12 Dos And Don’ts Of Car Maintenance
The right car maintenance is crucial to ensuring your vehicle runs smoothly and that you aren’t met with hefty repair bills when you take it to a garage.
Discover what the 12 dos and don’ts are of car maintenance to ensure happier motoring when you’re out on the road.
12 dos and don’ts of car maintenance
Getting maintenance right can be the difference between having an efficient running car or having a motor which suddenly fails on you.
See our list of the 6 car maintenance habits you should get into to keep your vehicle in good condition.
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1. DO check your dashboard warning lights
Modern vehicle electronics are engineered in such a way that they tell you when there’s a problem with any vital components. It does this through a combination of 15 different warning lights which tell you whether there’s issues with your brakes, engine, battery and fluid levels, to name just a few.
It’s important that you check your dashboard every time you start your car for any red or yellow/amber warning lights which stay on. If this happens, check your manufacturer’s handbook to see what it could mean for your car, and take it to your nearest garage as soon as possible if the problem seems serious.
2. DON’T put the wrong fuel in your car
Accidents happen, but putting the wrong fuel in your car is a very expensive accident.
Adding petrol to a diesel engine will increase the friction between the moving parts of the engine, causing expensive damage if you start driving with it in the tank. Putting diesel in a petrol engine is less common as the pump necks are thicker, so it usually won’t be possible. If you do get any diesel fuel in your petrol car, the engine probably won’t start at all because diesel needs to be compressed before it’ll ignite.
So, how do you stop yourself from misfuelling in the first place?
Here’s a few ways you can prevent confusion at the pumps:
- Put a label inside the fuel door reminding yourself what the right fuel is.
- Install a misfuelling device – this clips into the hole where the nozzle goes and will only open when the right nossle is inserted.
If you put the wrong fuel in your car, avoid starting the engine (especially if you’ve put petrol in a diesel model). Get some help pushing the car to a safe place where you can then call breakdown assistance to have the problem fixed.
3. DO put air in your tyres when needed
On a weekly basis and before any long journey it’s very important that you top your tyres up with enough air as part of your regular maintenance.
According to tyres company Utires, your car tyres naturally lose between 1-3 PSI (pounds per square inch) of pressure each month. These losses could be even more if you regularly drive on roads which have lots of potholes or bumps.
The normal recommended PSI level in a standard hatchback is around 30-35 PSI, and anything below or over this can cause premature wear of your tyres.
Remember: You can find the exact pressure needed on the driver-side panel when you open the door.
4. DON’T use automatic car washes
Cleaning your car is essential to prevent dirt, salt and grime from the roads corroding your vehicle’s metal parts. It also stops any damage your car may have from being obscured too.
If you’re going to have your car cleaned, you should avoid using automatic car washes as the brushes aren’t properly maintained. When they run over your car, they can cause deep micro scratches which damage your paintwork over time. For the best results, opt for the old school hand wash style with bucket, sponges and drying cloths. Try and aim for a clean once every two weeks throughout the year.
5. DO keep enough fuel in your tank
You should avoid driving with less than a quarter of your fuel tank full, as this prevents the fuel pump from being sufficiently lubricated and could cause damage to it through overheating.
This can be a costly error if it happens, with the minimum fuel pump repair being around £600.
6. DON’T overload your car
Cramming as much as possible into your car can be tempting if you’re heading out on a road trip and don’t want to be unprepared. Nevertheless it’s illegal, and the police could slap you with a £300 fine if you’re caught. It’s also damaging to your car as the additional weight can cause tyres to overheat and rapidly wear to a point where unsafe and/or expensive damage is caused.
If that wasn’t enough, your insurance could be invalidated if it’s discovered that you were driving with an overloaded vehicle at the time of an accident which you wanted to claim for.
Remember: Your vehicle’s manual will have the exact maximum load weight for your model.
7. DO brake gently
When it comes to braking, you should try to do it gradually to avoid wearing out the pads. Too much sudden pressing of the brakes can generate large amounts of heat which can wear them out sooner than normal, which will mean they’re less effective (thereby reducing your vehicle’s safety) and need replacing earlier. However, it’s also important that you make emergency stops when a dangerous situation on the road calls for it.
Typically, brake pads have a lifespan of around 50,000 miles, but this can be significantly reduced if you make a habit of braking heavily often.
8. DON’T choose a lower gear at high speed
Your engine and transmission can be overworked if you suddenly decide to select a low gear (i.e. second or third) when travelling at high speed, such as when you need to overtake.
There’s nothing wrong with skipping a few gears when upshifting or downshifting, but in the case of the latter you should slow down gradually beforehand to avoid over revving the engine. It can also be dangerous if your car has an engine speed cut-off point (most do) as the car could come to a halt, or the wheels could spin and suddenly send you out of control.
9. DO drive your car weekly
The 12-volt battery found in most cars needs to be charged on a weekly basis, otherwise you’ll find that your car is flat when you next come to drive somewhere.
Luckily, you don’t have to do this manually using an expensive battery charger. Instead, each time your car is running it will provide charge to the battery through the engine.
If you don’t plan on driving your car for at least a week, you should still remember to start the engine at least once and let it run for 10-15 minutes.
Allowing your car battery to go completely flat (also known as a ‘deep discharge’) will immediately reduce its ability to hold a charge in future. In most cases, you won’t be able to fully charge it again once it’s died.
10. DON’T ride the clutch
Riding the clutch is when you engage the clutch pedal to change gear, but don’t lift off it to re-engage the clutch afterwards. You should avoid doing this at all costs as it causes friction between the clutch plates and gearbox shaft, which can lead to a burning smell.
Sometimes your driving position can make it difficult to avoid riding the clutch. So, if you’re sitting too close to the pedals and don’t have enough room to rest your clutch foot away from the pedal, you should knock your seat back a peg or two.
11. DO get your car serviced every 12,000 miles
Each manufacturer will have its own recommendations for when its cars should be serviced. However, a good rule of thumb is to have your car fully serviced after every 12,000 miles of driving it.
As well as topping up key fluids and changing the oil and oil filter (where applicable), a full service includes a check of 15-30 components on the vehicle to identify if any additional maintenance work is needed.
It’s important that you do this to ensure the longevity of your car, especially by spotting potential issues before they become a bigger problem.
A full service costs around £125, with any extra maintenance work identified being charged as extra. However, this can save you hundreds of pounds if any problems are diagnosed and fixed before your MOT is due.
12. DON’T hit potholes and speed bumps
UK roads aren’t the best at the greatest of times, with spells of rainy weather working its way into the road surfaces and causing potholes when it expands and contracts.
Where you can (and it’s safe to do so) you should always steer clear of hitting any potholes in the road. These can cause your wheels to buckle, crack your alloys or disturb the wheel balancing/tracking.
Likewise, you should slow down for speedbumps to match the speed limit of the area you’re driving around. Hitting them at speed can be even more damaging to your car than landing in a pothole. Specifically, you could cause damage to the front and rear bumpers of your car, its underside and the exhaust system.
Want to learn more about how you can keep your car in good condition all year round? Check out our other car maintenance guides for everything you need to know.