Car maintenance you should do regularly
Cars need care and attention to ensure they run efficiently and safely and you can do many of the basic checks yourself. For this article, we asked bloggers to share their top maintenance tips that car owners should carry out on a regular basis.
How to check tyres for wear
- Basic tyre checks should be carried out every 2 weeks or before a long drive
- The legal minimum tread depth of a tyre is 1.6mm
- Use the 20p method to check tyre tread depth
- Check the inside of the driver’s door or on the inside of the fuel cap for the correct tyre pressure
- Check the air in the tyres with a pressure gauge or ask a garage
Check tyre tread depth
UK law requires car tyres to have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in a continuous band around the middle three-quarters of the tyre. Worn tyres can be particularly dangerous in wet conditions as the risk of aquaplaning and loss of grip is higher.
Driving with dangerous or defective tyres could also land drivers with a fine and penalty points on their licence, so it is worth checking all four of your tyres for wear and tear regularly, especially if your MOT revealed they are becoming worn.
A spokesman for Continental Tyres, Mark Griffiths told us about a simple check you can do to see if your tyres are legal. “Tyres are the only point of contact your car has with the road. Basic tyre checks should be conducted every two weeks or before a long journey.
“It’s really simple, and all you need is a 20 pence piece to check your tyre tread depth is safe and legal. The minimum tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm, but Continental Tyres recommends 3mm. Simply insert a 20p coin into your tyre’s main tread grooves to see if the outer rim of the coin is covered by the tread. Repeat this across the width of the tyre and at several points around its circumference. If you can see the rim of the coin when it is inserted at any point, your tyre may be illegal and should be checked by a tyre specialist.”
Check Tyre pressure
Maintaining the correct tyre pressure will help extend the life of your tyres as well as overall driving comfort. According to Continental Tyres, overinflated tyres can have a negative impact on vehicle handling and cause irregular wear of the tyre tread. Underinflated tyres can also have an impact on steering response, road safety, and can lead to the inside of the tyre being damaged.
Mark told us that inflation pressure plays a big role in helping to keep a car running smoothly but is often overlooked. “Under-inflated tyres affect handling and grip, potentially causing irregular or unpredictable vehicle behaviour. They are also much more likely to suffer from a dangerous sudden rapid deflation, especially on high-speed motorway journeys.
“By keeping your tyres at their optimum pressure, your running costs are also reduced. Under-inflated tyres require a bigger force to make them turn, so your car uses more fuel. Additionally, tyres which are not set to their correct pressure wear out quicker.”
Tonya writes for the Detail Oriented Traveler and always makes sure her tyre pressure is correct before setting off. She told us that a tyre blowout could lead to an accident, so it is worth spending a few moments checking your vehicle’s tyres before setting off. “While travelling long distances, such as a road trip for a family vacation, motorists should remember to check their tyre pressure each morning before departing. Flat tyres and blowouts happen frequently, yet it’s often overlooked.”
You can find the correct figures for your tyres inside your vehicle’s handbook, inside the sill of the driver’s side of the door or on the inside of the fuel tank flap. Tyre pressure is measured by calculating the amount of air that has been pumped into the inner lining of the tyre in pounds per square inch (PSI) or BAR pressure.
Continental Tyres also recommend that motorists check the tyre pressure every 14 days and emphasise that checks are particularly important before going on a long journey.
You can check your tyre pressure yourself with a pressure gauge, or you can take your vehicle to a garage and ask a mechanic to check it for you. It is also worth routinely checking the pressure on any spare tyres your vehicle may have.
What under the bonnet checks should be done on a car?
- Under-bonnet checks should be carried out regularly and before a long journey
- Recommendations for oil changes are between 3,000-5,000 miles
- Check the car’s oil level by looking at the dipstick
- Check the car’s coolant tank and keep liquid topped up
- Regularly top up the car’s windscreen wash
Check the car’s oil levels
Keeping an eye on the oil level is another simple car maintenance tip you can do. Oil helps to lubricate the moving parts of your car’s engine and protect them from seizing up. Kwik Fit says that motor oil also serves to “cool the engine and draw heat away from the combustion chamber where the temperatures can get dangerously hot if it wasn’t for the liquid properties of the oil to help cool things down”.
Traveling with Nina told us she makes sure her car has had the appropriate checks prior to heading off on a long journey. “Regular maintenance and check-ins are important. If I am behind on my regular car check-ins, I will worry about taking it on a long car ride. If I know my car is stable, I feel better travelling with it. I'm no car mechanic by any means but I've been told, on good authority, that changing the oil is important, so I never neglect it.”
Kwik Fit says that car oil needs to be changed regularly. “The change is in fact very easy to see as the oil that goes in your car is a golden liquid very similar to maple syrup, what comes out after 4,000-5,000 miles is a black tar-like substance that is much thicker and far less effective as a lubricant.”
The car servicing and repair company says that most vehicle manufacturers recommend an oil change every 3,000-5,000 miles and suggest checking the vehicle handbook for specific advice for your car. Book your car into a garage where mechanics can check the quality of your oil and change it if needs be.
