One of the biggest mistakes that a car owner will make is to ignore any and all car maintenance until there’s a problem. So many people rely on their car on a day to day basis and so without them, those people would struggle to get to work, collect their children and even do the shopping. Our lives are built around transport and so without it, everything might just grind to a halt!
Preventative maintenance is an easy way to make sure that you’re mitigating the damages caused by not taking care of your car. Preventative maintenance could be anything from changing a filter to swapping a gasket. It can be the easiest task that takes a few seconds to complete or it could be a tedious process that takes hours to finish. Either way, here’s our guide to preventative maintenance!
1. Read the manual
Make sure that you read your manual before taking anything that we say as gospel! The maintenance for your car might differ and so you need to make sure that you’re referencing the manual for your car.
In the manual, there should be a section that illustrates the ideal timings for a specific action. For example, it may tell you that you should change your oil filter after 5,000 rather than the average 3,000. So, you might just be wasting your money and time for no good reason!
2. The once over
Every week, maybe every two weeks, you need to be giving the car a good old once over. This is just a good look around the car to make sure that everything looks okay from where you’re standing. So, pop the bonnet/ hood and have a look around the engine bay, get rid of any leaves that might be there, any debris. Know what the inside of the engine bay looks like from week to week is a great thing because you’re more likely to notice a difference or realise that there is something wrong. For example, there may be a liquid somewhere that keeps pooling in a specific area, even after you’ve cleared it away.
3. Check your fluids
Checking your fluids is a must — if you don’t it’s likely that something will go wrong at some point. You might even want to incorporate this into the ‘weekly once over’ just to make sure everything looks good.
3a. Check the expansion tank
Making sure that you’re looking at your expansion tank periodically will mean that you’re able to keep tabs on the amount of coolant in your car’s system. The coolant is the reason that the engine doesn’t blow up and overheat! Okay, so it would cut out before it blows up but the coolant is there to keep it all running smoothly and keep the temperature down. Without the coolant, you won’t get very far. You could even get engine rattling, inefficiency and even parts coming loose. By checking the coolant levels each week, you’ll notice whether or not it’s decreasing which would indicate a leak!
3b. Wiper fluid/ screen wash
Making sure that you have screen wash in your car isn’t as dramatic as not having enough coolant. However, we’ve all been caught out by this one. We’ll be driving to work in the morning and get splashed with some lovely dirty roadside water. You’ll try and clear it and wash your windscreen only to have a huge smudge across it with no way to get rid of it.
This is dangerous because without a clear windscreen you might not see a problem ahead, like an animal or even a child crossing the road!
3c. Power Steering
Checking you power steering fluid may not sound like something you’d expect to be doing but it’s a really good idea. Power steering is there to make your life easier and if there isn’t enough fluid in the tank, your steering will become increasingly hard. This also means that the motor has to work harder too. With less fluid, it needs to work harder which is likely to burn the motor out. This will result in a replacement system as may are all-in-one systems.
4. Check your belts
Making sure that you’re checking your belts is one of the best ways to keep your car in top condition. There’s nothing worse than breaking down at the roadside and finding out that you’ve got a worn belt that’s managed to snap!
5. Change the oil
Changing the oil is one of the most important parts of the preventative maintenance process! Most people use the 10,000 miles marker as a gauge for when to change the oil in a car. More often than not, this is around the right time to do it. Again, for any of these tips you need to check your manual to make sure the intervals are right because it could be sooner than that.
5a. Engine oil
Replacing the engine oil at the right time is a must! If you do it too late, the quality of the oil may be too low for your car to run efficiently. The engine oil is responsible for keeping your engine lubricated and allows for free movement. Without this, the engine would seize up and stop functioning and that would be a lot more expensive than an oil change!
5b. Transmission oil/fluid
The point of your transmission fluid or gearbox oil is to keep touchpoints within the gearbox lubricated for that they don’t seize together. The touchpoints should be metal on metal action and so there is a real chance that they could be worn down quickly with insufficient amounts and quality of oil.
6. Check & Replace the spark plugs
Chacking the state of your spark plugs is something that not many people do, let alone know how to do. So, with that in mind, you’ll need a spark plug socket to loosen them and pull the spark plugs out. After that, you can inspect them pretty easily. There should be a sheet of ceramic that surrounds the plug, first thing’s first, if that’s cracked you need to get a new one.
There are a few tells for when you’re reading a set of spark plugs; if the end is black and sooty (must be dry) then it’s a build-up of carbon on the electrode. This would indicate a dirty air filter or even a very rich fuel:air ratio.
7. Change your filters
Changing filter can do wonders for your car’s health, it’s often cheaper than you think and easy enough to do yourself. If a filter is old and worn, it will definitely have an effect upon your car. Make sure you’re still checking your owner’s manual as you go — our advice may differ from that of the manufacturers.
7a. Oil filter
Changing your oil filter at the right time is a great way to prolong the life of your car. If an oil filter becomes clogged up and worn, it could restrict the flow of oil to and around your engine which would result in your engine seizing up, reducing power and running inefficiently. The oil filter needs to be changed at around 7,500 miles but checking on it every now and then is ideal!
7b. Air filter
Your air filter is just as important as your oil filter, you need to make sure that you don’t have any debris in it. If there’s a blockage it could result in not enough air getting into the engine which, in turn, would result in a rich fuel:air ratio and could damage the aforementioned spark plugs. You should look at changing the air filter every 20,000 miles but be sure to check it monthly or bi-monthly.
7c. Cabin filter
The cabin filter isn’t as important as an oil filter or an air filter. The cabin filter is going to take out any strange smells and contaminants before pulling the air through to the cabin itself. If you don’t keep this filter clean it will result in an inefficient HVAC system so it will take longer to warm up or cool down. Your air filter should be good for a long time really, as a good rule of thumb; change it every 15,000-30,000 miles just like the engine air filter.
Matt Cooke, Filter Services UK – https://www.filter-services.co.uk
Matt Cooke is the director at Filter Services, he makes sure that each and every customer is able to get the filter that they need as quickly as possible! The team at filter services are happy to offer a bit of free advice if you need it. They house of 5000 parts at any one time so we’re confident they can help you.