As they say in the health industry, prevention is often easier than finding a cure. Once a month it's a good idea to perform a quick self-check of your vehicle. This not only helps you understand your car better, but also keeps your car in top shape, saving you unnecessary and expensive cost.
There is some maintenance you can do yourself and other things you might find you need to refer to a qualified technician at your local Tyres & More store.
What to look for...
We already know incorrect tyre pressures can affect the handling and life of a tyre.
Using your own pressure gauge, check all pressures, including the spare, and ensure they match the recommended cold inflation pressure on your tyre placard. Do not adjust pressures when the tyres are hot.
You should also do a quick visual check of the tyres for objects caught in the tread and cuts or damage to sidewalls. Check the tread to see if it's wearing evenly. Refer any concerns to your tyre specialist.
For more details check out these tips for tyre care.
Check your wiper blades for signs of perishing or cracking. If they are not cleaning the windscreen properly, have them replaced. This is inexpensive but important.
At the same time, check that your washer fluid bottle is full. You can mix in some windscreen washer additive to help remove the greasy film from the glass when it first starts to rain.
Check all functions are working - headlights, high beam, indicators, brake lights and reversing lights. It can be extremely dangerous driving with inoperative lights. A second person helping makes this check quick and easy.
The vehicle should be standing on level ground to check the engine oil. Run the engine briefly to warm it and then switch it off. With the engine warm, remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a lint-free cloth. Reinsert the dipstick making sure it goes in fully.
Remove the dipstick and check the oil level. If you need to add oil, refer to your owner's handbook for the correct grade as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Be careful not to overfill.
Consider getting an oil change and oil filter replacement every 5,000-7,000km or every six months, especially if your vehicle is used mainly for short trips.
Most modern vehicles have a plastic reservoir (overflow bottle) which has a high and low level marked on the side. You should check to see that the water level is between these two markings. If not, add water and coolant in the correct proportions to the overflow bottle. It should not be necessary on most vehicles to remove the radiator cap to perform this check.
NEVER remove a radiator cap from a hot engine as steam and boiling water under pressure can cause severe burns.
If you find you repeatedly have to add water and coolant, it's time to check with your vehicle technician. This could be something as simple as a leaking hose, or a major engine problem so get advice.
Batteries in modern vehicles have a hard time due to high under-bonnet temperatures. Make sure you include your battery in your monthly check to minimise the chance of being stranded and requiring a jump start.
Some batteries are sealed and maintenance-free so you can really only check that the terminals and top of the battery are clean. Others have removable caps so the fluid level inside can be checked.
Remove the caps and check that the fluid is about 10mm above the top of the plates. If not, add distilled water (available from service stations) to top-up the fluid then replace the caps. Batteries produce hydrogen gas which is explosive and the fluid inside the battery is acid. Do not smoke near batteries and keep metal objects that might cause a spark away from the battery terminals.
The brakes are clearly an important safety component on any vehicle. These days you are best having a specialist check the brakes for you. They can check the brake fluid is at the right level, that the brake pads have sufficient life in them, and that the brake system is functioning correctly.
You should take notice, however, if any of the following occur:
- Excessive brake pedal travel
- Brake pedal seems hard and ineffective
- Brake pedal needs to be pumped to be effective
- Car pulls to one side when brakes are applied
- Brakes seem 'touchy' and grab with little pressure on pedal
- Vibration through the car under brakes
- Brake warning light appears
- Squealing or grinding when brakes are applied
These are all indications you should see your specialist!
Automatic Transmission Fluid, Power Steering Fluid, Clutch Fluid
Procedures for checking each of these vary from model to model. You can check your vehicle owner's handbook, or periodically have the levels checked by your technician.
For more details, why not visit your local Tyres and More store.