Car care: what you need to know

Car care: what you need to know
Image source: Getty Images


Car care matters. Spot issues early and they’re cheaper to fix. But what steps should you take to care for your vehicle? Here are our top car care tips. 

Why car care matters

Car maintenance matters for two main reasons. 

  • A well-maintained car keeps you and your passengers safer on the road.
  • You can increase the car’s resale value. 

If your car financing comes with the option of an annual service, it’s a good idea to take it, but there’s plenty you can do to care for your car between services.

Car care basics: the visual inspection

Let’s start with the easiest car care tip of them all – the visual inspection. Walk around your car once a week, looking for things like:

  • Tyre damage
  • Rust
  • Loose fittings
  • Damage to glass or paint

And remember, the quicker you spot these issues, the cheaper they are to fix. 

So, once you’ve looked around your vehicle, here’s an 11-step car maintenance checklist to follow.

1. Read your manual

Always read through the driver’s manual and look for any specific car maintenance tips. Learn what the different dashboard warning lights mean and how to work your car’s controls properly. 

2. Check your tyre pressure

Under or overinflated tyres are unsafe and wear unevenly. So, once a month, check the pressure of your tyres and make sure they’re in line with your manufacturer’s specifications. 

Wait until the tyres are cold to perform the check. Don’t forget to check your spare tyre.

3. Test your tyre tread 

It’s not just tyre pressure you need to think about – tread matters, too. The quickest way to check tyre tread is to put a 20p coin into a few grooves on each tyre. If you can see any part of the coin’s outer rim, the tyre needs changed. 

4. Check your fluid levels

At regular intervals check the level of your:

  • Engine oil 
  • Washer fluid
  • Brake fluid (this needs replacing at certain intervals; check your manual for details)

5. Inspect your wiper blades

Always check your wiper blades for wear and tear, especially if you frequently drive in the rain. If the blades don’t clear the windscreen properly, they need to be replaced.

6. Test your brakes

Check your brakes frequently. It’s especially important to test your brakes after driving through puddles or heavy rain. 

Assess your brakes every few weeks, and get the pads changed if you notice:

  • The brake pad warning light flashing on your dashboard
  • Screeching or whining when you slow down
  • The car pulling to one side when you touch the brakes 

Many cars don’t need a brake pad change until there’s at least 25,000 miles on the clock. But there’s always a chance you’ll need an earlier change.  

7. Change your filters

As part of your car care routine, change these filters at least once a year:

  • Oil filter
  • Engine air filter 

You don’t need to change these yourself – a garage can do it for you. But if you don’t change these parts when they’re worn out, it can affect your fuel economy and damage your engine. 

8. Try out your lights

Once a month or so, check your:

  • Indicators
  • Brake lights
  • Headlights and, if applicable, fog lights 

You can often do this yourself by turning on your lights and walking around the car. Or, have someone walk around while you work the lights. 

9. Keep your battery charged

If you’re not driving much, the battery can go flat. To stop this happening, just start the engine and keep it running for 15 minutes, once a week.

Be sure to run the engine somewhere that’s well ventilated, like an open garage, and never leave a running vehicle unattended.

Got an electric battery? Plug it in at least once a month for a full charge to keep it in good shape. 

10. Wash your car regularly 

Don’t forget to wash and clean out your car at regular intervals. Not only does this give you a chance to visually inspect the vehicle, but it’s a great way to keep your bodywork and interior fittings in good working order. 

11. Get a service

It’s a good idea to get your car serviced at a garage at least once a year. But you might need a service more often, depending on your mileage. Again, this is where the owner’s manual comes in – check your manufacturer’s guidelines. 

If you don’t get your car serviced regularly, you could invalidate the manufacturer’s warranty. So, make sure you follow the guidelines and service your car when needed.  

Are you buying a new car? PCP agreements can include annual servicing plans. Check with the dealer for the packages available.

Takeaway

Although car care sounds like a lot of hassle, it’s actually really simple. The best things you can do for your car are:

  • Perform frequent visual inspections
  • Read the manual
  • Get regular services

If your car care routine is revealing a growing number of issues, it could be time to get a new car instead. if so, check out our tips for getting a fair loan quote.

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