Quick Car Maintenance Checks
You Can Perform Yourself.
This article was kindly put together by Giles Kirkland – follow him on Twitter @gileskirkland.
All cars require a little maintenance now and then, but finding faults early can be a key way to save money. Fixing a problem while it is still a minor issue is much better than having to hand over more money for more extensive repairs. Plus, knowing a problem early on can give you more time to find spare parts.
However, when you’re not in the habit of regularly checking your car, you lose the opportunity to save money in the long run. So, to help motivate you, here are some simple and quick inspections you can perform yourself.
Your car’s suspension system is a vital part of ensuring a smooth and comfortable ride. It also helps prevent damage from bumps and potholes. Because of this, a deteriorating spring or strut can cause problems if left unnoticed.
The easiest way to check your suspension is to push down on each corner of the car. Watch how the vehicle vibrates or ‘wobbles’ and notice if one corner dips more (or less) than the rest. This will indicate which corner has suspension issues.
Your car’s engine is most happy when it has all the required fluids it needs. It doesn’t take long to lift up the hood and check your brake fluid, motor oil, coolant or antifreeze (you can also go ahead and check your windscreen washer fluid, too, while you have the opportunity).
Dipsticks or other markers will instantly let you know if you have enough. While being in between the minimum and maximum is easy enough to achieve, you shouldn’t be afraid to top up your fluids on a regular basis – depending on how much you drive – to reduce the risk of losing one fluid.
By checking regularly, this will also indicate when there’s a possible leak. For instance, if your brake fluid is disappearing more quickly, without any change to your driving habits, you might have a leaking line. Take a look where you normally park your car and see if there are any damp spots where the wheels would typically be.
Car Wheels And Tyres
When it comes to driving, you can never underestimate your tyres. As the only parts of the vehicle to touch the road, these products ensure that your ride is smooth, that as much power as possible is converted into motion and that you can both grip and brake reliability.
Your tyres, therefore, should have a thick tread and the correct tyre pressure. The latter is easy enough to achieve with a sensor and pump, while the former can be achieved with a 20p coin: push this into the tread’s and check if the outer band disappears. If you can’t see it, your tyres are still within the 1.6mm legal limit (at least in the UK). Of course, more sensitive and accurate equipment is also available.
Lights And Indicators
A broken light bulb isn’t usually difficult to fix, but it’s hard to notice such an occurrence from the inside of the vehicle. The next time you have the chance, turn your lights on (while the car is parked) and look from the outside. This way, you might notice a dimming indicator or a difference in the brightness of various lights.
The only difficult lights are, of course, the brake lights. This is something that might require a second pair of eyes, as you need to be inside the vehicle to apply the brakes. However, this is still something you can do every few months to get an early warning on any issues.
If you know how efficient your vehicle is in terms of fuel consumption, you can often use this to notice when something is wrong. It’s never a bad habit to track your mileage anyway and, between monthly mileage readings and fuel receipts, you can work out your average miles per gallon.
After a few months, you will know what the typical output of your vehicle is. This way, when it starts to drop, you will know something is wrong. This could indicate anything from a clogged air filter (again, very easy to check and replace), problems with the transmission or many other numerous issues.
As you can see, there are more than a few ways to check your car’s health. Most of these require no tools and very little time, yet they can save you plenty of heartache and money in the future.