Performing basic car maintenance is not simply a matter of keeping your car in good condition. Many of these tasks can be completed in a few minutes without the use of any tools or special equipment. You might get your hands dirty, but don't worry—it will wash off. Dig out your car manual ready and let’s take a look at what you can do:
1. Oil Check: It’s a good idea to check the oil every time you top up the fuel. A low oil level can seriously damage the engine. Make sure the oil is changed at the correct service levels. To check, remove the dipstick and wipe with a white piece of cloth, compare it some clean oil and if it is dirty it will need changing.
2. Brake Fluid: Your manual will show you where the brake fluid reservoir is located. It usually sits at the back of the engine block and has markings that resemble a stop sign surrounded by a circle with a punctuation mark inside it. The brake fluid level usually remains constant, although topping up is quite straight forward, a low reading may be an indication that the brake pads need replacing. Replace only with correct oil IE Dot 4 grade, your manual will tell you. Don’t overfill.
3. Coolant Level: The coolant overflow bottle is usually located on the left hand side of the engine block. Check you manual. The coolants purpose is to maintain temperatures that keep your vehicle warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It’s advisable to check the level the same time as you check the oil. It is more important to check the anti-freeze in the winter months because of freezing conditions. It is more common to maintain an equal mixture of around 50% water and 50% antifreeze.
4. The Power Steering Fluid: The reservoir bottle can be spotted by a steering wheel symbol on the top. Where there is a need to top up your power steering fluid, the same indications, as with the brake fluid should apply. There could be a problem, leaking hoses for example, which should be changed around every 20,000 miles. Alternatively if you hear any grinding or squealing noise, when turning the steering wheel, take your vehicle straight to a qualified garage.
5. Automatic Transmission Fluid: This is used for automatic gear boxes and difficult to find. If you sense the gears are not changing smoothly, take the vehicle to your garage.
6. Air Filters: This should be changed around the 10,000 mark or every six months. Dirty air-filters increase fuel consumption. They are usually fairly simply to change, either by undoing a clip, screw or bolt, take out the dirty and slot the new on. Refer to your manual for its location.
7. Tyres: It is important that your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure. Even if the pressure is just less than two pounds from the recommended amount it could affect your fuel consumption by up to 4 percent. Tyres can sometimes be as much as ten pounds below recommended pressure before they become noticeable. To locate the correct tyre pressures for your vehicle, they are usually located in the glove box, the edge of the driver’s door, and of course in the manual. Do not over-inflate your tyres as this will cause wear to the centre tread. When doing a visual analysis look for uneven tread wear, bulges between treads. These faults could mean or lead to other problems so get it checked out!
8. Wiper Blades: These seem to get forgotten about, until you get caught in storm. Depending on the amount of driving you, an ideal change should take place every six to twelve months. If the blades are ok, just get the rubbers replaced it’s a lot cheaper.
9. The Ignition (especially for the wintery months): Batteries are more efficient than they used to be, but even so they do work harder in the colder months. A battery charger can be a good investment, if the battery fails and you can also check out the amount of charge when at home. Apart from the battery all ignition components should be periodically checked with ongoing maintenance and repair schedules. The checklist might include the alternator, condenser, distributor points; make the firing end of the spark plug is clean, for diesels replace the starter plugs when required. An engine that runs poor will usually start poor. Keep to the recommended regular service period and maintenance points.
10.Wear protective clothing, and eyewear for the checking out the battery. Take off any jewelry as it works as a conductor. Consult your manual or garage when changing, it should be like for like. Never disconnect while the engine is running
11.The Exhaust: Beware of the following
Black smoke from the exhaust indicates the engine is running rich – The fuel mixture could be wrong or the ignition system. Also listen for any cylinders misfiring.
Blue smoke means the engine oil is burning – Have the ignition timing settings checked.
White smoke means – Water may be entering the engine via the cylinder head or head gasket, or it may possibly a malfunctioning PCV valve. Check for leaking automatic transmission fluid. Grey smoke causes – Faulty injectors or the injection timings maybe incorrectly set on a diesel vehicle.
When you get your vehicle make sure to read the maintenance and service manual to check the service intervals. They are not written in stone, but are there to advise you when your vehicle should have a regular service and at what mileage or age certain items should be checked and or replaced for example the cam belt. Not all vehicles are the same, some may require oil changes every 6000 miles or 12000 perhaps more so make sure to check