Top 5 Car Maintenance Checks You Should Do Regularly
Have you just bought your first car and want to keep it looking and performing its best? You’ve come to the right place: here are five things you should keep an eye on and check regularly to keep your car in top form.
Oil is essentially your engine’s ‘blood.’ Without it, it won’t last long at all – and ensuring it’s in good condition and changed regularly is imperative for the long-term health of your car’s power plant.
Its function in an engine is to lubricate the moving parts inside – like the pistons and valves, to name just a couple – and prevent direct metal-on-metal contact from occurring. If your oil level gets too low, metal parts inside your engine will start rubbing against each other, and you’ll have some serious issues if you don’t address it right away.
The increased friction caused by the low oil level will result in components overheating, and tiny fragments of metal will begin to be shaved off the moving parts inside – not good. Eventually, it’s only ever going to end one way – catastrophic engine failure.
Unless you fancy a hefty bill, then, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your oil level! It’s easy to check; all you’ll need to do is pull the dipstick out from the engine block, wipe off the oil on the end and return it to its home. Then pull it out once again, and you should see oil between the minimum and maximum lines. If not, then you’ll need to remedy this.
If you need to top your car’s oil up, do it carefully; topping it up too far – above the maximum line on the dipstick – can do just as much damage as running the engine too low on oil.
Oil also has to be changed regularly (the interval varies from car to car), so check in your car’s manual for the servicing guidelines and stick to them. Oil degrades over time and becomes less effective, and eventually turns into a sludge-like substance if left in the engine for too long – and that won’t do it any good.
Coolant does as you’d expect – keeps your car’s engine cool. Without it, your engine would overheat rapidly and fail, resulting in another expensive bill.
Coolant goes into your car’s radiator, which is connected to the engine via coolant hoses and pipes. Checking the coolant level differs from car to car – some require you to check the radiator itself, while others just require you to check a separate reservoir under the bonnet – but it’s important to top this up if it runs low.
It should also be changed from time to time, though it doesn’t need replacing as often as oil does. Once again, your car’s manual should outline when it needs to be changed.
Whatever you do, don’t just fill your radiator with tap water unless it’s a temporary ‘get you home’ measure. This can cause corrosion to build up in the coolant channels inside your engine, damaging it in the long-term.
Washer fluid and wipers
This is a straightforward one, but no less important. You should never make any journey without washer fluid in your car; in fact, it’s illegal to do so. It’s not hard to understand why, though, as it’s pretty crucial to be able to see where you’re going while you’re driving (who’d have thought?)
So, make sure your washer fluid reservoir is topped up. You’ll find it under the bonnet once again, and it’s usually located to one side of the engine bay and marked with a windscreen symbol.
The condition of your wipers is critical too. Over time, the rubber wiper blades degrade and become less effective. Worse still, they can even break apart if you leave them for too long, rendering them utterly useless. Replacing your wipers periodically is sensible; if they start juddering or missing sections of your windscreen, that’s a sure-fire sign that their days are numbered.
Tyres are the only thing connecting your car to the ground, so if they’re in poor condition you’re not going to have a good time.
Determining the condition of your tyres isn’t just about checking the tread depth. Yes, you’ll need a minimum of 1.6mm worth of tread on your tyres to pass an MOT, but there are other aspects to consider.
Look carefully at the side of your tyres. Are there any cracks appearing in the sidewall? If so, this is an indication that your tyres are ‘dry-rotted’ and have probably been on the car for too long. When tyres reach this state, they become very hard and lack a significant amount of grip compared to non-dry-rotted tyres with comparable tread depth. If you see these cracks, it’s time to replace your tyres.
Next up, do your tyres have any bulges in the sidewall? If they do, you’re going to need to replace them as well – tyres in this condition are dangerous to drive on.
Finally, what about the air inside your tyres – is there too little or too much? You should check your tyre pressures regularly and – if need be – adjust them to match the manufacturer’s recommendations, which can usually be found in your user manual. Having the wrong tyre pressure in your tyres can result in poor handling, a loss of grip, bad ride quality and poor fuel economy.
Finally, make sure all your lights are working as they should. Turn on the headlights, hazards and enlist the help of a friend or family member to check that your brake and reverse lights are working, too. If you’ve got a light out, it’ll probably just mean a bulb has blown, but it’s best to fix it as soon as you can.
Not only can blown light bulbs get you pulled over or cause your car to fail its MOT, they could cause an otherwise-avoidable accident.
There you have it, our top five critical maintenance areas to keep an eye on when you get your first car. Stick religiously to these checks, and you can be much more confident that your car won’t let you down – and that you won’t have any expensive bills lying around the corner.
Not passed your driving test just yet? At GoGoGo, we offer intensive five-day driving lesson packages in Peterborough and the surrounding areas. You can learn more about us and what we do here. Read our other Go Learning articles for more maintenance tips.