So recent press reports claim that most car owners not only don’t check the basics on their car but actually don’t know what they are looking for – seems the term dipstick is rather apt?! Anyway thanks to the AA, and some common sense, we’ve put together a basic maintenance check list for you, so get out there and get checking!
Regular preventive maintenance is probably the single thing you can do as a car owner to keep your ride happy and save money on repairs in the future. However, not everyone agrees on what preventive maintenance is, what you should do, and when you should do it. Let’s clear that up, and give you some tips that’ll apply to any vehicle.
Anyone who’s ever worked on cars or spent a ton of money getting their car repaired will tell you: Don’t ignore preventive maintenance. The basics, like changing your oil, checking your tire pressure, and getting scheduled inspections and work done are like getting regular checkups at the doctor. They keep you healthy and give you—and the experts—a chance to catch anything serious before it becomes a major problem. With your car, that can save you thousands.
Pay attention to your owner’s manual. Regardless of the vehicle you drive, your regular maintenance schedule is inside it, and you’ll never fall for old car myths like, “You should change your oil every 3,000 miles,” (unless of course, your manual says you should, and odds are it doesn’t). You will, however, discover how often your manufacturer really does suggest you change your oil (it can vary widely by vehicle), your filters, any drive or timing belts in your vehicle, and more.
So in others words, first, and most important, stick to your manufacturer’s advice on servicing. Your handbook will tell you when a service is due and exactly what’s needed – just make sure you book your car into the garage promptly.
The second is to do your own simple car maintenance checks. Here’s our top 10:
Every two weeks, check your tyre pressures and the condition of your tyres (including the spare). Look out for cuts or wear and make sure your tread is within legal limits.
If your car has a spare wheel, then at the very least you need to carry a jack and wheel removing tools (plus a locking wheel nut key if appropriate).
3. Engine oil
Use your dipstick to check oil levels every couple of weeks, and before any long journey, and top up if needed. Pop your car back to the garage if you’re topping up more than usual.
Every week, while your engine’s cold, check your coolant level is between the MIN and MAX marks.
Seasonal tip: before the cold weather sets in, get your anti-freeze checked and topped up, if required.
5. Windscreen wipers
Replace your windscreen wipers once a year to prevent smearing.
By law, your screenwash system must work. Keep it regularly topped up with a good screenwash additive – one that prevents it from freezing, and clears oily grime.
Keep an eye out for stone damage and, if you spot any chips, get them repaired as soon as possible (they can grow and crack if left alone).
If the damage can’t be repaired, or it’s in a place where it could distract you, your windscreen may need to be replaced.
Check all your lights – including indicators, reversing lights, brake lights and fog lights – once a week. Look out for blown bulbs and cracks or dirt on the lenses.
9. Power steering
Make sure your garage fills your hydraulic fluid reservoir when they service your car. Then all you have to do, once a month, is check its levels; if necessary, you can top up with a recommended fluid.
Give your car panels an occasional once-over for any damage, or signs of rust.
These maintenance checks are all fairly straightforward, but if you’d rather not do them yourself, pop into your local garage.