>Top 20 Car Maintenance Tips
Top 20 Car Maintenance Tips
Cars are complex and have the ability to cause large bills out of seemingly nowhere. But there are a few ways you can preempt some costs, such as by regularly inspecting your vehicle and running some basic maintenance checks. These tips will also help you avoid falling foul of the law, and generally improve your driving experience!
Number 1: Check your tyres
Your tyres are arguably the most safety-critical part of your car and making sure they’re in good condition can really pay dividends. Tyres are a common MOT failure point so finding faults early can help plan out the most cost-effective or convenient replacements.
Check your tyres regularly for:
- Uneven wear
- Lumps or bulges
- Cuts or abrasions
- Tyre age
For more info on these points check out our tyre article here.
Number 2: Check your engine oil
An engine is made with extremely tight tolerances, with metal components effectively rubbing together at great speed. Oil is vital to aid in lubrication, and avoid wear and premature failure, by checking:
- Oil level regularly
- Oil changes as often (or more often) than your service book states
- The right quality and grade of oil are used
Our article on which oil your car needs is here.
Number 3: Brakes
For obvious reasons, your brakes are extremely important and are another common failure point on MOTs. Every time you use your brakes they wear, so if you do a lot of driving in between services, it may be good to do extra checks.
Many local garages offer free brake checks, stating the thickness level of your pads and discs. Make sure to take these readings away and check your car's manual, as some garages may well try to sell you something you don’t need.
For more on how your brakes work, our article is here.
Number 4: Inspect your coolant
Engines get hot and need the correct level of good quality coolant to avoid overheating. Whilst a coolant flush and replenishment is better left to service time, you can regularly check:
- The level of coolant in the reservoir - top up if needed
- The colour of the coolant - it should be a bright colour, not brown or black
- How often you’re having to fill the reservoir
- What grade and make of coolant is best for your car
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Number 5: Ensure air filters are replaced when required
An engine combines outside air sucked in through a filter with petrol or diesel to make power. The incoming air is filtered to stop things such as leaves, dust, insects and other debris from entering the engine.
As you use your car, the filter will be stopping all manner of these things from entering, but they will be clogging up the filter. This reduces engine performance and can cause various other symptoms such as bad fuel economy and trouble starting.
Number 6: Don't forget the cabin filter
Obviously, we humans need air too, but when we’re in the sealed chamber that is our cars, using Air conditioning or heating, all of the air we breathe passes through the cabin filter.
Often located under the glovebox area, the cabin filter is very similar to the engine's air filter, except it stops us from breathing in nasty debris, one of its major benefits is filtering out pollen.
So if your heater is blowing strange-smelling air, or you’ve not had your car serviced for a long time, check the cabin/pollen filter and change it if you don’t know when it was last done.
Number 7: Check your screenwash
Not having sufficient screen wash fluid in your car can be grounds for receiving a £100 fine and three points on your licence, if you’re caught.
It’s easy to top up and advisable to carry a spare few litres in your car, just in case you get caught short, especially in winter.
Number 8: Listen out for any strange noises
Noise can be a great indicator that something is wrong, there are many different types of noises including those that increase with the car’s speed, engine speed or when turning.
For more information on what to listen out for and what it could mean, check out our guide to automotive noises here!
Number 9: Keep your glass clean
Screenwash can only do so much, not to mention your side and rear windows.
Regularly clean your windows and mirrors to give the best visibility. Dirty glass is especially dangerous at night, as street lighting and other car headlights can make seeing out very difficult.
Number 10: Clear out the junk in your trunk
Carrying excess weight is wasteful and can be dangerous. Every extra bit of weight counts, as the engine needs to burn more fuel to move you and your car along, so be sure to clean out your boot regularly.
Not only does extra weight in your car cost you money, but in the event of an accident a half-empty water bottle can become extremely dangerous flying around the cabin!
Number 11: Check your bulbs
Headlights, indicators, number plate lights and of course, brake lights. These are all on your car for a reason. If you’re driving without any one of them you are increasing the risk of either someone not seeing you, or you not seeing someone else on the road.
