.Owning and driving a car comes with responsibility, and that applies not only when behind the wheel and out on the road.
It's important to maintain the condition of your car for several reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, it's to ensure your car is running properly and that all elements are in good working order. Secondly, staying on top of minor maintenance tasks reduces the likelihood of needing more extensive repairs in the future - therefore saving you money.
Regular checks can also reduce the risk of a vehicle breakdown; there's nothing more infuriating than needing to call for roadside assistance for a problem that could have been avoided, like failing to keep oil levels topped up or forgetting to monitor tyre pressure.
Frequent services and the annual MOT should detect and fix any moderate to major issues to your car and of course, these repair tasks should be left to the professionals to deal with. But there are some basic, minor DIY car checks anyone should carry out on a regular basis to make sure everything runs smoothly. Here's a handy checklist to run through:
Engine oil level: This must be carried out when the car engine is cold, so don't do this straight after driving. Also, ensure the car is parked stationary on a level surface; if it's on a driveway with an incline, it will affect the reading of the oil level. To check the level of oil, remove the dipstick and wipe off any oil residue. Re-insert the dipstick and then do it again, and check the level. Should be between minimum and maximum; if you need to add oil simply unscrew the cap and top it up. As long as it's between the two levels, that's fine.
Coolant level: A simple enough check that can prove invaluable, as this article on dummies.com stresses, coolant allows the radiator - which cools the car's engine - to function properly. As this is a pressure system, take care. You should never add coolant to a hot engine so wait until it has cooled. The coolant reservoir has a measuring line; if the liquid hasn't reached the full line, top it up. Make sure you use the right coolant; Halfords has a useful guide here.
Screenwash: Low amounts of screenwash won't necessarily affect the running of your car but will prevent the driver from clearing dirt and grime from the windscreen, which can compromise visibility. It's easy enough to top up liquid. In the winter months you'll need a higher ratio of screenwash to water.
Wiper blades: Don't neglect the condition of your wiper blades. Lift the blades off the windscreen and examine the rubber on them. Run your fingers the length of the rubber to detect any nicks or little tears which may impair performance. In any case, blades should ideally be replaced every 12 months.
Windscreen: It can be well worth inspecting your car's windscreen for any signs of damage. Look out for little dents and chips which could easily develop into something more serious and if you detect any, don't ignore them - you may be able to get chips repaired for free on insurance. If you do nothing and just hope it goes away, a small chip can develop into a wider crack, which can be expensive.
Check tyres and tyre pressure: Checking the condition of your vehicle's tyres should be a priority, so get into the habit of monitoring the state of them every couple of weeks. Obviously, any signs of a flat tyre or a puncture needs immediate attention but you should also keep an eye on tyre pressure. This video from the RAC shows you how to check tyre pressure. If the pressure is too low in any of them, it's easy to increase it by accessing air machines at service stations.
Make a note to run these quick and simple DIY car checks every week or two, and you will help the maintain the good condition of your car and hopefully avoid large repair bills.