Our basic DIY car maintenance guide
Routine car maintenance and having to follow a service schedule may seem like a chore and an unnecessary expense but as an experienced dealer we know how important it is when it comes to keeping your car in tip top condition and more importantly, ensuring the safety of you and your passengers.
Whilst it's important to leave some jobs to the professionals, not everything needs to be done by the experts; there's plenty of simple maintenance tasks you can carry out yourself which will help you avoid costly repair bills in the future and potential MOT failures.
We believe that all motorists should have a basic knowledge of car maintenance before they take to the road and by understanding how your car works, there's less chance of breaking down and more chance of making your car last longer. Unfortunately, many of us are pretty clueless when it comes to knowing what makes for a ‘well maintained car’ but don't worry, we're here to give you some basic advice and for anything you're unsure of, simply give a member of our aftersales team a call or pop into your local Colin Appleyard dealership.
REMEMBER - as with anything, saftey comes first. If you ever want to tackle a routine car maintenance job yourself, but you're unsure of what you're doing, it's best to ask or leave it to a professional!
Easy car maintenance checklist
Battery maintenance is often overlooked but is one of the biggest causes of breakdowns, especially during the winter.
** IMPORTANT ** before carrying out any checks to your battery please ensure it is disconnected!
You should check your battery regularly for signs of corrosion or dirt on the top of the battery and around the terminals and connections. If you do spot any corrosion, the best way to clean it is to use an old toothbrush or wire brush together with a mixture of baking soda and water.
Infrequent use of a vehicle can result in battery drain, so even if you're not using your vehicle it's wise to run it every now and again.
Fluids are your car’s lifeblood, and failing to replenish them could result in costly consequences so it's important to check these regularly and replace when needed.
Remember to only check and top-up your fluid levels when the engine is turned off and is cool!
To avoid engine overheating, check your coolant levels regularly. Most cars have a coolant reservoir with a minimum and maximum level mark. When the engine is cold, the coolant level should be between these two marks. If the coolant is below or near the lower mark, it should be topped up using a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze.
The oil levels in your car's engine need to be checked regularly and topped up where necessary. Use the dipstick (which usually has a brightly coloured hook or loop) to check your oil level. It's always best to pull the dipstick out and wipe it with a cloth before popping it back in and then removing it for a second time to check. You should see 2 markers and ideally your oil level should sit between these. If it doesn't then you should make sure you top your oil up immediately taking care to use the correct type (e.g.5w30 or 10w30) and a reputable brand being careful not to overfill.
If the oil you see on the dipstick appears dark or dirty then it's advisable to speak to a garage about getting it replaced however please be aware that diesel engine oil accumulates soot as part of the normal combustion process, so dark-coloured oil isn’t a cause for alarm with a diesel car.
All your car's exterior lights must be in full working order by law – this includes everything from the headlights to indicators and even the number plate bulb. It's impossible to check all the lights yourself so make sure you ask a friend or member of your family to help you check everything is working as it should be.
It's also worth cleaning the lenses, especially during the winter, to ensure that you can see the road ahead and so that other road users can see you. It’s possible to change most bulbs yourself but sometimes access from within the engine bay can be limited so you may need to get a garage involved if you're unable to access something.
Windscreen washers / wipers
Faulty wiperblades and washers are one of the most common reasons for an MOT fail. It is a legal requirement to make sure they’re all working correctly and the windscreen isn’t chipped or cracked.
Make sure the wiper blades are clean and don't leave smears and streaks. In most cases wiper blades either slide or clip in so can easily be changed if they've come to the end of their life.
Remember to check that your windscreen wash bottle is topped up (located under the bonnet) and that it is squirting onto the windscreen in the right direction. It's always best to invest in washer fluid which is capable of withstanding cold temperatures so you can keep your windscreen clear and clean whatever the weather.
Power steering fluid
Most modern cars have power steering and whilst it's not something we'd advise to top up or change, it's still wise to check the fluid levels every now and then.
The power steering fluid will be located differently for different cars but your owner's handbook should tell you where to locate the reservoir.
The level should never drop - if it looks low, or drops quickly, this would indicate there is a problem or a leak at which point you'll need to get a professional involved.
Prevention is definitely better than cure when it comes to keeping rust at bay.
We know washing and polishing a car is not everybodys favourite pastime but it's definitely advisable to give it a quick once over at all times of the year but especially during the winter months when roads are treated with salt which can cause corrosion.
Jet washing around your wheels, wheel arches and the underside of the vehicle is again a good idea during the winter.
Wheels & tyres
Tyres are one of your car’s most important safety features - driving with defective tyres isn’t just illegal, it’s dangerous too, for you and for other road users.
Check all four tyres for damage and tread depth and make sure they contain the correct pressure. Legally, the depth of the tread must be at least 1.6mm but it's always recommended to have at least 2-3mm.
Remember, tyre pressures may be different for the front and rear tyres on your car. You can usually find the correct pressures for your car on the frame of the driver's door or within your owner's manual.
Most petrol stations have tyre pressure machines available but again if you're unsure, speak to your local garage or pop in to see us.
Don’t skip your scheduled service
In years gone by you would need to have your car serviced every 12 months but with today's engines this isn't always the case. A lot of modern cars will display a reminder light on the instrument panel telling the driver that their service is due but if yours doesn't, or you're unsure how often your car should be serviced, please check your owner's manual.
Scheduled servicing through your dealer has two major advantages:
- You know you’re getting genuine parts and expertise
- There’s a written record of the car’s service history, which is not only important for buyers when you want to sell the car in the future, but also guarantees your warranty if it is still within it's period
Servicing a car properly requires expert knowledge and specialist equipment so is always left to the professionals. We know some people are worried about the cost of servicing but where possible we will always tailor it to each individiual customer and their car. We also offer an option of spreading the cost of your servicing via interest free monthly payments where you'll also receive a whole host of benefits from being a member of our service club - find out more here or contact us for details.
If you look under your bonnet regularly, carry out a visual check, listen for unusual noises and check the underneath of the car now and then, as well as following the service schedule in your owner’s manual, then you should be in a good position to take care of small problems before they become major ones, saving yourself any inconvenience and unnecessary expense in the future.