To help keep your car on the road, we have compiled a guide showing you how you can look after your own car on the regular with some simple DIY maintenance checks.
|Condition of tyres||
Have a brief walk around your car before your journey and inspect your tyres. Check for any punctures e.g. nails, broken glass, abnormal lumps caused by trapped air or any tears or rips.
Check your windscreen, keeping an eye out for any new chips to avoid it turning into a crack. Chips can be repaired using resin and can carry a smaller excess compared to windscreen replacement. Cracks however, can't be fixed and will require a windscreen replacement. So, if you find one, aim to get it repaired ASAP.
|Front & rear lights||
Ideally with the help of a second person, check that your headlights, main beam, brake lights, reverse lights and indicators are fully functioning and aligned. It is also worth checking for any cracks in the lenses.
|Water coolant levels||
Keep an eye on the water coolant tank, as low levels could cause the engine to overheat. This should only be checked when the engine is switched off and cooled down. The water coolant levels should sit between the min and max indications. If it is below, you can simply top it up.
|Windscreen washer fluid levels||
There should always be enough fluid in the washer bottle so that you can keep your windscreen clean at all times. Don't forget to test the jet nozzles to ensure they are not blocked. If they are, be sure to have these fixed as soon as possible.
Engine oil ensures all internal components are kept cool. When checking, the oil level should be visible on the end of the dipstick between the indicated ideal range. If needed you can refill with more oil. If the oil looks black and leaves smudges, then you may need to get a full oil change.
|Tyre pressure & tread||
Incorrect tyre pressure can increase chances of skidding and cause uneven wear. You can check the tyre pressure, at most petrol stations or you can do this at home with an accurate pressure gauge. Refer to your vehicle owner's manual for the correct tyre pressure for your car. The legal requirement for tread depth is 1.6mm.
Although hard to inspect visually, keep an ear out for any unfamiliar noises such as grinding or loud squeaking when braking. If you notice these sounds or the brake pedal itself feels spongy, it may be a sign they need changing. It's a good idea to get these inspected by your local garage.
|Windscreen wiper blades||
When in motion, the wiper blades should be almost silent. This means no scraping or screeching sounds. Check that they move smoothly across the windscreen without any juddering and leaving no streaks. The rubber blade is fragile and should be checked for splits and tears. Poor maintenance could eventually damage your windscreen.
Additional things to look out for:
- Power steering – About once a year (max) check that the power steering fluid level remains consistent with no decrease in levels. It is unlikely to have dropped, but it is always good to check.
- Brake fluid reservoir – Although a vital component, it needs only to be checked once a year. You want to have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid, with levels sitting as close to the full mark as possible. If you know that your brake pads are significantly worn, it is worth a quick check in case top up is needed.
- Mud and dirt – Dirt sticks, and the longer it remains settled on your car, the faster it will begin to corrode the clear coat of paint, until it eventually reaches the metal base – this is when the rusting begins! To avoid this, try to wash and wax your car as often as needed. A washed car means your mirrors are sparkling clean and your vehicle registration plate is always visible.
- Bird poo! - Not only is this an unpleasant sight, it is highly acidic and will quickly damage the paint job if it isn’t cleaned soon. So as soon as you discover any, be sure to grab a wet cloth and start scrubbing!
These systematic checks should be carried out before you set off on your journey. Whether it’s just a quick visit to the local shop or a lengthy commute to work, a few minutes of inspection could save you a few hundreds of pounds in future repair costs.
For more details specific to your own vehicle, you can refer to your vehicle owner’s manual. If you don’t have one or can’t find it, you can search and download an online version for your vehicle for free.