Running a car can be an expensive thing – and getting slapped with an expensive service bill out of the blue can often be the last thing you need. But with careful consideration of your car’s needs, you can keep it running smoothly and prevent any nasty surprises coming your way in terms of breakdowns and servicing. Here are four quick tips to keeping your vehicle in tip-top condition.
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Under the Hood
Familiarise yourself with the engine bay of your car. There are a few things in here you will need to keep an eye on over time, and with care, you can avoid a lot of the pitfalls that lead to expensive service bills. For starters, your engine oil. Use the dipstick to check your oil regularly; if it gets low, be sure to top it up. Watch out for dirty engine oil, too! The oil picks up debris and particles from the engine, becoming thick, sludgy and less lubricative over time. If it gets too dirty, or if cold weather hits, dirty oil could reduce your fuel economy, ruin your catalytic converter and even seize your engine. Other fluids you will need to check up on including your radiator coolant, brake fluid and wiper fluid, though the former two will need less maintenance than your oil and wiper fluid.
You will also need to know where your battery is, and how to test it. Batteries tend to last for up to 5 years before needing to be replaced, but cold weather can again speed up your battery’s failure. Buying a cheap multimeter and testing the voltage between the two terminals when the car is off and on could save you from getting stranded with no charge!
Under the Car
There isn’t too much you will need to check on the underside of your vehicle, but knowing where everything is and what to look for could save you from a more expensive service trip in the future, or even save you from an MOT re-test. In order to check under the car safely, you will need to invest in a trolley jack. Be sure to put your handbrake on, make use of wheel chocks and potentially axle stands to keep your car stable and unmoving. What you’re looking for is any sign of rust along the exhaust pipe or on the structural frame. Your exhaust will be exposed to corrosive elements such as road grit, which can accelerate the rusting process and cause issues.
Checking the Tyres
With your trolley jack, you can also perform maintenance and checks on your wheels. Do the brakes show any signs of rust? How about the axles? With your car safely on the ground, check your tyre pressure. If it is too high or too low, it can hasten your tyres’ wear and you could be at increased risk of suffering a blowout. Check your tyre treads too – they are legally required to be at least 1.6mm deep. Any lower and the chance of puncture is greatly increased, as is the chance of aquaplaning due to decreased grip.
Finally, one of the best ways to keep your car running smoothly is to drive it smoothly. Driving recklessly, with fast acceleration and hard braking, will put unnecessary strain on your vehicle, decreasing fuel economy and increasing the likelihood of a breakdown. Without proper care and attention given to your engine’s fluids, fast driving could overheat your engine, while hard braking can create issues with your disc brakes.