If a police officer spots you, you can expect at least a stern warning, but up to a 3-point penalty and £100 fine!
Number 12: Replace wiper blades if required
Getting caught driving in the rain could turn from a damp inconvenience to a serious safety issue if your wiper blades aren’t working, especially if you’re on a busy road or motorway.
If your wipers have stopped clearing the screen correctly, or make a horrible screech or judder as they wipe, it’s time to get some new ones.
Number 13: Make sure you're using the right fuel
In 2021, Britain switched over to a new type of fuel; E10. It uses a slightly different mix of ethanol to petrol ratio and is generally a good thing for motoring. It is said to burn cleaner and pollute less.
The problem is that not all cars are designed to use them. Older cars can have seals and pipes in their fuel systems that cannot handle the higher ethanol content, often causing the plastic to degrade prematurely.
Number 14: Change your spark plugs
Spark plugs ignite the fuel in a petrol-engined car cycle, meaning at motorway speeds each spark plug will create a spark 25 times per second. They are screwed into the cylinder head and experience extreme highs of pressure and heat.
Because of this spark plugs need changing every 40,000 miles, if left longer than this they can cause inefficiencies and excess fuel consumption.
Number 15: Check when your cambelt was last changed
Lots of cars use a cambelt to control the engine timing, they are vital to the engine's smooth running and to maintaining peak efficiency. Worse than this, if the belt snaps due to deterioration from ageing, it can seriously damage the engine.
Most cam belts last somewhere between 60 and 100,000 miles, but it's critical you check both your car's belt change interval and when it was last done. This crucial and preventative maintenance can easily save you thousands in repairs.
Number 16: Maintain tyres pressures
The air pressure in your car's tyres has a significant impact on safety, performance and efficiency, so you’ll want to keep a constant eye on your pressure.
Too low pressure and more drag will be caused, reducing your MPG, too high and the contact with the road can be reduced to the point of creating a serious reduction in braking and turning performance.
Not only this, but car manufacturers specify exactly what pressure should be used in specific situations. If you regularly carry 3 passengers the pressures will be different than if it’s only you aboard - check your manual for more information and adjust accordingly.
Number 17: Check number plates
Having visible number plates is a big deal when driving in the UK, the penalties for having an unreadable number plate, whether intentionally or not, are quite severe.
The main things to check for on your license plate are cracking or delamination (when the plastic separates) that causes water and dirt ingress, as well as non-functional number plate lights.
If you don’t fancy cleaning your car every weekend in winter, be sure to regularly wipe down the number plates and lights to stay legal.
Number 18: Carry the right equipment
It's good to be prepared; should your car break down or you cannot continue your journey, having a few basic but handy items stowed in the boot can make the ordeal much more tolerable.
It’s advised to carry at least:
- Hi-Vis coat/vest for warmth and visibility
- Warning triangle
- Spare wheel and toolkit
- Jump leads
- First aid kit
- Foot pump
- Wind up Torch
- Powerbank for charging a phone
Number 19: Check your spare tyre
In the unfortunate event that you get a flat tyre, discovering your spare is in poor condition, needs a repair or is missing altogether would be extremely annoying to say the least.
Check your tyre for damage and that it holds air. Consider carrying a foot pump too in case you get a slow puncture or need to top up the spare.
It is also advisable to practise jacking up and changing a wheel in a safe environment, just to familiarise yourself with the procedure.
If your car isn’t fitted with a spare, and instead has a can of tyre weld and a pump, check these parts are all present too and read the manual on how to use them.
Number 20: Check for safety recalls
From time to time car manufacturers find faults with their vehicles, these can be small niggly issues such as issues with infotainment systems, to serious safety problems such as failing brakes.
Safety recalls are used to notify every owner of the affected vehicle model, with guidance on how to have the problem fixed, at the manufacturer's expense.
The problem comes when vehicles change hands many times over the years, and databases are not kept up to date, in this instance, you may own a car that has an outstanding recall, but the manufacturer does not know you own that particular car.
To solve this problem there is a government website where you can check for safety recalls based on vehicle model and or registration number. It only takes 5 minutes and is completely free.
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