A Guide to Car Maintenance

Top Tips

What You Need to Know

  1. Ensure your tyres have a tread depth of 1.6mm to avoid fines and loss of grip. Read the 'Check Your Tyres Regularly' section for more details.
  2. When checking tyre pressure make sure the tyres are cool, otherwise you'll get a false reading.
  3. When checking the level of engine oil, make sure you're parked on level ground, otherwise the marks on the dipstick will be skewed. Read the 'Check the Engine Oil' section for more details.
  4. When topping up your, oil try and use the same type as is already in the tank.
  5. Coolant is harmful to skin. Be careful when topping up. Read the 'Check the Coolant' section for more details.
  6. Don't forget to keep your wind screen washer fluid topped up. You never know when you'll need it.
  7. Read the owner's manual to familiarise yourself with your cars maintenance requirements.

Let's face it, for a lot of us, car maintenance is an intimidating subject. Not many of us are too clued up about what goes on under the hoods of our cars, yet, when something does go awry, we know all about it.

Whether it makes us late for work, leads to hours awaiting rescue by the hard shoulder, or simply decimates our bank balance, none of us want to be the subjected to the stress and cost caused by motoring malfunctions. Here are some easy ways to keep your car roadworthy.

Check Your Tyres Regularly

Your tyres are, quite literally, the things keeping you on the road, so you'll need to know they're in good knick. There should be no cuts or bulges anywhere around the tyre and the depth of the central tread (the groove in the zig-zag shaped pattern running around the tyres) must be at least 1.6mm. If it isn't, not only will your tyres not grip properly, you could face a £2,500 fine and three penalty points (per a tyre) on your license. You can find out more about the details of such offenses and their punishments and other legal maintenance requirements from the DVLA

Be sure to check tyre pressure once a week, using a dependable pressure gauge. It's best to do this when the tyres are cool, as this makes for more accurate readings. The correct tyre pressure for your car will be written in the owner's manual. If you drive with pressure below this level fuel consumption will rise, above it you'll lose grip. And don't forget the spare!

Learning how to change a tyre yourself is also a useful skill to have in the bank and can save you money on call out costs from your break down insurance provider, although some insurance providers will give you free breakdown cover.

Having good tyres can help you avoid accidents, which can help you get a lower premium next time you carry out a car insurance comparison.

Check the Engine Oil

You won't get far without an engine. This much we all know. What some of us fail to realise is that, without engine oil, you engine is at risk of being seriously damaged.

Fortunately, the oil level is easy to check. Simply open the hood, remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a cloth. Next, reinsert the dipstick. This time, when you take it out, the oil level should be between the “f" and the “l" mark. If the level is below the “l", top off the tank with a small amount of oil. This should be of the same type as is already tank, or a high quality general engine oil.

Carry out this check about once a fortnight whilst the engine is cool and the car is parked on level ground.

Check the Coolant Level

This couldn't be simpler. First, lift the hood. Second, unscrew the cap on the coolant tank. Have a look at the coolant level. There is a marker in the tank labelled “max" or maximum." Fill the tank to this level.

Told you it was easy! Two small things to note; never do this when the engine is hot (you'll get scalded) and, if you get any coolant on you or your car, wash it off ASAP (it's moderately poisonous and will damage your skin/paintwork!)

Check Brake Fluid Level

No brake fluid, no brakes (except, maybe, a few broken bones.) As with the coolant, all you need to do is open the brake fluid reservoir and ensure the level is above the “min" or “minimum" marker. If you find you have to top up frequently your system may have a leak and you'll need to contact a mechanic. The fluid is toxic so be careful not get on your skin, your eyes or your car.

Check Wind Screen Washer Fluid

This is one people forget but, studies show that, if you can't see out of your windshield, you're more likely to crash. Who would've thought?

All you need to do is keep your washer reservoir topped up with water. Problem solved.

Check the Brakes

Once a year you'll need to have your brakes checked by a mechanic but it's also worth testing that they are not slack or pulling to one side at the start of each journey.

When on an incline check your handbrake. If it takes more than a few clicks to secure get it checked out.

Remember, even if you do all these things you may find yourself in trouble at some point. Car insurance is a legal requirement for a reason but, whilst you do need to have cover, you don't need to pay through the nose for it. Make sure you get a great car insurance deal.

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