Starting off our new blog series of maintenance tips, tricks and what to look out for to get a head-start on potential problems before they become worse, here is our piece on Car Maintenance Essentials.
This introduction to maintenance basically gives an overview of the few simple steps you can take to help keep your car safe and will most likely help you to save some money in the longer term – sounds good, doesn’t it?
By working through the checklist you will help put your car in good shape, meaning fewer problems and fewer repairs!
Let’s start with the one of the most essential parts of your car in terms of safety – the brakes. To be safe you need good brakes, which will be reliable and powerful enough to stop you in an emergency. Brake pads wear out, and as they do their performance decreases – it is vital you keep tabs on this. You might not notice much difference over time, as the decrease in performance will be gradual. However as soon as you notice your stopping distances are getting longer make an appointment to get your brakes checked.
This is not so much a part of maintenance that you can undertake yourself, but remain vigilant about the performance of your brakes. Due to the vital importance of efficient brakes it is advisable to book your car in to have these repairs done.
Your battery powers your electrical equipment in the car, as well as starting it. Most people realise they need a new battery when they try to start the car in the morning and there is no response – what a nightmare! Avoid such catastrophes by keeping a close ear out to your engine when starting your car – if it sounds laboured or like it is struggling get it checked as soon as possible.
Oil helps your engine run smoothly by functioning in a lubrication capacity – without adequate oil levels you risk increased wear and tear on your engine, which will dramatically reduce its lifespan. Therefore maintaining the correct oil level is very important. Whether electronically alerted or by manually checking the dip stick, the oil level should be between the minimum and maximum levels – Check this weekly to spot any oil leaks that maybe are not given away by big patches on your driveway.
As with the oil, it is critically important that your car has sufficient anti-freeze to work properly. The anti-freeze in your radiators will stop them from freezing in the cold conditions, and they will help your car function more efficiently year round. Check the antifreeze levels regularly to avoid expensive repair bills down the line.
As well as your radiators working hard to keep your engine cool, your engine fan(s) also provide an essential service. Your engine fan works to cool your car engine, and in most modern cars in governed electronically. This enables the fans to provide effective cooling at low speeds or even when stationary in traffic. As with the Radiators, the Fans will help avoid irreparable damage caused by your engine overheating.
Finally, the windscreen is the last stop on this whistle-stop tour of car maintenance tips – and it is pretty important as it is what you use to shield your face from the wind, rain etc. Clear vision is obviously important, so you should always make sure that your windscreen is clear before starting any journey. In winter this could mean thoroughly de-icing and scraping it clear and in summer it could mean keeping an eye on your windscreen washer levels.
Do not forget too to check your windscreen for chips or small scratches. While they seem fairly innocuous today, they could spread quickly and be a real issue. If you have a windscreen chip most insurers will cover the repair (before it turns into a crack) without it affecting your no claims.
The two main things to check with your tyres are their tread and their pressure. Ensuring your tyre treads are above the minimum threshold is not only a legal requirement but is also crucial to their performance. Bald tyres will grip the road less well, and will be far less efficient in handling any wet conditions – The tread helps to channel surface water allowing the tyres to grip the road, whent he treads are gone the tyres cannot do this. Plus, as mentioned, this is a legal requirement – running tread of less than 1.6mm (the lowest legal limit in Europe) could get you pulled by the Police and fined up to £2,500 AND 3 penalty points… Per tyre! SO you could be looking at a £10,000 fine and an automatic ban (even before they check the spare!)
Tyre pressure is a key factor in helping to maintain an even wear on the tyres. Over or under inflated tyres will wear more quickly and unevenly, as the tyres were designed to run at a specific pressure. We recommend checking your tyre pressure at least once a week, you can find your correct tyre pressure in your car handbook. Note that seasonal high and low temperatures can also have an effect on tyre pressures – make sure you check them regularly!
So there you have it – some handy pointers to help keep your car safe on the roads. We must point out however that even following these points will not keep your car immune from future issues. The important thing to do is to keep your eyes and ears alert to what your car tells you – listen and look and a lot of the symptoms of future problems are easy to spot. Get them dealt with early on and the costs will be far lower.
Stay safe and stay tuned for more blogs in our maintenance series. We are always here if you need us to help with any motoring maintenance, repairs or servicing.