Regular maintenance is key to keeping your engine running smoothly, and there are steps you can take to preserve its health between tune-ups. Keeping an eye on all of the fluids and filters used in an engine will not only protect your vehicle from overheating or breaking down, but keen observations can spot trouble such as leaks early on, which can minimize damage.

Oil changes are an obvious way to protect your engine, and this includes replacing the oil filter as well. The filter is designed to block debris and dirt from getting into the engine. If it is clogged, the oil have a harder time reaching the engine, which could cause major damage if not addressed. The exact time between oil changes depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of vehicle and its age, so it is best to consult the owner's manual for the recommended interval for a particular car.

You should pop your head under the hood once in a while to check the level of the oil, coolant, transmission and brake fluids. If they are low, top them off and check back again in a few days. Any fluid levels that drop drastically could indicate a leak, which should be checked as soon as possible to avoid even worse issues down the line. You can also check the pavement below your vehicle after it has been sitting for a few hours to see if you spot any liquids on the ground. Red or orange liquid typically indicates transmission fluid, but coolant can sometimes be red as well. Green is the most common color of coolant, but it also comes in blue, yellow and sometimes pink. Clean oil is golden, but turns dark brown or black when it is dirty, which is a good indicator that you should get an oil change.

Another way to preserve your engine's health is to try to avoid driving with too little gasoline. The small amount of sediment found in gasoline tends to settle to the bottom of the gas tank, and this can build up over time. If you have very little gas in the tank on a regular basis, the fuel line will be pulling up a lot of this debris. The fuel filter is designed to stop the debris from reaching the engine and mucking things up, but it can't stop everything, and using the gasoline dregs will cause it to become clogged more easily. This can cause the engine and the fuel system to work harder, which will have an impact on performance.

Even if you don't let your fuel gauge hit the big E, you should still consider changing the fuel filter regularly, as sediment will still build up, even if you're not always sucking the sludge from the bottom of the fuel tank to power your ride.

Checking engine belts for wear and damage can also prevent major catastrophes. If your vehicle whines when it runs, this could be because a belt is nearing the end of its life. When the engine is off, you can pop the hood and gently lift the belts, turning them slightly to inspect the underside for cracks and tears. The tension of the belts is important too, and one that is too loose or tight will need to be adjusted.

The spark plugs are another component of the engine that you should keep an eye on. When they begin to wear out, they will cause the engine to run a little rougher. You can consult the owner's manual to determine the recommended replacement interval for spark plugs.

Adhering to a regular maintenance schedule and paying attention to your vehicle will help you catch problems early on, which will in turn save you money on parts and repairs and help your vehicle last longer.