Automative Maintenance: Basic Car Maintenance – How to check your car

Whether you’re looking to save money by reducing garage bills, or looking to improve your safety, and that ofyour passengers, good car maintenance is an excellent place to start. A well maintained car runs more efficiently, and attracts a better price when selling.

This post aims to document some of the basics of car maintenance based on my own experience. No doubt there are other things that are great to check, but I’ve listed what I believe to be the key items for regular maintenance.

THE BASICS

1. Check your Tyre tread

The legal minimum in the UK is 1.6mm (at the time of writing). Tyres come with a raised section in the middle groove which is designed to sit at the minimum tread depth. This acts as a good indicator, though isn’t that accurate. I would highly recommend buying a cheap tyre tread checker (no need for a digital checker),a basic manual measure will be fine to show you when your tread is running low. Low tread is much more dangerous in winter than summer, so consider changing your tyres at 2.0mm in winter.

Thinking about rotating your tyres: Tyres have only got a fixed life… I’d recommend keeping a tyre for no longer than 4 years. So consider moving tyres from your non-drive wheels (e.g. rear wheels on a front wheel drive car) to your drive wheels. This ensres you don’tend up with any old tyres on your car that are at risk of perishing (and therefore more at risk of blowouts).

If in doubt, seek advice from a nationwide tyre chain like ATS Euromaster (note: ATS is generally cheaper online, arrange an appointment online if you know what work needs doing) or Kwik Fit, these companies are often happy to do a free inspection of your car to see if any work is needed.

2. Check your Tyre pressure

There is enough press about the efficiency loss that comes with a small drop in tyre pressure. Topup your tyres when in the petrol station once a fortnight for a couple of weeks, and work out how regularly it is worth a topup. I try to do mine once a month.

Another cheap purchase is a tyre pressure checker. I have a little manual one in the car. This means you can check your tyre pressure at your leisure.

3. Are your wiper blades up to it?

I’ve heard people quote loads of different timescales for the life of a wiper blade. It obviously varies considerably based on your mileage, and the conditions you drive in. I personally expect to change mine twice a year.

Ensure you clean the wiper blades when washing your car, or wipe a kichen towel (tissue) over the blade once every couple of weeks. If you dampen the tissue with vinegar, this will help remove dirt, and improve the life of the blade.

I would recommend Halfords or WiperBlades.co.uk for blade purchases.

4. Top-up your screenwash

A lack of screenwash could risk poor visibility for no good reason. Buy some screenwash, water it down per the instructions, and keep it topped up well. Don’t try and scrimp on the screenwash. Watering it down more will simply mean you tire your wiper blades quicker.

I personally use Halfords screenwash. I find this to be more better than cheap brands, and is in-expensive itself.

5. Check your lights work

Ever noticed people driving past you with one or more bulbs blown? This can land you in trouble with the Police, and put your safety at risk. It’s simple to check too. Turn your lights on, and check them all… dipped, full beam, fog lights, indicators etc… don’t forget your brake lights… you may need a friend to help with this, or you can reverse close to a wall to check in your rear view mirror.

I’ve found eBay, and Amazon better priced for car light bulbs than car parts stores, even when buying quality bulb brands.

6. Check your oil levels

Guide: See Peugeot 206 Oil check guide

Low oil, or too much oil, can damage the oil. It’s easy to maintain, and just requires keeping an eye on.

The guide above can give you an example of maintaining your oil. Always ensure you check oil on a cold engine, and that the car is on a flat surface!

I recommend buying oil from a car parts store like Halfords or EuroCarParts. They will help ensure you buy an appropriate oil for your car.

KEY OTHER CHECKERS

7. Check your engine coolant level

Look around your engine for the symbol to the left. This is where you add engine coolant… engine coolant is water and anti-freeze.

NEVER open the coolant unless the engine is totally cold. Coolant extracts the engine heat and will be VERY hot. It WILL burn you if the engine has been running recently.

Your car manual will tell you which engine coolant you need, and the right mix of water and anti-freeze to use. NEVER add just water.

8. Check your engine air filter

These become clogged over time, and reduce the efficiency of the engine. They’re generaly cheap and easy to replace (get replacement parts from good car parts stores like Halfords or EuroCarParts, or from online sites like eBay and Amazon). You can chek your air filter and shake out large debris regularly. When it gets blackened with dirt, think about replacing it.

James

I'm passionate about technology, and particularly helping people make the most of it. I've spent the last 30 years helping others make the most of technology. My career started in IBM, and I've since moved into smaller business environments, to find those that have the biggest steps to take. My skills range from user based technology, through business systems (applications) to infrastructure. I also have a long background in IT security. I focus on what I consider to be "productivity technology", i.e. adding genuine value to peoples lives. I'm not a big gamer, or hold much interest in the disposable consumer technologies. During the day, you'll find me consulting with businesses or heading up an IT department. At the weekend, you'll find me sat at my Linux desktop PC, writing PHP or Python code, or trying to help others on Twitter, this blog, or my YouTube channel: Artexic.

One thought on “Automative Maintenance: Basic Car Maintenance – How to check your car

  • 22nd June 2012 at 1:18 pm
    Permalink

    Good tips on maintaining your car. Regular servicing should work out cheaper in the long run.

    Reply

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