Car ReviewsMaintenance Tips

Basic Car Maintenance Tips

Basic car maintenance saves you money and helps reduce the risk of a breakdown.

These basic safety checks are easy to do and only take a few minutes each week.

Basic safety checks

  1. Check all exterior lights are working. This can be easily done in the garage by checking their reflection against the walls.
  2. Check that glass surfaces (including the mirrors) are clean and free from chips, cracks, and scratches.
  3. Check that the windscreen wipers and washers operate efficiently.
  4. Make sure the horn works.
  5. Test the handbrake to ensure it ‘holds’ the car on steep hills.
  6. Check the condition of the seat belts. Make sure the webbing is
    not worn, damaged or sun bleached. Test the mechanism by giving the belt
    a sharp tug to make sure it locks.
  7. Check tyre pressures, condition, and tread wear and depth.
  8. Watch for oil or coolant spots on the garage floor.  These could indicate an emerging problem.

Basic Maintenance
Engine/Oil Change
This is one of the simplest car
maintenance services you can do to keep your vehicle in good running
condition. Not maintaining it could void your warranty (check your Owner’s Manual
to find out when you’re due for service) and even cause an engine
failure, which can cost thousands. Keeping your cooling system in
working order is also important. So this is also a good time to have a
system flush.

Getting the pump, hoses, fluids and belts checked is also
part of proper cooling-system maintenance.Check your engine oil weekly when the car is warm and on level ground.
Stop the engine and wait a few minutes for the oil to settle, remove the
dipstick and wipe it clean. Push the dipstick all the way in, wait a
second, and then withdraw it and check the level. The oil should be
between the two marks.  Remember to push the dipstick fully in when
refitting.

Automatic transmission
If your vehicle has a transmission dipstick (check your owner’s handbook
for its location), check the fluid weekly in accordance with the
instructions in the owner’s manual.
If more fluid is required, add the recommended fluid through the
dipstick tube. Allow about a minute for the oil to stabilise before
re-testing the level with the dipstick.
Manual transmissions and automatic transmissions not equipped with a
dipstick are more difficult to check. Your mechanic should perform fluid
level checks on these transmissions.

Radiator coolant
Check the coolant level at least weekly. If your car is fitted with an
expansion / recovery tank check that the coolant level is at or slightly
above the ‘minimum’ mark when the engine is cold, or somewhere between
the half and ‘maximum’ marks with the engine at operating temperature.
 It’s also essential to regularly check the coolant level at the
radiator when the engine is cold. It should be full.

If your car doesn’t have an expansion tank, check that the water is
within about 25mm of the top of the radiator filler neck when the engine
is cold. Never open the cooling system when the engine is hot as you
could receive serious burns.
If more coolant is required, add a mixture of clean water and the
recommended coolant/inhibitor.  Persistent coolant loss indicates a
problem, which your mechanic should check immediately.

Power steering
The level should be checked with the engine stopped, and after the car
has been driven for a while to warm the fluid.  Check the car’s handbook
for reservoir location, checking procedure and fluid type.

Brake and clutch fluid
On most cars you can see the brake and clutch fluid levels through the
transparent plastic reservoirs. If not, remove the cap and check the
level inside.  The level should be maintained between the maximum and
minimum marks. Only top up the reservoir with new brake fluid of the
correct grade. The need for constant topping up indicates the
possibility of a leak that must be checked by your mechanic.

Windscreen washer
A plastic reservoir for the washer fluid is almost always mounted in the
engine compartment (check owner’s manual for location). Fill the bottle
with clean water and, if you want, a special windscreen detergent. Do
not use household detergents for this purpose.

Battery
The fluid level inside the battery should be maintained between the
marked levels, or about 5mm to 10mm above the plates. If it needs
topping up, use only distilled water. Do not smoke or use naked flames
near a battery. Battery acid is corrosive, so take care to wash off
spills with plenty of clean water. Make sure the terminals are clean and
tight, and that the battery is fixed securely.

Don’t skip scheduled service
Check your owner’s guide and find out
when your scheduled car maintenance services are. Usually maintenance
involves checking or replacing parts like spark plugs, wires and timing
belts. Down the line, other major parts may need replacing in order to
keep your vehicle running efficiently and safely. While it may cost a
little more, scheduling service through your dealer not only guarantees
genuine parts and expertise; it also keeps your service history in line
and up to date, which will attract more buyers and higher prices when it
comes to selling your car.

Replace the air filter 
Think of it as your car’s lungs. By
replacing clogged air filters on older vehicles with carbureted engines,
you can improve your car’s fuel economy and acceleration by a few
percent under normal replacement conditions, according to
FuelEconomy.gov, the official U.S. government source for fuel economy
information. Additionally, replacing clogged air filters on newer cars
can help improve acceleration time.
Check your tire pressure
Invest a few bucks in a tire gauge
and check your tire pressure regularly (including the often-overlooked
spare!). This helps to improve fuel efficiency, cut down on tire wear
and tear and lets you know if your vehicle is correctly aligned.
Wash it
Washing not only keeps your vehicle looking good;
it’s also a good way to maintain that new-car finish. Allowing a layer
of dead bugs, bird droppings, dirt and chemicals to accumulate on your
vehicle can strip away wax and eventually paint. If you decide to wash
your car yourself, don’t use household cleaning agents like hand soap,
dishwashing detergent or glass cleaner, which can also strip off the
protective wax. Use a product designed specifically for cars.

The Common Tools You Need

Nearly all cars use basic nuts and bolts for the most common repairs
you need to make. Here’s a short list of what you typically need:

There’s no real secret to picking out tools, but they need to have a good grip therefore buy tools with hefty handles.

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