It’s all too easy to put off car maintenance, but just like us, cars need a little love and care from time to time. Since it’s a new year, is it finally time to address those little vehicle maintenance issues you’ve been ignoring?
Although modern car technology and after-sale service are now very advanced, vehicle owners can’t rely on these to keep their cars in tip-top condition. In fact, if you don’t keep on top of your maintenance, it can cost you in the long run. Regularly checking the basics on your car can help you save money, time, and worry in future, all while making sure your vehicle is safe on the road.
While it’s vital to use a body shop or trained mechanic to diagnose and carry out any necessary maintenance work, there are some simple checks that you can do by yourself to keep your car in the best condition it can possibly be. Even something as quick and easy as a visual ‘walk-around’ inspection can help you spot any problem areas that need addressing, such as worn tires or a fluid leak.
In this guide, we’ve put together a quick, easy-to-follow car maintenance checklist to help you properly care for your car.
Did you know that keeping your screenwash fluid topped up is not only good practice but a legal requirement? This means that drivers with grimy windscreens that are driving around with empty screen wash bottles may be facing a hefty fine.
You should check the fluid levels in your screen wash bottle about once a month, making sure to fill it up with proper screen wash liquid.
2. Windscreen wipers
Windscreen wipers tend to wear out slowly and almost unnoticeably, so it’s surprisingly easy to not notice that yours are well past their best. Luckily, windscreen wiper blades have their own way of telling you they need to be replaced: they’ll smear dirty water over the windscreen instead of clearing it smoothly and will squeak loudly.
Replacing worn wiper blades will not only save you an automatic MOT fail but will make sure you can see where you’re going in poor weather – which is pretty important.
What’s more, replacing your wipers is a very cheap fix, with good ones available for as little as £20.
You should check all your tyres (including spare tyres) every 2 weeks and before any long journey. You should be on the lookout for:
- Cuts, nicks, or punctures
- Loss of pressure
- Uneven wear
- A tread that’s worn down to below legal limits
It’s important to check the tyre pressure as well as doing a visual check of your tyres as badly-inflated tyres can affect your car’s fuel economy and the lifespan of the rubber. What’s more, it could have an impact on the handling and braking distance of your car. The perfect pressure for your vehicle should be in your owner’s manual or printed on a label inside one of the doors or inside the fuel flap.
While a flat tyre will probably be obvious after a quick inspection, following a regular maintenance schedule and having your vehicle looked at by professional mechanic can help to stop other problems.
Battery problems are the most likely cause of a breakdown or a problem, especially when you haven’t used your vehicle in a while. During lockdown, it’s more important than ever to keep on top of your battery health.
Most manufacturers recommend that you check your battery at least twice a year, usually in late autumn and early spring since extreme weather conditions can affect your battery faster.
Your car may have a built-in battery monitor, but drivers can also buy a manual monitor to check a car battery’s health. Perhaps the best way of keeping your battery in the best condition is to keep your battery topped up with a battery maintainer or a trickle charger.
Stop/start vehicles might automatically switch off the engine whilst you’re charging it, but this just means the Battery Monitoring System has recognised the battery is fully charged.
Also make sure to:
- Switch everything off as you leave the car
- Not leave lights and radio on for extended periods of time whilst stationary, e.g. when cleaning your vehicle or doing maintenance checks
- Have jump leads in your vehicle
5. Engine oil
Looking at your engine oil level is one of the quickest and easiest checks on this list. You should check engine health every couple of weeks and before a long journey, much like tyres.
Topping-up the level with the right type of oil is an essential (and easy!) part of car care. Keep an eye on how much oil your car seems to be using, though, as you should definitely take your car to a garage if your car is going through more oil than normal or than it should.
Since you rely on your lights to help you see where you’re going when it’s dark, rainy, and foggy, it’s a wise move to check these regularly. Even a quick visual check every couple of weeks will do.
You should be looking for:
- Cracked and broken lenses
- Blown bulbs
- Fog light efficiency
- Working reversing and brake lights
- Working indicators
If you need to change a bulb, you can either DIY or save yourself the hassle and take it to a proper mechanic.
This is another part of your car that benefits from a quick visual check every so often. Looking at your glass will help you spot any chips before they can turn into the dreaded, more expensive MOT-failing cracks.
You can also help to keep your glass in good condition by cleaning it regularly and replacing any old windscreen wipers.
Obviously, having well-functioning brakes is one of the most important parts of a vehicle, so it’s important to check these regularly. There are a few ways in which you can check the condition of your brakes:
- While it’s running, move the car a short distance back and forth a few times and feel how the brakes are working. If there’s any shuddering, grinding noise, or delay in braking, you need to take your vehicle to a body shop ASAP.
- Check for wear by looking at your brake pads between the wheel’s spokes. You should be able to see the outside pad pressed against a metal rotor. There should be at least 1/4 inch of pad, so if you see less than that, you probably want to have your brake pads inspected or replaced.
- Listen out for any high-pitched screeching when you try braking. This sound (caused by worn brake pads) will probably be loud enough to be heard while the windows are up, but not necessarily loud enough to be heard over the radio or air conditioner. If you hear squealing regularly, you need to go to a mechanic quickly.
9. Paint and bodywork
Keeping your paint and bodywork free from dents, scratches, and scrapes will not only help keep its resale value but will protect your vehicle from rust. This will also prevent any longer-term problems from developing.
If you’ve damaged your paintwork, the expert team at AutoPrep can repair it quickly and effectively.