Car Maintenance – The Definitive Guide

Car Maintenance - The Definitive Guide

Ensuring regular and effective car maintenance is an excellent way to avoid costly repairs and minimise trips to the garage. It’s the same as the way we look after our bodies – take care of them and they’re more likely to work better and last longer.

Importance of regular car maintenance

Most people own a vehicle these days and regular car maintenance is what will enable them to get the very best out of it.  Regular and comprehensive car maintenance will help a car to run more smoothly and efficiently, reduce the risk of breakdowns and improve safety for yourself and others around you, while driving.

Issues which can compromise a vehicle’s safety might include worn down tyre tread, faulty brakes, fluids that are running low, such as oil, water and washer fluid and worn out cambelts.

In addition to the safety element, if you’re looking to get the very best performance out of your car, regular car maintenance will, again, help you to achieve this.

You’ll also be able to identify and deal with minor issues, before they become major, costly ones and contribute to a cleaner environment by avoiding problems such as leaks and the production of harmful fumes that can pollute the air.

A car that has clearly been well looked after, through regular servicing and repairs when needed, will also be likely to draw a higher sale value, when the time comes to sell.

Basic car maintenance

The first rule of car maintenance is to ensure you get it serviced regularly – how often should be evident in your car’s handbook.  The service will include checks on areas such as the engine, fuel system, electrics, steering and suspension, exhaust, brakes, tyres. It will also include oil and filter check and replacement, windscreen wipers, lights and battery check.

However, in between services, a vehicle should be inspected regularly for signs of any problems. There is a basic car maintenance checklist which you can go through yourself. This will include the following:

  • Checking your oil levels – do this regularly and before long journeys.
  • Check tyre pressure – correct air pressure will be listed in the vehicle handbook and should be checked weekly.
  • Check tyre tread – this must be at least 1.6mm deep.
  • Ensure the spare tyre is in good condition.
  • Check the coolant level in your vehicle – this must be topped up to prevent freezing in cold temperatures, or overheating in hot temperatures.
  • When checking engine coolant level, never remove the cap when the engine is hot.
  • Ensure all lights are working correctly front and back – this includes brakes, indicators and fog lights.
  • Have a regular visual check of your windscreen for chips – even small ones can become large cracks. Often your insurance policy will have the repairs covered.
  • Keep the car clean and tidy (even inside to avoid distractions while driving).
  • Have any chips or scrapes dealt with as soon as possible – sometimes these can be sorted with something as simple as a spot of touch up paint.
  • Check for any warning lights on the dashboard, be aware of what they mean and never ignore one when it comes on and stays on.
  • Keep an eye on fuel economy. If you’re using more than usual, it could be there’s a problem with your car – such as low tyre pressure.
  • Replace broken bulbs, such as the ones in the car indicators.
  • Check windscreen wipers are working correctly.
  • Ensure your vehicle is properly taxed, insured and has an up to date MOT at all times.
  • Check car antenna and replace if broken.
  • Check for any leaks, not only under the car, but also inside it, for example, is rain water coming through the sunroof?
  • Check the battery for signs of wear – is it taking longer than usual to charge and does that charge not last long?  Ask yourself how long have you had it for, because batteries should last around 8-10 years, so it might be time for a change.

Repairs you can carry out yourself

In addition to a car maintenance checklist which will ensure your vehicle is doing as well as it can, there are some repairs which can be carried out by you, without the need for a garage trip.

However, bear in mind, that when you’re unsure about how to carry out any repairs, it’s always worth seeking out the advice and assistance of a professional mechanic.

A few basic car maintenance jobs which are fairly straight forward to do yourself might include anything from the easy tasks, such as fixing tears in the upholstery, replacing wiper blades, bulbs and topping up fluids, to the harder ones, such as replacing engine air filters, changing brake and power steering fluid, fixing small dents and door dings.

What to do in the event of a breakdown

Remember, regular car maintenance and servicing and sticking to the manufacturer’s guidelines will help to keep your car in the best possible shape and help to avoid breakdowns. However, if the worst should happen and you do break down on the side of the road, here’s what you should do:

  • Try to get your car off the main carriageway
  • Put your hazard lights on (sidelights too in low visibility)
  • Stand away from the vehicle
  • Call for help

On the motorway, stop as far to the left as possible, (on the hard shoulder if there is one) and always remember to leave your vehicle through the left hand door. This way you won’t be stepping in front of moving traffic. Again, keep all passengers and yourself away from the carriageway and the hard shoulder. Move up the embankment if possible.

Try to ensure you have a fully charged mobile phone with you whenever driving anywhere. When there is a signal, this can be used to call for assistance in the event of a breakdown. See our previous blog post to find out what to do if you don’t have breakdown cover.

We won’t attend breakdowns on the roadside but will happily diagnose the issue if you get your vehicle recovered to our garage via the RAC, AA or another similar recovery service.

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