Friday Five: Top car maintenance tips
Regular, simple and quick car maintenance can keep your car running in good condition.
THERE’S ALMOST NO way you can predict when your car will break down or cop a flat tyre, but there are a few simple things you can do to try and avoid something like that happening in the first place.
Give your car a once-over: Make sure you regularly check your headlights, indicators, tail-lights, windscreen wipers and tyres. Don’t just rely on your car’s onboard computer to notify you when a headlight bulb has blown. By keeping an eye on your lights, you’ll notice if the lens has cracked or discoloured and will be able to rectify it.
Old windscreen wipers that leave your windscreen streaky will need to be changed. And make sure you regularly check your tyres for uneven wear or even cuts in the sidewall, and ensure the tyres are always at the correct pressure. And don’t forget to give your spare tyre a once over. While you’re here, you can also get into the habits of checking the fluids in your car – windscreen washer fluid, brake fluid, power steering and engine oil – the low fluid mark will be clearly marked on the bottle.
Know how to change a wheel: Most people wouldn’t know which end of a jack to use, or which way to loosen wheel nuts (tip: left is loose, right is tight). Changing a wheel can be dangerous, especially if you’ve broken down on the side of the road… The main thing is to make sure your spare and wheel-changing tools are in good condition. Unless you’ve got and have correctly fitted axle stands, one tip is to place the spare wheel under the raised part of the car so that if the jack collapses your car won’t crash to the ground and risk injuring you. You should practice changing your wheel on a nice flat surface with the assistance of someone who has done it before.
Keep your car serviced: There are a lot of people out there who own older cars and perform regular maintenance like changing the oil themselves, and that’s great. But most of us, particularly with new or near-new cars, should ensure they’re regularly serviced by a qualified mechanic, not only will having had your car regularly serviced by an authorised mechanic help when it comes to sell your car, but it will also give you some recourse should something go wrong with the car. Regular servicing will mean potential problems are jumped on before they become major and cause you to break down.
Know your dashboard: Recently the headlight bulb in my car blew and it was inbetween my usual check of the lights, so, if it hadn’t been for the warning light on my dashboard it would have been another week before I’d checked the lights. This would have compromised my ability to drive safely at night or during rain or fog, and could have left me open to a defect notice from the police. Generally your car will flash a warning light on the dashboard before a catastrophic failure; learn what the various lights mean and act on them immediately.
Breakdown: If your car does happen to break down or you suffer a flat tyre, immediately activate your hazard warning lights, indicated by a red triangle button on your dashboard, and move safely to the edge of the road, pulling as far off the road as possible and then raise the bonnet. If you can’t make it off the road, then stay where you are with your hazard warning lights on and call for roadside assistance if you have it. Even if you’ve managed to make it right off the road, it’s still a good idea to exit your vehicle from the passenger’s side. If you’ve suffered a flat tyre and it’s not safe to change the wheel where you are, call for roadside assistance…