Regular checks can help to keep your car on the road, and a little preventative maintenance can help prevent breakdowns and costly repairs.
The best thing you can do to look after your vehicle is to have it serviced regularly by a professional as most modern vehicles require specialist equipment and training to work on.
But, if you can keep an eye on the status of your vehicle it will go a long way to helping avoid problems and keep your car running smoothly
Ideally you want to ensure your vehicle is performing efficiently so your running costs are kept to a minimum and above all, you are driving a safe and reliable vehicle.
These simple checks and taking note of how your vehicle is running are good first steps to avoid trouble developing and saving costs in the long run.
Please note for your safety always perform any engine checks on a cold engine and do not attempt anything that will put your safety at risk.
Keep a regular eye on tyre pressure, your vehicle should have a label indicating the correct pressure, usually on a door frame or consult your manual – if in doubt we’re happy to advise.
Low tyre pressure affects vehicle handling and safety as well as affecting fuel efficiency. It also decreases the life of the tyre.
Look for wear and tear, at a minimum you should have at least 1.5mm tread depth across the tire and note how the tyres are wearing – are they wearing out evenly or more on the edges or the middle? These are clues to correct tyre pressure, driving style and wheel set-up.
Most tyres have tread wear indicators – lumps in the grooves of the tread – when they are flush with the top of the tyre groove, the tyre is worn.
Also look out for any punctures, a nail or screw can be embedded into a tyre and not easily be seen, they don’t always cause a tyre to go flat immediately, and will cause more damage the longer they are left unattended. As well as this they make your tyres very unsafe.
TIP: To get the best view of your tyres it’s a good idea to turn the steering to either hard left or right.
Keep all your windows clean, most importantly the front windscreen which should also be checked for chips and cracks.
Check your windscreen wipers especially before winter to ensure good visibility in the rain.
Keep the windscreen washer reservoir topped up and use a good screenwash.
Lights are easy to check especially if you have someone else stand outside the car while you switch the various lights on and off; headlights (low and high beam), indicators, brake lights, reversing lights, park lights and fog lights if you have them.
Fully functioning lights are critical for your safety as well as other road users.
Washing your car regularly will not only keep your car looking great but, looking after the paintwork will help avoid corrosion.
A polish and wax after washing will add even more protection and make it easier to keep your car clean.
Batteries don’t last forever (rarely longer than 5 years on average) but there is plenty you can do to ensure you get the most out of yours.
Lights, heaters, wipers, radio, power windows and engine starting put a lot of drain on batteries so it pays to avoid running electrical systems any longer than you have to.
Check your battery is secure as vibrations can cause damage to the plates.
The battery connections should also be clean and secure.
Keep an eye on the water level of your battery – standard and low-maintenance batteries should be topped up with distilled water to just above the plates. Be careful when doing this as batteries contain sulphuric acid so be mindful of splashes and avoid contact with the skin.
Most of the fluids your engine uses can be easily monitored for their correct levels.
Check your oil level around once a month and when the engine is cool.
Remove the dipstick, wipe it with a clean rag and reinsert it, remove again and check the level on the stick. The level should be close to the max mark but not over it. In petrol engines the oil colour should be a golden-brown colour. If the oil looks dirty it will need changing. The oil in diesel engines is generally black in appearance.
Lack of oil leads to unnecessary wear and tear on the engine and if the engine seems to be going through oil quite quickly this is a sign something is wrong and needs further investigation.
You should be able to see the amount of brake fluid in the reseviour, this should be kept at maximum level at all times.
There are two places to check here. When you remove the radiator cap the coolant level should be at the top. Also check the expansion tank is full – if it is slightly low it can be topped up with water, if the level is very low get it checked out as there could be a leak.
Noises can be a good warning sign that things are not quite right with your vehicle. Don’t ignore any strange noises or screeching sounds, for example a faulty or worn belt can damage your alternator and lead to a flat battery.
The belts in your engine also connect the cooling system and pumps so it pays to ensure they are all in good working order.
Squealing sounds when applying the brakes can be a sign of worn brake pads.
Shuddering when braking can be an indication that disks need regrinding, shuddering and shaking at speed can mean wheels need balancing.
Free play in the steering (moving the steering wheel that doesn’t move the wheels) needs attention as several factors can be causing this.
If your car pulls to one side when braking this can be a sign of worn brake pads and should be checked.
Keep an eye on the dials when you’re driving and monitor the temperature gauge for overheating and any other warning lights that come on on your dashboard.
Look out for bumps and potholes in the road and avoid them if you can as they put extra stress on your vehicle.