How and why you should use an auto maintenance log

November 30, 2020

Help keep track of your car care with an auto maintenance log!

A woman writing in her auto maintenance log

We all know that routine auto maintenance is important, but it's not always easy to remember all of the information that goes along with it. When did you last rotate your tires or buy new ones? When was the last time you changed your oil? What type of oil does your vehicle use? Trying to keep track of those details is a hassle and before you know it, your oil change is 5,000 miles overdue! That's exactly why an auto maintenance log is so handy.

An auto maintenance log is a helpful tool you can use to record everything you do to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape. Today, we'll show you how you can put one together and discuss why it's so important to do so!

What is an auto maintenance log?

A simple, but helpful concept

The concept of an auto maintenance log is simple: It's a booklet you use to keep track of any maintenance you perform on your car. Did you change your oil recently? Write it down! Did you rotate your tires? You guessed it - put it in your log! 
Now, you might ask, "Do I need to keep an auto maintenance record if I don't perform it myself?" Absolutely! Keeping a record of your auto maintenance is useful even if you take your car to a shop for any or all routine maintenance tasks. 

Why is it important to keep an auto maintenance log? What are the benefits?

While it might sound somewhat tedious to keep a record of everything you do to your car, there are plenty of reasons to take a few minutes to do so. An auto maintenance log can help you:

Keep a more consistent maintenance schedule. The primary reason for keeping a record of the maintenance you perform on your vehicle is to help you keep up with it. There is certainly some leeway when it comes to certain tasks, but it can be easy to push it to the back of your mind and forget. Without a record of the last time you changed your oil, you may push the limits and risk damaging your engine. An auto maintenance log serves as your go-to resource for that purpose.

Keep track of specific parts. Many auto maintenance processes require some sort of part or product, like filters, fluids, batteries, and so on. Of course, many of these parts are specific to your make and model, so you need to make sure that you are using the right product. Keeping a record of which parts your car requires can help you avoid using incorrect parts, and save you from wasting time flipping through giant product catalogues at the auto parts store.

Even when a car requires a specific type of part, there are often different brands that offer replacements. You might find that certain brands or products are more to your liking, so having a record of your previous preferences is clearly helpful. Alternatively, if you find that a part you used in the past isn't all that great, you'll know what to avoid in the future.  

Sell a vehicle. If you've ever been in the market for a used car, you know that there are a lot of things to consider. Ideally, the dealer or individual seller will have a record of what has been done to the car in the past. This is useful for understanding how well the car has been cared for and gives you a general sense for the state it is in. 

With that in mind, if you ever plan on selling your vehicle, a buyer is going to appreciate a detailed record. It also gives you a better position for negotiating as you'll have proof that the vehicle has been cared for and properly maintained. 

Creating an auto maintenance log for your car

Now that we've outlined why keeping such a record is a good idea, let's take a look at what your maintenance log might look like and the information you might want to keep within. 

Where to keep your auto maintenance log

When it comes to choosing a method for keeping these records, there's no need to reinvent the wheel; you simply need a larger enough space to store all the information in a neat and comprehensible manner. While you can print out sheets of paper and put them in a binder, you can also use a basic notebook or spiral. 

Of course, you can certainly use a more technologically advanced method, such as your smartphone or tablet. Our devices have all sorts of apps, like notepads and calendars, to help us keep track of everything. You can even combine methods and take pictures of a physical notebook and store the photos in the cloud for safekeeping. 

However, as convenient as it might be to keep your records on your phone, there are good reasons to make sure that a physical copy is kept in the car itself. Having your record on hand can be a lifesaver if you have a sudden malfunction on the side of the road. Not only can you use it to spot problems, you can reference the parts you've previously used and easily grab them at the auto parts store. Phones die and lose service, but your handy notebook is always on. 

While your record itself might be contained in a notebook or something similar, you might find it helpful to keep said notebook in a binder of some sort, or even a pencil pouch. This gives you a place to keep receipts for parts or services you've purchased. You can also keep your auto insurance card here for easy access. 

If your log is small enough, you may find that it fits easily enough in your glove box. Other places might include a secure spot in your trunk, under the passenger seat, or in the center console. Keeping your log in an easily-accessible place is not just helpful for future reference, but also makes it easier to remember to write down the latest entry. 

What information should you keep in your auto maintenance log?

On the front page of your log, write down your vehicle make, model, and vehicle-specific details (such as engine type, engine size/volume, and automatic or manual transmission). You can find this information in your owner's manual most of the time, but this makes your log a point of quick reference. 

You can find a number of auto maintenance log templates online or create one yourself using spreadsheet software. Create a series of rows for each entry, and a series of columns for the various details. Organize it whatever way makes the most sense for you, but include spaces for the following:
  • Date. The date you performed the maintenance task.
  • Next service date. The next date to perform a given task, if applicable. 
  • Mileage. How many miles your vehicle has at the time of the task.
  • Maintenance description. Record exactly what maintenance task you performed. This might need to be a slightly larger section, leaving room to describe more complicated or nuanced tasks.
  • Part number/product number. If the task involved adding or replacing any particular products or parts, make sure to keep a record of the brand and part number. This might mean a specific type of windshield wiper, but could also include something like a specific type and weight of oil. If necessary, include the quantity (e.g. 4 quarts of oil). 
  • Cost. You may want to divide this into two parts: One for the cost of parts and one for the cost of labor if necessary.
  • Shop/mechanic. If you do take your vehicle to an auto shop for any sort of service, whether it be routine or otherwise, it's helpful to write down the name of the business. If possible, write down the name of the mechanic that did the work, too.
Keep track of everything you do, and give every task its own line, even if you took care of it on the same day as another. Your future self will appreciate the attention to detail!

Finally, it never hurts to have a few blank pages for notes in the back of your log. If you're driving and hear a strange knocking sound, describe it in your notes section to the best of your ability and write down the date at the next available opportunity. Write down any contextual information that might help you diagnose a potential issue in the future. For example, were you driving or idling when you heard the sound? Were you making a hard left? Even if pinpointing the problem is beyond your ability, the information will help your mechanic narrow it down. 

A toy car sitting on an auto maintenance log

Part of keeping up with your vehicle is staying current with your insurance! Since 1896, Germania Insurance has been the Insurance Texans Trust for great coverage and outstanding customer service. But don’t take our word for it! Hear what our customers have to say

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Read more: Routine auto maintenance is important - even if you don't drive a vehicle often! Check out our blog for essential tips to keep your car ready for the road

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Specialist at Germania Insurance.