Finding time for regular car maintenance can be tiresome, especially when you’re short on time or just don’t know where to begin. Making sure your car is in good working order is important to help you avoid an inconvenient breakdown, accident or cause serious damage.
Here are some tips for your car.
If you can’t start your car before work that’s an inconvenience, but if your brakes don’t work and you can’t stop whilst driving, you’re in serious trouble. So, as your car’s most important safety feature, your brake system shouldn’t go ignored.
Check your brake fluid levels regularly and be aware of the condition of your brake-pads.
Signs you need to get your brakes checked:
- Brake light appearing on your dashboard.
- If you feel like your car is taking longer to stop than it should.
- Pay attention to how the brake feels underfoot, if it feels soft, your brakes pads may be too thin and need to be changed.
- If you hear a harsh grinding sound – this could mean your brake pads are worn down.
The condition of your brakes and how often you need to check and change brake fluid and pads will depend largely on how you drive and the model of your car. Generally, if you brake a lot (likely if you do a lot of driving in town) or you have an older car, your brakes will require more attention.
Checking your oil and changing it accordingly will keep all the moving parts of your car’s engine working smoothly. An engine lacking oil will cause components to grind against each other and will eventually wear them out.
Checking your oil:
- Take a look in your car manual to find out where the dipstick can be found in your car.
- Pull out the dipstick and clean it with a cloth. (Make sure the engine is cold first.)
- Put it back in the oil.
- Pull the dipstick out again and note the oil level, it should sit between the upper and lower levels marks.
- If the oil level is closer to the lower mark you need to top up.
- Put the dipstick back into the pipe and secure.
To top up your oil, find the correct cap on top of your engine (use your manual if you can’t find it) and pour in some oil. Your manual should also identify the correct type of oil for your engine. Don’t top up too much add a bit at a time and repeat process above.
Modern engines should last up to 5,000 miles before needing an oil change, but double check your car’s service guide to be sure.
The life expectancy of your tyres will depend on how you drive, where you drive and how often. Keeping good care of your tyres means that you will be able to drive more smoothly and have better control – especially in adverse weather conditions.
Checking your tyres:
- Check visually to see where the tread is worn on your tyres. Uneven wear can be a sign of steering faults (even if tread is ‘legal’).
- Using a tyre tread depth gauge, check that your tyre tread has as a minimum depth of 1.6mm (the legal requirement). If you don’t have a gauge to hand you could try the 20p test.
- Maintaining the right level of pressure in your tyres will improve the fuel efficiency and safety of your vehicle. Check the manufacturer’s guide for exact pressure for your car and use a pressure gauge to check it when your tyres are cold.
- Don’t forget your spare tyre (if your car has one)
It is illegal to drive with tyres in an unsuitable condition. Don’t get caught out or you could end up with three points on your license for each offending tyre.
It’s important to keep an eye on the coolant (also known as anti-freeze) and water levels in the radiator that cools down your engine. An inefficient cooling system will likely cause unnecessary and expensive damage to your car’s engine.
Checking your coolant:
- Coolant reservoir can be found under the bonnet, usually labelled and containing brightly coloured liquid.
- When the engine is cold check that the coolant level sits between the upper and lower mark just like checking the oil.
- Your car will need the right concentration of anti-freeze especially in the winter.
- To double check you’re using the right coolant or anti-freeze, check your car’s handbook.
Coolant can be bought from most garages and some supermarkets.
If your air filter becomes clogged up it will start to let dirty air and dust into your engine. This may lead to poor engine performance and the costly replacement of engine parts.
Checking your air filter is very simple, take a look in your manufacturer’s handbook to find out where it is and hold it up to the light. If it is visibly dirty then chances are it needs to be changed.
Looking after your car properly not only ensures your safety but the safety of other drivers as well. If you regularly check and look after the basics then you are likely to save yourself money and reduce the risk of making a claim.
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