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6 basic car maintenance tips every driver should know

calendar Published on: Saturday, 14th September 2019 | male icon Author: Kevin Thorpe

When it comes to safeguarding your vehicle’s longevity and improving performance, regular maintenance is paramount. While it’s crucial that you take your car to a professional mechanic for annual checkups and services, it’s also important to be able to do the basics yourself. To help you get started, here are six basic car maintenance tips you can do at home.

Tyres

Taking care of your tyres is a vital aspect of car maintenance. All tyres should be checked on a regular basis and particularly before long trips. In the UK, the law states that car tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in a continuous band around three quarters of the tyre. If you notice abnormal wear and tear on your tyres, this could indicate suspension issues or misalignment.

It is also important to check your tyre pressure. This should be done when the tyres are cold and have been standing for at least an hour. Incorrectly inflated tyres pose multiple threats, from being more prone to blowouts to the prospect of severe loss of traction while cornering. To find the correct pressure for your car’s tyres, consult your owner’s manual and check inflation every two weeks - particularly during times of the year when outdoor temperatures fluctuate.

2. Oil and coolant 

Every couple of weeks - and particularly prior to any long journeys - it’s advisable to check your engine oil levels. This is quick and easy to do. Simply remove the dipstick, wipe it clean and then replace it. After waiting a second, withdraw it and check that the oil level is between the minimum and maximum fill up marks on the dipstick.

To ensure your car’s best performance, oil levels should only be topped up with the specific oil listed in your owner’s manual, and should never exceed the maximum fill line on your car’s dipstick.

Similarly, it is important to check your coolant levels on a regular basis. Coolant helps to prevent the water in your car's radiator system from boiling and evaporating in hot temperatures, and it stops this liquid from freezing in sub-zero conditions. Inspecting the cooling system is easy. Making sure the engine is cold, simply open the plastic overflow bottle connected to your car’s cooling system - this will usually have a brightly coloured cap - and make sure the coolant level is sitting between the high and low markings on the inside of the bottle. As with your oil check, only refill with the specific coolant that is recommended in your owner’s manual.

3. Screen wash and windscreen 

Believe it or not, it is illegal in the UK for a car’s screen wash system not to be functioning correctly. It’s important to keep your car’s washer reservoirs topped up and, during the winter, the addition of an antifreeze solution is also vital in deicing your windscreen when frosty weather starts to set it.

It’s also essential to check the condition of your windscreen wipers on a regular basis. Despite often being overlooked, windscreen wipers are one of your car's most important safety features, clearing rain, hail and snow from your view and allowing you to keep moving in all conditions. If they start to appear cracked, misshapen or dry, it’s time for a new set of blades. These are relatively cheap and easy to fit yourself.

Finally, regular windscreen inspections are an important part of car maintenance. Noticing chips before they turn into cracks can save you hundreds of pounds in full windscreen replacements. Indeed, if caught early, chips can be repaired relatively inexpensively using resin.

4. Warning lights

Keeping an eye on your car’s warning lights may sound simple, but you’d be amazed how often they are ignored by inexperienced drivers. From measuring your tyre pressure to letting you know that one of your back doors is slightly ajar, warning lights make maintaining your car easy. However, it’s important that you take the time to learn what each light means and how to resolve the specific issues they bring to your attention. Study your owner’s manual and remember to seek professional help if a warning light highlights an issue that you cannot immediately identify and/or fix yourself.

5. Battery and lights

Inspecting your battery regularly should be a key part of your car maintenance regime. Your battery is the main component that powers your car’s entire electrical system, and if not maintained or replaced, a faulty battery can lead to unexpected breakdowns and electrical issues.

It’s easy to maintain your battery yourself. Simply check it every couple of months to ensure the battery terminals are clean and tight, and that there are no signs of any leaks or corrosion damage. In order to best take care of your battery and electrical system, it's also a good idea to take your car for professional battery testing a couple of times a year. This will catch any potential issues early and reduce your chances of experiencing an unexpected electrical failure.

On top of battery checks, it’s important to ensure that all of your car’s exterior lights are in working order. This should be done once a week, making sure that any replacements consist only of the recommended bulbs listed in your owner’s manual. Remember, you may require a second set of eyes to help you check your brake and tail lights.

6. Keeping your car clean

While this tip may not sound as important as the others, having a regular cleaning regime for your vehicle is an important aspect of car maintenance. Gradually over time, mud, bird droppings, dead insects and dirt can damage and rust the paint work on your car. Washing your car on a weekly basis - making sure to only use manufacturer-approved cleaning products - and applying a basic car wax will help to prevent scratches, scuffs and erosion, ensuring that your car’s finish maintains its shine.

While keeping your car clean may not necessarily improve its performance, it will help to retain as much resale value as possible. You will feel the benefit of this should the time come for you to sell or trade in your vehicle.

Remember, if you’re unsure about any of these tips, or have questions about the best way to maintain your vehicle, ensure you ask a trained professional for help and advice. At Tyre City, we have centres right across the UK, meaning you won’t have to travel far to reach us. Our knowledgeable experts are readily equipped with the specialist tools and advice to solve any car maintenance issues you may be experiencing.

Tags : Advice Tips