You know that panicked feeling when there’s white smoke coming from your exhaust and you have no idea what’s causing it. You take your car to the nearest garage and you know it’s something bad when you hear your mechanic’s sharp intake of breath.
If only you knew more about the maintenance of used cars, you might have half an idea what the fault could be and what you can expect to pay to repair it! Read on to discover some general used car maintenance tips that might stop you being flummoxed in the future.
Why maintaining a car is important
Simple maintenance can reduce the risk of experiencing a breakdown or fault with your car, many of which can be prevented – or at least diagnosed – before they cause major damage.
While some faults will happen regardless due to vehicle age and will need a trusty mechanic to sort them out for you, others can be avoided by following a few simple car maintenance tips:
How to maintain your car
When it comes to cars, lighting is a big deal. You need to make sure all your lights are working – that’s the brakes, hazards, indicators and reverse lights – at least once a fortnight.
Excessive, you say? Maybe. But no one wants to be pulled up by police and handed a whopping fine and/or penalty points on your licence for the sake of a broken bulb. They’re cheap to buy and can even be changed yourself, unless you aren’t confident in your ability, in which case you should go down to your local garage.
You should ensure there are no cracks in your windshield as these can worsen quickly if not fixed. If you have fully comprehensive car insurance, you are often covered in the event this should happen.
Have a good look at your windscreen wipers for wear and tear – there shouldn’t be any bits of loose rubber flapping around. If the wipers aren’t working properly, your vision could be compromised, especially in bad weather.
Water & engine coolant
As a good car maintenance habit, you should check each month that your engine coolant level is filled between the minimum and maximum marks. If it runs out and you keep using your car, it will cause harm to your engine, as well as your head gaskets. You could even melt a hole in one of the pistons.
It’s also a bright idea to ensure your windscreen washer is full enough to allow you to clear your windscreen while you are driving as weather conditions can change at any time – and you never know when you’re about to get splattered with something unsightly.
Engine oil helps to keep the engine lubricated. Check the dipstick regularly to ensure oil levels are kept above the minimum mark. It is essential that the car oil is changed around every 5,000 miles as dirty oil won’t work as well.
If you see blue or white smoke coming from your engine, it may just be that you’ve topped up more oil than you should have. However, it could be something more sinister – such as a blown head gasket. Either way, the garage is definitely your next stop for further investigation!
Tyres should meet legal requirements. Check the pressure every two weeks and always before a long journey. If your tyres are incorrectly inflated, they can become worn very quickly and cause excessive fuel consumption.
You should also check tyre tread with the 20p test as bald tyres are illegal and you can be whacked with a fine if you’re caught out.
It is especially important to check these things if you’re looking to buy a used car. If this is the case, you’ll also need to have a good gander under the bonnet and in the boot to check they close properly.
Hopefully you can see why vehicle maintenance is so important. The best thing you can do to ensure your car is in tip top condition, is to take your vehicle for a service once a year so that a mechanic can change the oil and look over the vehicle. If you have got a problem with your car and you can’t figure out what’s wrong, it’s always best to have a reputable garage look it over for you.