Whether you’re a new owner or have been using the same run-around for years, knowing the basics of maintaining your vehicle is an essential part of vehicle ownership. No matter what type or brand of car you have, if you don’t carry out routine maintenance, you’re only increasing your risk of cost and safety issues down the line.
You don’t have to be a master mechanic to know and understand the basics of car maintenance, but we thought it would be good to take a quick look at the basics so that you can stay safe out there on the road. Of course, we would always recommend taking your car for expert vehicle regularly servicing for a proper check-up, so use the following tips as general advice.
Why maintain your car?
Before we get into how you can keep your car in good shape, let’s take a quick look into why you want to invest the time and effort:
Safety – This is the number one reason for proper car maintenance: safeguarding your life and those of others. Many accidents can be avoided by having brakes and other essential systems in good working order, as well as tyres that are still able to have a good grip on the road.
Reliability – There’s nothing worse than being on the road and having one of the many systems in the car fail. By keeping things in good shape, you can minimise the risk of being let down while out and about.
Longevity – We all know someone who’s had the same car for years or even decades. It’s all down to excellent care, so there’s no reason why you can’t also make the most of your vehicle investment for years to come.
Performance – A car that’s been cared for will perform better than one that’s left alone. For instance, the right wheels will get you further with less fuel, and happy engines will consume less, and with more efficiency.
Resell value – You might need to sell your car some way down the line, and the better shape it’s in, the more you’ll get for it. No one is going to want to buy a car that they’ll have to fix up unless they pay a low price for it.
Save on repair costs – Sometimes, repair costs can be more expensive than starting again with a new vehicle. Save yourself money down the line and keep things in good shape so that when the time for professional maintenance comes, your pockets won’t get hit too badly.
Eight essential car maintenance tips
So there’s the why. Here’s how:
Read the manualThe best way to keep your car well-maintained is to have a good understanding of the user manual. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about safety, specifications, warning lights, oil types, what to do in emergencies, and so much more. Always keep your manual in the car with you so that if you’re ever in a pinch, you can have the resources you need.
Use the right oil
Engine oil is essential for the function of your vehicle, and using the wrong one can result in some severe problems and repair costs. As well as reducing friction and heat around the many complex and moving parts, it helps minimise oxidisation and corrosion as well.
Engine oil is a big topic, but don’t worry – we have a handy guide on which engine oil to use, and why it’s essential.
Don’t let your tyres get tired.
If you drive around with the wrong tyre pressure for too much time, you can drastically reduce their lifespan and increase your chances of getting into an accident through a burst or slide. It’s easy to regularly check the air pressure in your tyres with a simple tool you can get anywhere – and, as always, refer to your manual to find out what the optimum strength is. Also, it’s worth doing visual checks from time to time so that you can observe any cracks or objects on the tyres themselves.
Clean your engine
As well as the inside, you should care for the outside of your engine as well. Dust, muck and other substances can quickly build-up, so give it a good wipe now and then. Also, keep an eye out for any leaks or dripping as these can indicate a more significant problem.
Look after the battery.
Car batteries charge themselves through driving so if you anticipate long breaks between trips, make sure to take it for a drive periodically to make sure the battery doesn’t go completely flat. Also, learn how to safely disconnect your battery from everything else to clean and maintain the contacts. Always disconnect the negative terminal of the battery first.
Don’t break the brakes.
When doing your other regular checks, make sure to take a good look at the brake fluid, which is essential for their proper function. Refer to your manual to see the exact needs of your vehicle, but generally, you want to confirm that the fluid levels are appropriate and that the colour is bright. If it’s dark, this could indicate that the fluid is spoiled and needs replacing.
Know your spark plugs
Spark plugs are the very first things that fire up when you start your car. If they don’t work, the car won’t. Knowing if they are in good order is relatively easy. For instance, if your car is struggling to start, it is more noisy and shaky, or you feel like the acceleration is off, this could indicate a spark plug issue. If this is the case, refer to your manual and replace it as soon as possible.
Fuel economy matters
By having good fuel habits, you can increase the lifespan of your vehicle and reduce the running costs. When driving, try to maintain an average speed without sudden acceleration or braking to put less stress on the engine. Avoid making the car too heavy with too much cargo and of course, make sure you’re using the right fuel for the job. If you’re not sure, check your manual or ask at your next visit to the filling station.
Mechanics are mandatory
The above tips are meant for maintenance only. They are not intended to replace visits to your mechanic and will only reduce the need for professional services. If you ever feel like there is something wrong with your car, always take it to a professional vehicle servicing company to make sure that it’s still safe to operate.