When To Do Maintenance On Your Car
Every week you should do some maintenance on your car to keep it running smoothly. You should check all tyres for pressure and any damage, while keeping it clean and making sure it has enough essential fluids (fuel, engine oil, brake fluid etc.)
These are just some of the basics to help you cut costs when you take your car in for a full service. Find out exactly when to do maintenance on your car during the time you have it in this guide.
Winter maintenance – checklist
Cold weather can present many challenges when it comes to maintaining your car. But the winter months don’t need to be doom and gloom for your beloved motor.
Follow these simple maintenance tasks to ensure your car is fault-free during the coldest of days.
Check your car battery
Having problems starting your car on a cold day? It could be a problem with your battery.
Cold and damp weather can damage the condition of your car’s battery, especially if you don’t drive it on a regular basis.
To avoid needing to replace your battery, you should check it regularly when winter arrives (once a week will do the trick). You can do this on your own with a battery and alternator tester, but we recommend taking it to a specialist in a garage if you’re unsure of what to do.
Using your own battery tester? As a rule of thumb, a reading of 12.6 volts will mean the battery is fully charged and healthy. 12.0 volts or lower indicates that your car battery isn’t holding its charge and could need replacing.
Keep on top of your antifreeze
Antifreeze prevents water in the engine’s cooling system from freezing.
In order to check the effectiveness of the antifreeze you have in your car, you’ll need an antifreeze tester. These aren’t expensive – a good one will cost around £5.
Once you have this, all you need to do is unscrew the coolant resrvoir (the symbol looks like a key floating in some water) and lower the tube of your antifreeze tester into the coolant. You then have to squeeze the rubber ball on the end to get antifreeze into the tester and you can then read the freezing point.
A normal temperature for an engine to run at should be between 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit (91-93 Celsius).
Keep on top of windscreen washer fluid and check the condition of your wiper blades
Cold, wintery conditions often mean UK roads can get covered in lots of dirt and grime. You’re likely going to be getting a lot of this on your windscreen, so it’s important that your windscreen washer fluid is topped up when you notice it running low. This will help keep the glass clean so that you can see the road ahead.
Similarly, checking the condition of your wiper blades is important for making sure that they work at clearing dirt/grime off effectively.
If your wiper blades are old, or the rubber is falling apart and they seem worn, they won’t work properly. You’ll be able to tell this because they’ll struggle to clear the front or back window. At this point, you’ll want to replace them.
Just make sure when you get new wiper blades that you check the package to ensure they’re compatible with your model.
Check your tyre tread
Tyres are probably one of the most important components on your car that needs to be looked after. After all, they’re the part that is in contact with the road.
When there’s too much wear on your tyre tread, it’s more difficult for the tyre to clear water. Stopping distances can increase as a result, making it harder to control the car.
The legal requirement for tyre tread is 1.6mm, but grip diminishes very quickly, so you should consider replacing them when they reach 3mm.
A quick way of checking the tread depth of your tyres is by taking a 20p coin and inserting it into the tread of the tyre. The outer band is 1.6mm, so if it’s covered after you insert it, you know that your tyres are road legal. However, if the band of your coin is masked by the tyre, the chances are that you need new tyres.
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Basic car maintenance
Each time you get in your car to drive somewhere there are simple things you can do to maintain it. The same goes for when you’re using it throughout the week – although these actions tend to require a bit more time and should form part of a maintenance checklist.
- Check your dashboard for any red or yellow warning lights – don’t worry if these come on initially when you start the car, but they should disappear after you’ve let it run for a couple of minutes. If not, you should contact your local garage and have a professional mechanic take a look.
- Make sure there’s enough fuel – think about where you’re going and whether there’s any access to fuel stations along the way if the needle shows that you’re near empty. Ideally, your tank should always be at least ¼ full to preserve your fuel pump and filter.
- Test all lights – turn on your headlights to see that they’re working and aren’t dimmed. If they are, check your vehicle’s manual to find which bulb you need and take the car to your local autocentre to have it replaced (this costs less than £10). For brake and tail lights, do the following:
- Have a friend or family member stand behind the car while you press the brake pedal.
- While they’re still behind the car, select reverse gear and let them confirm both sides are working.
- Tail lights tend to be different bulbs, but it’s straightforward to check they’re working. Just switch on your headlights and this should illuminate your tail lights.
- Give your car a full clean, inside and out – getting rid of nasty dirt and grime which is picked up off the roads will keep your car’s components running efficiently. Check out our step-by-step tips on how to keep your car squeaky clean.
- Check all fluid levels – this includes engine oil, coolant and brake fluid. Full tips on how to do this can be found in the maintenance checklist mentioned earlier.
- Tyre pressure and tread depth – before any long journey and once a week you should check your tyre pressure, which you can do for little or no cost at a fuel station air machine. For tread depth measurement, insert a 20p into the main tread groove of each tyre. The outer band should be obscured, otherwise you may need to replace your tyres if they’re below the legal 1.6mm limit.
- Test your car’s battery – if your car struggles to start then it could mean that the battery needs replacing, but you can purchase a voltmeter for around £10 to properly test its capacity.
