Car maintenance & servicing tips

How to maintain your car

Once you’ve bought a car, it’s important to make sure you keep up with maintenance. This is the key to getting your money’s worth from the car itself, as well as retaining what resale value the car may have once you are finished with it.

Modern cars have up to 75,000 parts – one part malfunctioning can have a drastic impact on your car, leaving you unable to use it.

Keeping your car in perfect shape is also the key to keeping it safe to drive.

Keep an eye on the dashboard

Most modern cars will have some form of smart dashboard, which will tell you if there is a fault with the vehicle. The messages or warning lights can cover a wide range of topics, including issues with your brakes, engine, oil and other fluid levels, and even tyre pressure.

Keeping an eye on these messages will allow you to correct any issues that arise quickly, before they become bigger and more expensive to repair.

Depending on the warning light that is illuminated, this can indicate that the car should be checked at your next convenience, or that it requires immediate attention and should not be driven until the problem has been resolved. Your driver’s manual should be able to give more information on the potential causes of the dashboard lights and it is best to tackle any issues that arise quickly.

Don’t ignore your service light

While many of us know from experience the service light going on does not necessarily indicate a major issue, it’s better to be safe than sorry. As soon as the light shows, it’s important to get your car checked. If a small issue develops into a larger one without your knowledge, it can be the difference between a few pounds and thousands.

Recommended basics to check

Tyres

Ensure that your tyres are properly inflated. Don’t panic – tyre gauges are very cheap and easy to use. You should be checking the pressure of your tyres around once a week since underinflated tyres can result in additional wear, as well as impacting handling and fuel efficiency.

You should also make sure that your tyres are replaced once the tread wear indicators are showing. If you find that your tyres are wearing in certain places, this may indicate that your tracking is not aligned – this can happen due to bumps in the road and general use and can be checked by a mechanic. Insufficient tread on tyres is a common reason for MOT failures and so tyres should be changed if tread drops to insufficient levels.

Oil

Your car isn’t going to get very far without oil, so it’s important to check your oil properly about once a week – this is simple to do by looking at where the oil level is on your engine dipstick.

You also need to make sure the oil in your car is changed every 3,000 – 3,500 miles. Although oil manufacturers claim their oil can last 10,000 miles, you should err on the side of caution and change it no later than 5,000 miles to keep your engine healthy.

When changing your oil, you should check what the right type is for your car or van. This should be documented in your owner’s manual, but you can also check online . Most engine oil can be purchased from petrol stations, specialist shops, or even large supermarkets.

Windows

Your windows are very important, especially when thinking about your safety whilst in the car. Make sure any windshield cracks are repaired as soon as possible before they expand. Small cracks can be relatively easy to fix, but if you continue to drive and they expand this can result in much more costly fixes. Cracks that obscure the driver’s vision can nullify insurance and result in a failed MOT, so they should be taken seriously.

It’s also incredibly important to keep your mirrors clean and in a good condition. If your mirrors do become chipped or cracked, replace them as soon as possible.

While it is not illegal to have broken wing mirrors, you can still be stopped by the police if they notice that either of your wing mirrors is damaged or missing.

Brakes

To make sure your brakes are in working order, it’s important to periodically replace them.

If you ever notice any problems with your brakes, take them to get checked immediately. This is an important safety aspect and can be the difference between life and death.

There are some common warning signs that can indicate that you might need to get your brakes checked by a mechanic:

  • Your brake warning light is on
    As with any warning light that shows up on your dashboard, this is an indicator that you need to get your brakes checked by a professional. Automatic sensors are set up to detect common problems in car, including issues with the anti-lock braking system or brake fluid levels.
  • Your brakes are making unusual noises
    Squealing or grinding noises when you brake can indicate that your brake pads are worn down and require replacing. Any strange or unfamiliar noises that start when you apply your brakes can be a warning sign so it is worth turning down the radio occasionally to listen out for any consistent squeaking or grinding sounds.
  • Changes in the response of your car when brakes are applied
    If you notice any changes in how your car reacts when you apply your brakes, this can be a sign that your brakes need checking or replacing. If your car pulls to one side, excessively vibrates, or you notice a reduction in the responsiveness of your brakes it may be time to get them checked by a mechanic.

Interior

The interior of the car is often a major selling point, should you wish to resell the car later. For this reason, it’s important to keep the interior clean and tidy.

If you are looking to maintain the value of a car, it may be a good idea to avoid  activities that may cause damage to the interior, such as smoking or eating and drinking items that can lead to stains if spilled. Accidents happen and they can be costly to the perception of a car and the sell-on price!

Fluids

Fluid refers to a vast array of liquids that help keep your car running. They include coolant, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid and other fluids.

Ideally, you should check these fluids regularly, to ensure they are well above the required levels, and to keep your car functioning perfectly.

When changing windshield wiper fluid, it is important to buy dedicated fluid if you can rather than using water. Proper fluid has a lower freezing temperature than water which can prove pivotal in the cold winter months, when water can freeze meaning it won’t work and potentially causing damage.

Lights

Your lights are relatively easy to check, and really important. Failure to have the correct lights working can land you with a fine, as well as points on your license.

You can check your own lights, but it is often easier to get someone to help you. Make sure you check all your lights, including the taillights, reverse lights, brake lights and turn signals.

Windshield wipers

Replacing your broken windshield wipers is often the least costly maintenance that your car requires – you should replace your blades once a year. Similarly, you should ensure that your windscreen wipers are adequately clearing your windscreen of any liquid – this is one of the most common reasons for cars failing their MOTs so should not be taken lightly!

Cleaning your windscreen wipers can help to remove any dirt that may be preventing the adequate removal of liquid and help to prolong the life of your wipers.

Servicing and check ups

Although getting your car regularly serviced can seem like an annoying cost, it can be vital in ensuring your car is running smoothly and identifying any potential issues before they turn into unsafe or expensive problems!

Similarly, if you notice anything about your vehicle that seems out of the ordinary, such as a change in handling, strange noises or smells, you should book your car in to be checked by a professional. Being proactive in your car maintenance can help to keep your vehicle running for as long as possible, as well as preserving the value of the car for future sale.

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