Car Care For Absolute Beginners
by Ed Scott
So you’ve got the car of your dreams (or at least something functional to get you from A to B) and you’re enjoying the freedom of life on the open road. The important thing now is to make sure you keep your car in tip top condition – not only does this reduce the risk of a breakdown, it helps maintain your vehicle’s value for when you come to sell it on.
So here are some really simple tips to keep your car in tip top shape…
1) Keep it serviced
It’s important to make sure your car is regularly serviced, usually once a year, by a qualified mechanic. Not only do regular oil and filter changes help to keep the car ticking over nicely, regular maintenance inspections can help identify small problems before they become bigger, more expensive ones.
2) Check your fluid levels
Just as people need to keep hydration levels up, so car engines need to be regularly topped up with the right fluids. Check your oil levels once a month, making sure it’s between the two markers on the dipstick.
Also take this opportunity to check the consistency and colour of the oil. If there’s anything unusual-looking in the oil, for instance if it’s gritty or milky, get it checked out as this could signal a serious engine problem.
Also check the fluid levels in your radiator and windscreen wash reservoirs, topping up with water and anti-freeze or washer fluid where necessary.
If you’re having to regularly top up your oil or radiator reservoirs this could be signs of a more serious problem, such as head gasket trouble. Get your car checked out by a mechanic as soon as possible.
3) Check your tyres
You should also check your tyre tread depth and pressure every month as both can have a bearing on handling and fuel consumption.
Your tyres should have a minimum tread-depth of 1.6mm and you can check this using a 20p coin – if the tread obscures the outer rim on the coin, you’re ok, but if it’s getting close to this level you should consider getting them changed.
Under-inflated tyres increase fuel consumption by 20% and tyre wear by 30%, so make sure tyres are pumped up to the correct pressure, your car’s tyre pressure guide can usually be found in your owners manual or on a card inside the door frame or under the bonnet.
4) Keep it clean
Although it can be a bit of a chore, there is a lot to be said for keeping your car clean both inside and out. Not only will regular washing help prevent corrosion and rust, keeping the windows clean can also help prevent dazzle, which is a big problem in winter when the sun is low during the day or when other drivers have their headlights on at dusk.
5)Watch out for warning signs
If your car’s dashboard display is flashing to tell you something is wrong, don’t just ignore it and hope it’ll go away as this will only make things worse. Similarly, if you hear any strange noises while you’re driving, don’t higher the radio up to drown them out – delaying a repair could lead to irreparable damage. If you see or hear any warning signs, get your car checked out by a mechanic.
Top tip: the older your gets, the more often these checks will have to be made. That’s why it is ideal to sell your old car before it begins to fail and start to cost you more money.
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