- Test your brakes – you can generally feel when brakes are worn as the brake pedal will feel soft when pressed, or you’ll start to feel it pulsate. Also, if your ABS/brake light is on this could be a telling factor that the pads or discs need replacing.
- Battery health check – hook your vehicle’s battery up to a voltmeter to check that it’s got a healthy level of charge (this should read as 12.6 volts or above).
- Monitor transmission fluid – having the right level of transmission fluid ensures that you don’t encounter problems shifting gears and the transmission doesn’t burn up. Some cars have a dipstick with a ‘min’ and ‘max’ marker which lets you check whether more needs adding (this will often be at the back of the engine bay). If your car doesn’t have a dipstick, take it to your local garage to check as part of a routine service as it will need to be lifted onto jack stands to do so.
- Check the air filter – your car’s air filter is conveniently located at the top/side of your engine, inside a box. To check it, simply open the box and remove the dirty air filter – if you hold it up to good light you should be able to see the light coming through. If you can’t, dust it off using a duster or old rag and re-check it until you’re happy that it’s clear. If it still isn’t clear after doing this a few times, you may need to change the car’s filter.
- Oil filter – if you drive a lot of miles each month (i.e. 3,000-5,000 miles) then you should take some time each month to check on the health of your oil filter. Usually your car will tell you if there’s a problem with your oil filter, and you may see decreased oil pressure or your ‘check engine’ light could come on if it begins to overheat.
When to do professional maintenance
There are times when legally you’re required to take your car to a garage for professional maintenance. By law your vehicle will need to undergo an MOT test once a year after its third birthday. If it doesn’t meet the minimum legal requirement, you’ll need to have these issues fixed on the day before you can drive it for another year.
If you’re leasing your car then this won’t be necessary, unless your deal is longer than three years. However, you should still follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule and take it to an approved garage for a check up at least once a year.
For example, Ford, BMW and Audi recommend that if you have one of its vehicles then you should have it serviced every 10,000 miles/12 months (whichever comes first). If you have a different make of vehicle, you can find details of when you should take it for professional maintenance in the owner’s manual.
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When to do lease car maintenance
As well as the basic car maintenance we mentioned earlier, you should also take a lease vehicle for a full service once a year.
Unlike a standard vehicle you’ve purchased through cash or finance, lease cars are owned by the finance provider funding the deal. Therefore, you need to ensure it’s in a good condition before you return it at the end of your agreement.
Remember: At the end of every lease deal the car is inspected by the leasing company. Any extensive damage which doesn’t reflect fair use of the vehicle will lead to repair charges.
Before taking your lease car to be serviced, check with the finance provider which garages they approve of. Be sure to have the service log book stamped by the mechanic carrying out the work too and keep all receipts. This way you have evidence of the work which has been carried out and can contest potential end-of-lease damage charges you believe are wrong.
4 advantages of regular maintenance
It goes without saying that keeping on top of your car’s maintenance will ensure you get the best out of it. But what exactly do you get out of it?
Here are some advantages you can get out of your handy work.
1. Increases resale value of your car
If you own your car or have it on finance and plan to in the future then you have good cause to regularly maintain your vehicle. Namely, to get a better price for it if a time comes where you want to sell it.
Depreciation itself is unavoidable, but you can slow it down massively. According to vehicle history check company HPI, at least 15% of a car’s value is lost if there is a lack of service history. That’s a huge difference and for many drivers it could be the difference between being able to put a deposit down on a new car or having to save up.
2. Reduces risk of costly unforeseen repairs
‘Prevention is better than cure’ is more than just a cliche when it comes to car maintenance.
There’s a reason why manufacturers recommend the service schedules mentioned above. The quicker any potential problems with your car are spotted, the cheaper they are to remedy.
Research by the RAC found that nearly half of UK drivers (47%) worry about having to pay unexpected repairs when taking their car for a service. In many cases this led to them putting off having regular services, instead just choosing to have an MOT each year. However, the same study found that 52% of drivers pay at least £300 or more to get through an MOT, while 5% fork out £1,000 or more.
The good news is that this doesn’t have to be you. Practicing our daily and weekly tips on maintenance, plus honouring a service schedule for your car is guaranteed to cut these costs.
3. Improves fuel consumption
The maintenance you carry out through oil top ups and looking after your tyres means that your car performs at its best.
Engine oil degrades over time and loses its effectiveness in lubricating the moving parts, so replacing it prevents it from having to overwork. Similarly, air lost in your tyres from regular driving reduces the rolling efficiency as there’s increased friction with the road. Both of these problems are known to cause you losses in the number of miles your car can travel per gallon of fuel.
When you have your car serviced, checks are made to see if there are any old spark plugs and whether or not the oil filter needs replacing. Again, these changes are key to ensuring your engine performs to its maximum efficiency. Otherwise, things such as misfiring spark plugs burden the engine unnecessarily, causing it to work harder and burn more fuel.
4. Happier and safer driving
Maybe not so much a financial advantage like the others. However, there’s undeniable joy in driving a car which you know has been looked after and is working properly.
What’s more is that you have the peace of mind in knowing that all the major components are in good condition. This in itself makes every journey you have in your vehicle safe for both you, your passengers and other road users.
Want to know more about how to maintain your car? Visit our guides page to find out how you can keep your car in its best condition to help save you money.
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