It is also important that you check the oil level regularly too. This can be done by pulling out the dip-stick and wiping it with a cloth before reinserting it all the way into its tube before pulling it back out to see where the oil level is.
The oil level is adequate if the oil streak is between the two grooves. However, if the oil level is below the halfway mark between the grooves, it is worth topping up. If the oil is close to or below the minimum mark, you need to add oil. Your car oil light may also come on as an indication that the oil needs checking.
It is a quick and easy process to add oil to your car. Make sure the car is turned off and simply find the oil filler cap in the engine compartment, it usually has the word “oil” marked on it or has an outline of an oil can on it. Carefully pour the oil into the compartment, checking the levels with the dip-stick.
Check the car’s Engine coolant
Coolant is also another important fluid to keep topped up to ensure your car runs smoothly. Aside from cooling the engine and preventing it from freezing, the product also helps protect against corrosion protection.
The RAC explained why engine coolant is vital to keeping your car running efficiently: “Running your engine produces a great deal of energy which is converted into power or heat. While some of the heat is expelled via the exhaust, the remaining heat energy stays inside the engine.
“Coolant flows through passages in the car’s radiator where it is cooled down by air flow as the car moves. If the car is stationary, a fan will maintain the airflow to reduce the coolant’s temperature.”
The RAC suggests looking in the vehicle handbook to locate the coolant tank because advice can vary from car to car. Make sure the engine is off before opening the bonnet of the car. Once you located the coolant reservoir make sure the liquid level is between the minimum and maximum marks on the side of the tank. If the fluid level is below the minimum line then it is time to top your coolant fluid up.
You can buy coolant from car maintenance shops to top up yourself, or you can take your car to a garage and ask them to help you.
Keep Windscreen wash topped up
You should be sure to keep your windscreen wash topped up, as the last thing you want on a journey is to try and clear any dirt from your windscreen only to find you have run out of washer fluid. You can buy concentrated screen wash which requires you to add water to dilute it, or you can buy ready mixed screen wash which you can keep in your boot.
Filling the reservoir is easy. Simply locate the tank, which usually has a yellow cap, and fill with screen wash until it reaches the top of the reservoir. If you use the windscreen wash a lot then it is worth topping up once a week.
How to care for a car’s exterior
- Wash off winter salt and bird droppings as these can damage paintwork
- Handwash the car with a chamois rather than going to an automated carwash
- Use car cleaning solution and dry the paintwork after washing
- Protect paintwork by polishing at least once a year
- Check windscreen wipers for wear and tear and replace when needed
Cleaning the exterior of your car
You might think that washing your car is purely for show, however, according to the RAC, keeping your car clean may help in maintaining the lifespan of the vehicle. The breakdown and recovery company said: “Grit and grime get into moving parts and the chassis, leading to accelerated wear and corrosion. Winter road salt is especially corrosive, while bird droppings play havoc with paintwork.
“Take your car to a hand wash, or simply do it yourself. Automated car washes have stiff brushes that may leave fine scratches, plus they miss bits, too. Use a proper cleaning solution rather than washing-up liquid and dry the car using a soft chamois. Polish the paintwork at least once a year to provide a layer of protection and attend to stone chips promptly to prevent rust spreading.
It’s also important to keep the inside of your car clean.”
The RAC also suggests using a protective spray on the dashboard plastics to help reduce the chances of cracking or discolouration.
Check Windscreen wipers for wear and tear
Windscreen wipers are more important than you may realise and should be checked regularly.
The wipers remove rain, hail, ice and dirt from view to keep the windscreen clean and your line of vision clear. The rubber and metal on the wipers can wear down over time however, preventing them from doing their job properly.
You can check for general wear and tear of the wiper itself by seeing if the rubber has any cracks or has become misshapen. Another indication of wear and tear is if the blades are squeaking or not gliding across the screen smoothly.
You can take your car to a garage for them to change your wipers, however, it is a quick and simple job which can be done at home. The Windscreen Company says to pull the wiper arm up away from the windscreen and find the small plastic catch on top of the arm. “Press this and unhook the blade from its position. Replacing the blade is the same process, just do it backwards. Then, lower the whole arm back down to the base of the windscreen and check that it is sitting correctly and flush to the window.”
The Windscreen Company suggests replacing the rubber blade of your wipers every 6 to 12 months.
What car documents do I need to keep?
Keeping track of important documents and car admin is just as important as the physical health of the vehicle as Will from My Car Heaven explained. “Treat your car with respect and love with regular maintenance, cleaning and servicing. Keep all receipts in a nice file, which also helps when coming to sell the car and achieving a quick sale at the best price.”
Keep your car’s handbook in the glove box of the car so it is within reach if you need to refer to it for general information while on the road. File all your important documents such as paper copies of insurance documents, MOT certificates, service receipts and car ownership details in a folder, that way everything is readily available should you need it.
By taking the time to make basic routine checks on your car you can save yourself from potentially expensive issues down the line.
If you are on the search for a new car then look no further than your local Ford dealership. We also offer a servicing and accident repair services on your vehicle, making our dealerships the perfect place to get those essential car maintenance works done.