before you decide. It's hard to be overcharged when you get three estimates before you have work done. Make sure you get promised repairs in writing including how much it will cost.
Read and follow your car owner's manual - it's your car's bible for making your car last longer.
Whether you are a man, woman, boy or girl; you should learn to do some routine maintenance on your car yourself. A multitude of books, videos, magazines and classes are available at your local library that will teach you for free if you don't know. Learn how to check your own oil, transmission fluid, tire pressure and coolant, etc.
If you find a good mechanic who you can trust, stick with him even if his prices are a bit higher - all things being equal. You'll always save time, money and aggravation in long run. Beware: Cheapest is not always best. Normally, best mechanics with best equipment and training cost more. Often mechanics that charge extremely low prices have inferior or out-dated equipment, little to no formal training or are under-insured.
Complex electrical problems are so involved that serious electrical work should be done in an "Auto Electric" shop. They have equipment, tool and training to do job more efficiently than average mechanic.
Avoid car dealers except to have highly specialized repairs done that can't be done properly anywhere else.
The best as well as easiest ways to find a good car repair shop is by recommendation or referrals from satisfied customers.
To have work done on late model computer-controlled engines, make sure shop you choose has equipment to handle computer-electric service/repair. Sophisticated diagnostic equipment is a must.
To choose right repair shop for you, it's wise to have a small or minor maintenance or repair job done first to see how repair shop and mechanic treat you and your car.
You should give detailed description of your car's problem when you take it in for repairs. The more you can describe what your car is doing or not doing (thumping, squealing, clacking sound, etc.) faster and less it will cost for your mechanic to fix it.
When in doubt about cost of a repair or a mechanic's honesty get a second opinion. This is one of best ways to protect yourself from being ripped-off until you can find a permanent repair shop.