Neglect. That's one big reason many cars end up in garages. If you never add water to your car's battery (unless it's one of those new no-fill types) you'll shorten the battery's life drastically. Here's what to inspect on your car and when to do it to greatly decrease chances of repairs resulting from neglect.

FLUID LEVELS. These include engine oil, engine coolant, brake fluid, power steering pump fluid, battery electrolyte, windshield washer, transmission and rear axle.

Engine oil should never be allowed to drop below the "add oil" mark on the dipstick. When the oil level reaches the "add oil" mark, add one quart of oil.

Coolant level on cars with coolant reserve systems should be at the levels indicated on the coolant reservoir. If below, add water. On cars without a coolant recovery system, remove the radiator cap on check the coolant. To prevent burning your hand, remove the cap only after the engine has cooled. Coolant level should be within a couple of inches of the bottom of the radiator's filler neck. If below add water.

Battery electrolyte should just touch the bottom of the filler hole in each cell. If below add water.

Engine oil, coolant, battery and windshield washer fluid levels shouls be checked every time you buy gas.

Brake fluid and power steering pump fluid should be checked every 2,000 miles or as recommended in your owner's manual. Transmission and rear axle should be checked at every oil change, or more often if recommended in your owner's manual.

I change oil and filter in my vehicles every 3,000 miles. Many owners manuals say you can go longer between oil changes, and change the filter only every other oil change. But I think your engine will last longer and run better if you change oil and filter more frequently than the owner's manual recommends. This is especially important if most of your driving is short-distance stop-and-go.

GREASE FITTINGS. All grease fittings should receive grease at every oil change. How do you know when you've pumped in enough. When you see the old grease being forced out, you've got enough new grease in.

REPACK FRONT WHEEL BEARINGS. This should be done every 24,000 miles or as recommended in your owner's manual. This consists of removing the old grease, inspecting the bearings and packing new grease around them. Failure to repack wheel bearings can result in a broken wheel spindle and an accident.

HOSES. Radiator and heater hoses should be inspected periodically for cracks, brittleness and leakage. Regardless of how good they look, hoses should be replaced every two years.

FUEL, OIL AND BRAKE LINES. Every six months or so check these. Make sure none is leaking or corroded. Leaking or corroded lines should be repaired or replaced before something serious happens.

PREPARE A CHECKLIST. The previous items are not everything you should check on your car, but they cover the more common items people tend to neglect. To make up a complete maintenance schedule for your car, ask to borrow a dealer's shop manual. Copy the vehicle maintenance schedule and follow it. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, by Robert [WORD ILLEGIBLE] The Washington Post