10 car checks you should be performing
There's two main ways to keep your car ticking over in good health and reduce your chances or breaking down. The first, is stick to your manufacturer's servicing advice. You should get your car serviced once a year on average, depending on how much you drive. A good time is when you're also getting your MOT done to save on time.
The second way is by doing your own simple maintenance and checks, some are often, some aren't. Here's the list:
10 - Your Tyres.
Check your tyres every two weeks (including the spare). You're checking for tyre pressure and the general condition. For tyre pressure refer to the sticker on the inside of the driver's door - PSI is usually between 30 and 38. For the condition, you want to look for cracks or cuts and check the tread depth. When checking tread, run your finger along the main grooves that run right around your tyre. There should be little bumps in the tracks - these indicate the minimum tread depth allowed by law. Make sure your tread is higher than these bumps. You should check the grooves closest to you but also the inner ones too, the grooves closest to your car. Sometimes tyres wear down faster on the inside of your wheel alignment is out.
9 - Your Tools
If you've got a spare, then you'll also need a jack and tools to remove your wheels, including a locking wheel nut key if necessary! We'd also like to give some not essential, but honourable mentions. Having an emergency can of Tyreweld might save your bacon and get you to a garage when you've got a flat. Or a compressor could be a good shout. During the winter months a tin of de-icer can be worth its weight in gold and we'd also recommend a rag or some tissues in case you want to check your liquids!
8 - Engine Oil
Speaking of liquids, every couple of weeks you'll want to check your engine oil. Pull out the *usually* yellow dipstick from your engine, clean off the oil that's already on it (rags or wipes are useful for this reason) then stick it back into your engine. Finally pull it back out and check to see that the oil level is between Min and Max. If it's below Min or on the low side, open the main cap that's on top of your engine. It'll have written either oil filler cap or a picture of an oil can. Pour some oil in then re-check the dipstick. Be careful not to overfill, as this generates issues too.
Be sure to do this check before any long journeys. If you're going through oil quickly, pop in to see us to get it checked out as soon as possible. To find out what engine oil you should use, click here.
7 - Water Levels
Every week, while your engine's cold and on a flat surface, check your coolant level is between the MIN and MAX marks on the reservoir. This tank will be translucent and will be at a higher point in the engine bay. You can top up your coolant with distilled water or tap water if it is your only option. Coolant should be added either from a ready mix bottle or a concentrate bottle that has been mixed 1:1 with water. It is essential that you match the type of coolant already in your system before you add any more.
For information on coolants, click here.
Seasonal tip: before the cold weather sets in, get your anti-freeze checked and topped up, if required. We can check how strong your coolant level is and give you an idea of temperatures it can withstand.
6 - Windscreen wipers
Wipers should be replaced either once a year or as soon as they start to either squeek, smear or become ineffective. Worn wipers can damage the windscreen through scratches etc. You can probably buy windscreen wipers at your local supermarket, but use caution as price usually indicates quality with windscreen wipers.
5 - Screen wash
Moving on from wipers, we turn to fluid. By law your car must have a functioning screen wash system in place. That means it needs to be topped up. In cold weather especially, the salt on main roads quickly finds its way to your window, and without wash you will be prone to accidents due to low visibility.
As with coolant, either add a ready-made solution or dilute concentrate with water at 1:1. Unlike with coolant, you can mix the colours, though the quality and smell may be altered if you are mixing premium brands and lower quality store brand named solutions.
4 - Windscreen
Now we turn to the glass itself. Check every now and then for stone damage or chips. If you do spot any, find a way to fix them asap as chips and cracks can grow quickly. Either bring it to the garage and we can work on the chips, or alternatively you can buy chip repair kits. Ensure you completely clean out the chip or crack prior to using a repair kit, as any dirt or grime left in the chip will be permanently trapped there. Windscreen repair is often free in many types of insurance policies, check with yours before you do anything, as professionally fixed for free is much better than DIY fixed for £15.
3 - Lights
Once a week, check all of your outside lights. This includes main beam, high beam, side lights, brake lights, indicators, fog lights and reversing lights. Having a light out can get you attention from the police, and bulbs are usually cheap to replace.
You could even upgrade your lights to make them more powerful or last longer. For an analysis on the types of headlights click here.
2 - Power steering
Power steering is absolutely crucial and is often taken for granted until it's gone. To avoid losing your power steering and potentially hitting anything in front of you while you're driving, keep on top of it's reservoir. Under the bonnet is a hydraulic fluid Res. Make sure your garage tops it up when they service the car, then just keep an eye on its levels while you're doing your other under bonnet checks such as screen wash and coolant checks. If it's low, top up with the recommended fluid.
1 - Bodywork
Once in a while, check your body panels for damage or signs of rust. For rust, watch out for obvious signs such as brown areas particularly above the wheel arches or on the bonnet, but also be on the look out for bubbling in the paintwork which indicates there is rust underneath.
Rust in a lot of areas won't be a huge concern other than the visual side of it, however rust in certain structural areas can become hazardous and fail your MOT inspection. If you want help with a visual inspection, bring it down to Brendon Garage.
Stay safe this winter, if you have any concerns then book a visit in, or drop by:
Special thanks to Matti from MWM Digital for helping us with the blog!