We have provided a few simple checks and procedures which could keep you safe and save you money.
Ever thought what might happen if something failed on your car? The consequences could be severe, so it’s vital that you keep it well maintained at all times.
Checks are easy, but if you’re not confident, we will be happy to do the work on your behalf.
- Check the condition of your tyres
- Study the tyre’s sidewalls. This is the area visible on the side of the tyres. If there is any damage to the tyre beyond light scratching (such as cracking), ask a garage to inspect it.
- Check the tread depth along the area of the tyre that comes into contact with the road. Use a tyre depth gauge (inexpensive, and available in any motor accessory shop) to check that there is at least 1.6mm of rubber across the central three-quarters of the tread all the way round the tyre.
- Without it, your car is illegal. You will also compromise your safety and those of others, because your car won’t handle at its best and its stopping distances will be dramatically increased.
- Check your tyre pressures
- Do this when the tyres are cold and the car is on a level surface. Garage forecourt air lines are convenient, but aren’t always accurate, so cross-check the pressures with your own gauge (cheap to buy from a motor accessory shop). Also remember that the journey to your garage could heat up the tyres and then give you a faulty reading, so let them cool if you do use a garage air line. The correct pressures will be in the manufacturer’s handbook or, sometimes, printed on a sticker inside the fuel filler flap.
If the pressures are low, pump the tyre to the correct level using a foot pump or compressor. If they are too high, gently let the air out by depressing the little brass nib inside the valve.
- Check your oil
- Switch off the engine and leave the car to cool for at least 10 minutes.
Locate the dipstick, remove it and wipe it clean to get rid of any unwanted oil deposits. Put it back in the engine, wait for a moment or two, then remove it again and check the level.
The correct level will be shown by two marks on the dipstick. A satisfactory level of oil will be
- somewhere between the two marks, but ideally closer to the maximum mark.
If you need to top up the oil, you must locate the oil filler cap, which is separate from the dipstick. Check that you have the right grade of oil for your engine – this information will be in the manufacturer’s handbook, or available from most oil stockists.
- Pour in small amounts of oil, checking the level carefully until it is correct. Never overfill it, and don’t spill any or it’ll burn when the engine gets hot.
- Check your brake fluid
First, find the brake fluid reservoir – your handbook will tell you where it is (usually on the engine bulkhead, to one side of the engine).
Identify how the brake fluid level is measured – either by a mark on the reservoir indicating the level it should be filled to, or by a dipstick under the lid.
If the fluid is slightly below the minimum level, top it up by pouring brake fluid in up to the indicated level. If you’re even slightly unsure about doing this, ask a garage to do it. Always use the correct fluid and never get any on your hands or the car’s paintwork – it’s highly corrosive.
If you discover that the fluid level is significantly below the indicated level, do not attempt to drive the car under any circumstances. Call for breakdown recovery
- Check coolant levels
Find the plastic radiator expansion tank – this is where you’ll top up your coolant. When the car is cold, locate the mark on the plastic tank that shows the minimum coolant level.
If it needs topping up, slowly remove the cap (remember, only ever do this when the car is cold) and fill the tank to the required level with water and the correct concentration of anti-freeze for the time of year. Don’t forget to add anti-freeze, as this stops the water expanding in very cold conditions and potentially cracking your engine block.
If your car requires regular top-ups, it almost certainly means there is a leak somewhere. You’ll need to take your car to a garage to get this fixed.
- Check your washer fluid levels and windscreen wipers
Locate the water container for the washer jets.
There is no need to be precise with fluid levels here – just fill the tank with the correct concentration of water and screen wash (the label on the bottle will tell you what concentration to use).
If your wipers smear the screen, try wiping them with a cloth doused in a mixture of vinegar and water.
If the wipers still smear the screen, buy new wiper blades. It’s advisable to replace the whole head, not just the rubber.
- Check your lights
There are a few things you need to do to ensure your lights are operating correctly. The obvious one is to make sure they are clean, but there’s a bit more to it than that.
For example, check that none of the bulbs have blown – switch the ignition on and look at all the lamps. With your headlights turned on, check the sidelights, dipped beam and full beam. Get someone to help you check your brake lights. Alternatively, reverse up to a reflective surface and press the brake pedal. Also, ensure there are no cracks in the lenses, or that there’s no water inside. Each can cause problems and could lead to your car failing an MoT.