As a long standing Car Repair and Service Centre we have seen many vehicles come in to our workshops with problems that with regular maintenance could well have been avoided. It's never a pleasant experience for us or you as the customer to given bad news about a costly repair, especially when it might have been avoided.
Top 5 Regular Car Maintenance Tips
We would always recommend that you stick to the manufacturers guidlines on servicing, which is what we do when you bring your car to us for service, MOT or repair, however there are a few things you can do on a regular basis to reduce the chances of a breakdown. Some are visual checks whilst others involve opening the car bonnet to get access to the engine, for safety always stop the engine before opening the bonnet and be aware that the engine and other parts stay hot for a long time after the engine is turned off.
All of these checks are quite straightforward and shouldn't worry even the less technically minded of drivers, the oil and coolant types required for your car can be found in your car's handbook.
We recommend that you check your car at least once a month and before any long journey.
1. Inspect Your Tyres
This is one of the easiest checks to do and is mostly visual. Have a walk around the car and look for cuts in the tread and the sidewalls, though modern tyres are very strong road debris and poor road surfaces can damage them. Also it is very important to be aware of the tread depth which should be at least 2mm, as the depth of the tread starts to get close to the lower limit the effectiveness of the grip can drastically reduce, especially in the wet. Also look to see that the tyres are waring equally across the width. Your tyres are the only contact points to the road so if you think they are getting close to the limit please don't delay in consulting a Garage or Service Centre who can advise you. Check the tyre pressure, this can be done quickly and easily at most petrol stations when you pull in to fill up, the tyre pressures for your car can usually be found just inside the drivers door pillar when the door is open next to where the seatbelt hangs.
2. Check Your Engine Oil
This is one of the checks that requires you to open the bonnet, most modern cars have a bonnet release under the dashboard near or in one of the footwells. The dipstick will be clearly marked with an Oil Can symbol and is usually clearly visible and easy to reach. In this image you can see the dipstick and oil filler cap clearly marked and although your vehicle may have a different layout there should be similar symbols.
It is important to have the correct level of oil in an engine as too much can be as bad as not enough. When you pull out the dipstick generally you will see 2 marks that the level should be between. If the car has been standing for a while the level should be clear but if the engine has been running use a clean rag to wipe the oil off the dipstick then push back in all the way and remove again to see the level. Different cars use different oils so please consult a local Garage or Service Centre if you're unsure which type is required.
4. Engine Coolant
When the engine is cold open the bonnet and check the coolant level. The temperature of your engine has a direct affect on the life, performance and fuel economy of your engine.
The coolant tank will have clear markings on the outside to indicate the required levels and usually contains a coloured liquid which is a water and coolant mix. Once upon a long time ago we used to add anti-freeze to the water to protect the engine from freezing but modern coolants also help prevent overheating so the concentration needs to be in the correct range. You can top up with water if required however this will dilute the the coolant so please consult a local Garage or Service Centre to ensure your coolant is at the correct concentration. If you are having to top this up regularly then there might be a problem that needs looking in to.
Though this may not appear to be a cost saving tip at first, not being able to see clearly whilst driving can cause all sorts of problems and is of course quite dangerous, so whilst the engine bay is open it's a good idea to check the screenwash. On a long journey or in mucky conditions it's amazing how quickly dirt builds up on the windscreen and can impair your vision. Look for a windscreen wiper symbol on a bottle cap, often in blue and near the front of the engine bay. You can top this up with water and a screenwash detergent, available from all Motorist Centres and Petrol Stations, which will not only clean your windscreen but also protect against freezing so you can use the wash wipe in cold conditions.
5. Windscreen Wipers
Windscreen Wipers that work are a requirement by law and really easy to check. If they are leaving wet streaks on your windscreen that impair your vision then it's probably time to change them. Have a quick look to see if there are any holes or tears in the rubber, also run your finger along them to check for anything that might be stuck to them causing them to not sit flat against the glass. Rules on windscreens are very strict so a cheap pair of new wiper blades is a far better choice than a scratched or damaged screen where the blades have failed and the metal arms have marked the screen.
General Car Maintenance
These are just a few of the most common maintenance tasks that can prevent costly repairs to your car, however all vehicles are slightly different so consult your car's handbook for your manufacturer's list of maintenance requirements. If you're unsure please contact your Dealer or better still an independent Garage or Service Centre near you and no doubt they will be happy to help.