Cars can be complicated, but even if you’re a mechanical beginner there’s plenty you can do to make sure that your car remains, safe, legal and reliable.
You can also make sure that you don’t get any nasty surprises when it comes to the annual health check, better known as the MOT. But note that many modern cars have engine covers and only the items coloured yellow can be touched by a non-mechanic.
It’s a good idea to get into some sort of routine. Put aside 15 minutes on the weekend just to carry out these simple checks. It means you'll be able to quickly spot any deviations from the norm, so that you can trace any fault and get it fixed.
According to the experts you should check your oil every couple of weeks and before long journeys. On most vehicles there are two marks on the gauge. The oil level should be between the upper and lower marking. The car's owner's manual will explain how much oil you’ll need to add. Don’t be in a hurry, just add a little at a time and return after five to ten minutes to check the level. Large oil loss could suggest an engine problem.
Some cars have sealed cooling systems, which don't require regular attention, but it's always worth checking the water level, as you don’t want to overheat. Never check when the engine is hot and, if warm, use a cloth to remove the radiator cap. Refer to the manual, but usually the water must be visible and covering the level mark
The blades must not be perished or frayed. Clean the edge of the blade with a cloth dipped in screen wash.
Take pressure readings when the tyres are cool, otherwise the pressure increases and gives a false reading. If you overfill, release air by pressing loosely against the valve. Look at the car’s handbook for the definitive information on tyre pressures front and rear, and variations when there are just two passengers as opposed to five.
Also check the condition of the tyres, wear, cuts in the tread or sidewalls, bulges in the sidewalls and stones or foreign objects trapped in the tread grooves, which should be removed. Is the tread illegal? The grooved tread on your tyre must be at least 1.6mm deep. Don’t forget to check the spare too.
Regularly check that all the lights work with a friend doing the honours on the outside. Alternatively, if you haven’t got any friends handy then the reflection from a window can provide an instant check.
Something you ought to do at least every few weeks or months. It means that you get to examine the bodywork closely and can spot any problems more quickly.
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