Car maintenance essentials

Man underneath car inspecting tyres
Making regular checks to your vehicle will not only help save you money but also keep you safe on the roads. Simple things anyone can do like checking oil levels and tyre pressure could be the difference between a seamless journey and a trek from hell. Get your car in the best possible shape by working down our checklist.

Tyre tread and pressure

Punctures are a common cause of breakdowns throughout the year but never more so during the summer months. High temperatures can often add pressure to pre-existing tyre damage therefore you should check your tyre pressures at least once a week. You can find out what the recommended pressure is in the vehicle manufacturer’s handbook, or most ‘air’ points have a poster with the main manufacturers’ vehicles listed. If tyre pressure starts to drop quickly you may have a slow puncture. Another thing to keep an eye on is your tyre tread depth, which should be at least 1.6mm. Anything below this is illegal and could result in your being pulled over by the police. The tread depth is important as it displaces water on the road. The larger the tread, the more water is displaced, making your car grip to the surface more efficiently.

Brakes

Ensuring your brake pads are in the best working order possible is vital if you want to stay safe on the roads. Make sure you test them after going through heavy water. If the brakes aren't as good as you think they should be it might be time for a trip to the garage. If you think there could be a problem with your brakes, you're better off paying for a professional check up rather than risk making a problem worse by attempting to fix something yourself.

Battery

The last thing you want is to have problems starting your car, so keeping an eye (or an ear) on your engine is vital. If the engine sounds like it's struggling to start then it might be time to visit a garage and carry out a battery test.

Engine coolant levels

Around six million motorists in the UK risk a repair bill of over £1,000 by failing to regularly check their engine coolant is at the correct level. This is essential if you want to prevent your engine from overheating during the summer months. Experts suggest checking the level of coolant fluid at least once a week, ensuring it's between the maximum and minimum indicators. If the coolant level suddenly drops by a significant amount take your motor to a garage for a check-up as, usually, this level won't change between services.

Oil levels

This is similar to coolant in that you need to make sure your car is fully stocked with oil otherwise the engine won't perform to its potential. The level should be between the minimum and maximum indicators to avoid damaging the motor. Drivers should check the oil levels at least once a week to ensure their vehicle is in proper working order.

Cooling fan

The cooling fan works by drawing air in through the radiator to cool the engine. You'll know it isn't in full working order if the fans don't automatically kick in a few minutes after you turn the engine on. It's important to keep on top of this because if your engine starts to overheat there could be a significant amount of irreversible damage to your engine. Head straight to the garage if you think there is something wrong.

Radiators

Anti-freeze stops the engine and radiators from freezing during cold conditions. Car owners should always keep an eye on this and make sure the level doesn't fall below the minimum indicator. This will help avoid damage to the major organs of your car, which will be very expensive to fix or replace.

Windscreen

Keeping your windscreen in the best condition possible is vital. During winter drivers should spend as much time as necessary to ensure their windscreen is frost free. A bottle of de-icer and a scraper should be in your car at all times. Try not to use boiling hot water to clear your screen, despite its effectiveness, the glass could actually be weakened and crack due to the sudden change of temperature. Always check your windscreen for chips or scratches, these might be harmless now but the cracks could spread and become a safety hazard. The windscreen washer should be topped up as regularly as possible as well as keeping a sharp eye on the state of your wipers.

Better safe than sorry

Despite carrying out all these checks sometimes things can just go wrong and there's nothing you can do about it. Therefore it is vital you have a breakdown cover policy in place to protect yourself.

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