Kevin Thorpe | Thursday 19th December 2019 9:32am
If you’re not a trained professional, the thought of your car breaking down and the potential repairs that may come with it can be daunting. After all, your car is likely one of the most expensive and valuable possessions you have. However, you don’t have to be a mechanic to properly take care of your vehicle and perform basic car maintenance jobs.
Failing to look after your vehicle can be costly and highly time-consuming. Minor issues you initially ignore, or botched repairs and car servicing, can soon lead to expensive and even potentially dangerous problems. With this in mind, here are five common car maintenance mistakes you should avoid making.
1. Neglecting your car tyres
Failing to properly monitor the condition of your car’s tyres is one of the most common maintenance mistakes vehicle owners make. While you may think that just looking at your tyres to ensure they do not appear flat will suffice, variables such as tyre tread and air pressure are equally as vital in keeping you and other road users safe when driving
Low tyre pressure can dramatically increase your chances of a full tyre blowout while behind the wheel, not to mention reduce how economical your vehicle is in terms of fuel consumption. It is therefore crucially important that drivers check tyre pressure at least once per month, ideally before driving when the tyres are likely to be cool.
Keeping an eye on your tyre tread is also a crucially important part of staying safe on the road. Failing to notice when your tyres are becoming bald is not only bad practice, but could potentially be illegal and land you with a fine and points on your licence. To ensure your tyre tread is road legal, simply insert a 20p piece into the grooves. If part of the outer band of the coin remains visible, your tyre tread doesn’t meet the 1.6mm legal minimum and the tyre will need to be replaced as soon as possible. Aside from breaking the law, failing to correctly maintain your tyres can also be highly dangerous. With greatly reduced traction, a vehicle with bald tyres is far more prone to aquaplaning and increased stopping distances - both of which can put you and other road users in danger.
2. Skipping fluid checks and oil changes
Although very easy to forget, keeping on top of routine fluid checks and oil changes is a key part of car ownership. As a rule of thumb, the oil in your car should be changed every 3,000 miles. Leaving oil unchanged in your car for a prolonged period of time can lead to the liquid breaking down, creating a sludge in your engine that can ultimately cause permanent, and potentially expensive, damage.
Keeping on top of your regular oil changes can also give a trained technician the opportunity to check the other important fluids which may not be included as part of a general service. These include the levels of engine coolant in your engine and transmission fluid. While regular oil changes and fluid checks can seem like an unnecessary expense at the time, ensuring they remain properly monitored and maintained can save you thousands of pounds in the long run.
3. Not knowing your car
While this may sound painfully obvious, failing to grasp the basics of car maintenance and not understanding the important specifics of your car is a typical faux pas many car owners fall foul of. From not knowing where your new car’s bonnet release button is located to being unable to find the dipstick, reading your vehicle owner’s handbook is an essential, but often neglected, part of good car ownership.
Many avoidable problems are also borne out of a lack of basic car knowledge more generally. The ability to undertake simple vehicle maintenance tasks such as changing flat tyres and correctly jumpstarting a car is also vital in keeping your vehicle in the best condition possible and saving you money in the process.
4. Putting off easy jobs
Similarly, while relatively simple repairs and jobs - such as replacing worn windscreen wipers, changing broken light bulbs and keeping your car’s bodywork and numberplates clean and dirt-free - may represent the less glamorous side of car ownership, these are vital maintenance jobs that should not be avoided.
Windscreen wipers and light bulbs are essential safety features and incredibly cheap and easy for even a novice driver to replace. For example, when you notice that your wiper blades are starting to show signs of wear and tear they should be replaced as soon as possible. As a rule, this will tend to be every six months or so.
As well as the clear benefits in terms of safety and general good practice, keeping tabs on these little jobs will also ensure you remain on the right side of the law and avoid the risk of fines and penalty points against your name. While allowing your vehicle to get dirty isn’t against the law, you could be stopped and fined by the authorities if a buildup of dirt and grime develops, making your number plate unreadable. By the same token, if you are caught driving with a broken headlight or brake light, police can issue you with a fixed penalty notice. These one-off fines are usually £100 or more and while they are typically not accompanied with points on your licence, if you are caught again without having had the broken light replaced, a larger fine and penalty points could follow.
Putting off the easy jobs is never a good idea when it comes to car maintenance.
5. Continuing to drive when you know there is a problem
While it can be tempting to carry on driving through niggling issues with your car and even ignore dashboard warning lights - particularly when the car seems to be functioning normally - this is always a bad idea and should be avoided at all costs.
Whether a warning light is telling you that your oil levels are low or your engine is overheating, powering on through and hoping for the best is not a solution. Illuminated warning lights relate to a variety of different maintenance issues and should always be considered an early warning sign of a potentially serious problem. At the first sign of any maintenance issue, big or small, it is crucial to pull over right away and seek professional help as soon as possible if the issue is not something that you can safely and competently repair yourself. While your car might be running just fine despite the potential issue, continuing to drive and ignoring the warning signs could lead to costly and time-consuming repairs.
Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.
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