If you drive a modern car, chances are you won’t even remember the last time it broke down, which is great, but it does we can become complacent with easy maintenance tasks.
A five-minute check
A five-minute check on your vehicle every month or two can keep your car running smoothly and help avoid an expensive trip to the mechanic.
1. Oil’s well. Oil lubricates your engine and essentially prevents it grinding to a halt. It’s best to check it regularly and before long trips. Do this on level ground. If you have to top up ensure you don’t overfill the engine, the level should be between the Min and Max marks on the dipstick.
2. Keep cool. While you’ve got your head under the bonnet, check the coolant level too. This is easy to do, most cars have a tank with Min and Max marks so it’s a simple visual check. An unexpected drop in level may be a sign of a leak or other problem.
3. Vital fluids. You’re not done yet, there are tanks for brake and power steering fluid under the bonnet, too. They are simple to check, and to refill if necessary. You can’t exaggerate the importance of well-functioning brakes and steering.
4. Fully charged. These days, car batteries tend to be sealed and don’t need topping up like they used to. Before closing the bonnet check that the battery is securely fixed so that it can’t move around in its enclosure, and also do a quick check that the contacts are clean and there are no leaks.
5. Tyred out. Your safety depends on your tires. Check the pressures regularly and inspect the treads and sidewalls for damage – especially if you recently used dirt or uneven roads. Correct pressure can save you money, as under-inflation actually uses more fuel.
6. Listen up. As you drive, listen out for any noises that may indicate the start of a problem. Often you’ll get early warning signs from a grumbling or rattling noise. Acting on strange noises may help you avoid an expensive breakdown. Turn off the stereo once in a while and have a listen.
Start the car and walk around it to check that all your lights are working, or recruit a friend to do the leg work while you sit inside and operate the switches. These days it isn’t always possible to change bulbs yourself, but local maintenance centres will often do it cheaper than a dealer. If you don’t have anyone to help you check the brake lights, a handy tip is to back the car up to a garage door and check the reflection in the mirror as you press the pedal.
Suspension wear can affect the handling of your car, and if it’s neglected can be dangerous. Press down on each corner of the car and ensure it returns to its normal position, if it bounces several times the shock absorbers are worn.
9. Brake not broke. Listen out for scraping or grinding noises when braking, if these go away after a couple of pedal presses it’s probably only surface rust on the discs, but if they persist it could be a bigger problem. Vibration or pulling to one side under braking is also a warning sign.
Finally when you drive away after being parked for a while, check to see if there are any drops of liquid left behind that may indicate a leak from somewhere.
Following these simple pieces of advice will save you extra costly trips to the mechanics and keep your car running longer.