Basic Car Maintenance Tips

At some point we’ve all fallen victim to a dead battery or flat tyre disaster, usually when there is the least amount of time available to deal with it. If you find yourself in a similar predicament ensure that next time you know how best to deal with it quickly and efficiently, without having to wait for a time-consuming third party rescue.

If a flat tyre stops you short, secure the car into place with both the handbrake and heavy, sturdy objects like house bricks or something of a similar weight. Wedge them in front and behind the remaining tyres. Remember to alert other drivers of your presence with the hazard warning lights. If you have been driving a while the wheel is likely to be hot, ensure a spare pair of gloves are worn. The car manual will give the correct position of where to put the jack so as not to crack the framework. Before lifting, loosen the wheel nuts. Once the car has been raised fully remove the nuts and extract the flat tyre from the axel. The new tyre should be lined up with the wheel bolts and secured in place. When replacing a tyre it’s often a good idea to replace the tyre located on the opposite side of the axel at the same time. Different tyres can affect the vehicles handling, but if you’re caught off-guard with a flat this likely isn’t an option.

Checking your tyres are in top condition is particularly important as they are one of the crucial parts of the car; poorly fitted or worn tyres can affect the how well it manipulates corners, the braking distance and make the general handling of the car far less responsive. The minimum central tyre tread depth should measure no less than 1.6mm and 3mm for the outer strips. Regularly checking the tyres for glass, nails and debris before your journey will also help to avoid the risk of slow punctures.

Tyres that aren’t fully inflated will use up more fuel per mile, which can be costly in itself, but over-inflated tyres can be equally as harmful, reducing grip and again hindering the cars handling with an unstable ride. Ensure the tyres are cold before attempting to check their pressure; the heat caused by long journeys leading to increased tyre pressure. If leaving it overnight isn’t possible, spare at least a few hours before attempting to use a pressure gauge. Not forgetting to regularly check the spare, if you have one.

Every couple of weeks, or before long journeys, take time to pop the bonnet and have a quick check that everything is functioning inside. The brake fluid keeps the brake pedal working properly. A brake fluid reservoir that empties too frequently can sometimes indicate a leak. If the oil is below the minimum line on the dipstick, fill it up a small amount at a time. The owner’s manual should specify the correct variety of oil to use, but if you’re unsure a good quality engine oil like Castrol will be sufficient. Another port of call under the bonnet is the coolant tank. Checking it before long journeys or once a fortnight is a good rule of thumb, in the colder months adding a little anti-freeze to the tank.

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