There are a number of car checks you can perform both around the car and under the bonnet to help keep it in good running order and prevent a breakdown.
Spending five minutes carrying out these simple checks every few weeks, and certainly, before a long journey or an MOT, can save you a lot of time and money in the long run, not to mention help keep you safe on the roads.
Here are some simple car checks you can carry out today to keep your car safely on the road and on the right side of the law.
Check you have plenty of fuel in your tank for your journey. It may sound obvious but you’d be surprised just how many people run out of fuel, particularly in harsh winter weather.
Check your oil level is between the minimum and maximum mark on your car’s dipstick and top up if necessary. If you don’t know which type of oil you need to use, refer to your owner’s handbook or speak to your local dealer.
Check all four of your tyres and wiper blades on a regular basis. Check your tyres for general wear and tear, splits or bulges, and crucially tread depth. The minimum tread level is 1.6mm, although in winter it’s advisable to have 3mm of tyre tread to help with traction and grip. Also ensure you’ve got the correct pressure in your tyres, checking your owner’s handbook if you don’t know the correct inflation.
Examine your wiper blades as these won’t last forever and need replacing from time to time due to splits and cracks.
Check your car’s coolant level. The last thing you need is a frozen engine or for your car to overheat. Although it’s a sealed system and shouldn’t need to be topped up, you should always double-check, especially before a long journey.
Check your coolant levels when the engine is cold and look in your handbook for the correct coolant and mix to use should you need to top it up.
There are plenty of electrics in your car, from headlights and fog lights to your battery, and they all need to be checked regularly to keep you safe. Have another person walk around the car and make sure your lights are all working, even the number plate lights, as you can be fined for having a registration that can’t be seen. You should also check your battery, making sure the terminals are clean and tight (cleaning off any corrosion with hot water and applying petroleum jelly) and that the engine starts correctly.
If your engine struggles to start when you turn the key, get the battery checked out at a garage. If your battery is over four years old it may be getting to the end of its life and could let you down.
Batteries have to work that much harder in cold conditions and they have to endure greater demand from extra electrical equipment like the lights and the heater.
Check your screen wash level in the tank under the bonnet, topping up if necessary with a quality screen wash additive or pre-mix, which you can pick up in most petrol stations.
Screen wash is important all year round. In winter snow and grit cause dirty windscreens, while in summer bugs and pollen can easily smear your view, so never put off checking your levels.
A faulty or clogged-up air filter could reduce your fuel efficiency and lead to reduced engine power, which is why mechanics recommend getting it replaced every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.
If you think your filter needs checking or replacing, simply locate the filter (usually in a black box under the bonnet) and remove it, making note of how it fits before you insert the replacement and fasten the box back shut.
Check your vehicle handbook for instructions.
Spark plugs (petrol engines)
Spark plugs are integral to the running of your engine and one or more faulty plugs will cause an engine to misfire so it’s worth knowing how to replace them.
Generally, spark plugs need replacing every 30,000 miles or so and you’ll need the right tools if you want to replace them yourself. Also, check your handbook or consult a dealer to check that a DIY replacement is possible.
We should all understand the importance of properly-functioning brakes, so keeping them maintained is essential. Start off by checking the brake fluid level and if low, top it up, check your vehicle handbook for the correct fluid specification Be careful as brake fluid is corrosive, and if you feel unsure then get a professional to take a look at it.
Brake fluid should be changed at certain mileage intervals, again, check your handbook for service details.
Whether it’s 35 degrees outside or barely breaking freezing, it’s essential your aircon unit is fully functioning. However, apart from visual checks of the pipework, there is not a lot for you to check yourself.
Aircon system servicing should be carried out by a competent person with the correct equipment. A typical complaint is when the aircon does not feel cool enough on hot summer days, this may indicate that the system requires re-gassing where specialist equipment is required and so should be entrusted to a garage.
Keep things clean with a regular interior clean, clearing out your footwells, wiping down your dashboard and keeping only the essentials in your boot. A clean interior keeps you safe on the roads; you don’t want any discarded bottles dangerously rolling underneath your pedals.
Keep the outside of your car clean with a regular wash. If you’re doing it by hand, focus on the headlights, brake lights and number plates as this helps you see and be seen on the roads. Keep all windows clean and clear at all times. As well as being unsafe, a dirty windscreen that limits your view of the road could see you fined.
Should I take my car to a garage?
If you carry out these simple car checks, your car should stay on the road without seeing a mechanic for longer, but if a more serious problem arises you should always seek professional help. When your car’s next due a service, give Segensworth Automobiles a call on 01489 662 000.
Adapted from an original article by rac.co.uk.