Whether you’ve just bought your first car or purchased a new car, you may be wondering about car maintenance and servicing.
Servicing your car can really help prevent breakdowns and the need for roadside assistance, especially if you’ve been working from home due to covid and your car hasn’t been driven in a while.
But there are some things you can do in between these visits to help maintain your car and keep it healthy.
Before you do anything else the best thing you can do is read that little manual in the glove box, you know the one that is stuffed in there with all sorts?
We’ve also put together some top tips and advice when it comes to basic car maintenance.
Car Maintenance Checklist
1. Check your tyre pressure and tyre tread
The first thing on your car maintenance checklist is tyre pressure and tread.
You can use a pressure gauge to check tyre pressure. Most petrol stations will have a pressure gauge so you can check your current PSI reading.
The correct pressure level should be noted in your vehicle handbook or on a sticker usually on the driver’s side on the frame of the door. Alternatively, you can use Kwik Fits Tyre Pressure Search.
Your tyre may need to be inflated or deflated depending on the reading. If the tyre needs more air, use a pump at your local garage to add small amounts of air at a time to avoid over-inflation. Check again using the pressure gauge after each pump.
Cars built after November 2014 may be fitted with TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems) so keep an eye on the lights on your dashboard for this warning light.
If your pressure is ok but the light remains on, simply reset the configuration. The change of seasons can make tyre pressure systems play up a bit so don’t panic you turn on the ignition some morning after the first frost and the tyre pressure warning light pings. Just nip to the garage and do a quick check.
While checking the tyre pressure, it’s also worth noting the tread. The legal tyre tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm. To check the depth at home you can use a tyre tread gauge or a 20p coin. Insert the coin into the main grooves. If you can’t see the outer border of the 20p coin, then your tread is above the legal limit.
Don’t forget to check the pressure and tread of your spare wheel when you are at it.
Ensure engine oil is topped up
Low oil levels can result in a breakdown or severe engine damage. Don’t worry though, checking oil isn’t as daunting as you might think:
- Ensure the engine is cold to risk burns from a hot engine.
- Find the dipstick in a tube located on the side of the engine block under the bonnet.
- Pull out the dipstick and wipe the oil off with a rag.
- Reinsert the dipstick back into the tube and pull it back out again.
- Check the level on the stick. The oil should be between the minimum and maximum levels on the stick.
To top up, open the oil cap and add more engine oil. Be sure not to pour in too much as this can also cause damage to the engine.
Top up your coolant
Engine coolant, also known as antifreeze, is a water-based liquid that’s used to regulate your engine during extreme temperatures. It helps keep your engine from overheating or freezing.
Check your car’s manual to know the correct coolant and mix you should be using. Similar to oil levels, there will be a minimum and maximum coolant level displayed where the coolant is stored. There’s a chance the engine could overheat if the level is low so it’s time to top up. Top up to the maximum mark but don’t overfill.
Don’t forget to ensure the engine is cold before checking your coolant.
Take good care of windscreen wipers
Don’t be tempted to turn on the wipers to get rid of frost or snow on the windshield. Turn on the heating to defrost the windshield and use a scraper and de-icer.
Did you know though that you also shouldn’t use wipers on a dry windshield? Only use them when it’s wet outside or after spraying some window washer. Using them on a dry surface will cause them to wear out more quickly.
TOP TIP: During the winter months, pull the wipers away from the windshield the night before a freeze is expected or put a cloth between the wipers and the windshield. This prevents them from freezing to the windowpane in the morning.
Wiper blades often need replacing due to splits and cracks. To change your blades, lift the wiper arm and disconnect the blade. You can disconnect the blade by either popping open the locking tab or pushing down on the blade to unhook it from the arm. Slide the new blade into the arm until you feel it click or hook into place. Place the wiper back down carefully. The last step is to test the wipers but don’t forget to use the screen wash.
Keep your car battery in good condition
Did you know that battery problems are the number 1 cause of breakdowns?
This is particularly the case when your car may not be used very often. Flat batteries can also happen if you forget to turn off the radio or lights when leaving the car.
Some warning signs that your battery needs replacement include the engine taking longer to start when you start the car or dashboard display warnings.
At your next car service, it may be worth enquiring to see if anything is draining your battery. You can also ask them to check the starting and charging system.
Remember to check your car insurance policy to see if breakdown or roadside assistance is covered.
TOP TIP: it’s a good idea to carry jump leads if your car is prone to battery trouble.
Electric Car Maintenance
If you’re thinking of switching to an electric car, maintenance checks may be different. Thankfully, maintenance on an EV can be easier as there are fewer moving parts to keep an eye on. You don’t need to worry about topping up engine oil, replacing timing belts or spark plugs with an electric vehicle but there are more complex electric parts that need maintenance.
You’ll need to:
- Monitor battery use and ensure it doesn’t completely run out.
- Replace brake pads, discs and brake fluid regularly.
- Ensure sufficient tyre pressure.
- Replace tyres when worn.
- Check coolant levels
Note that the cooling systems in EVs may be sealed so should only be checked by a qualified technician.
Watch this space for more car maintenance info and in the meantime, we are here if you need to get your car insurance sorted or add on any extras that you maybe didn’t take out when you renewed.