Many of us rely on professional mechanics to make annual checks on our vehicles at our MOT or service. However, there’s plenty of simple car checks that we can make at home. Doing so will not only help to keep our car safer all year round but can also help to reduce running costs.
Your owner’s manual is a great place to find the information you should know about your car. Plus, it also holds key information about the standards which should be maintained. Adhering to this advice can help to boost your fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, as well as ensuring your warranty remains valid.
What’s more, making regular car checks could help you save money in the long run as it increases the chances of you spotting any problems early. This can prevent bigger problems occurring and result in you spending less on repair costs.
Regular car checks – Setting a routine
So now you know the benefits of regular car checks it’s time to establish a routine. The best way to get into the habit of making regular vehicle checks is to set aside a specific day each month to carry them out. These simple checks won’t take long to complete and you’ll soon find yourself getting through them in record time. So here we go, the nine car checks we recommend you carry out at least every month:
Firstly, it’s important to check that you have the correct size and type of tyres for the vehicle you’re driving, as well as the purposes it is being used for. In most cases this is a given, however, if you’ve recently bought a used car, then it always best to double-check.
Once you’ve established you have the right tyres, it’s important to check that the tyres meet the legal required tread depth. In the UK the legal limit is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tread around the complete circumference. If your tyres fall below this limit you can face up to three points on your licence as well as up to a £2,500 fine per tyre that fails to meet the standard.
An easy way to check the tread depth of your tyre is using the ‘20p test’. Simply take a 20 pence piece and insert it into the tread of your tyres. If you can see the outer ridge on the 20 pence then the tyre is likely to be below the legal minimum requirement and indicates the tyre needs replacing. Bear in mind you need to carry out this test at various points around the tyre and on the different tread ridges.
Finally, it’s important to check the tyre pressure of your tyres using a pressure gauge. If you don’t have one, many fuel stations have air gauge and pumps available for a small fee. Don’t forget your car manual should tell you what pressure the tyres should be.
It’s also a good idea to check your tyre pressures after you drive over any large bumps or kerb the car, or when there is a dramatic change in temperature. All of which can have a significant impact on tyre pressures.
Next, it’s a good idea to take a look around the car checking for any signs your car may be leaking. You can often tell the potential cause of the leak by the colour of the fluid. Oil is usually black, steering and brake fluid clear with a slightly brown tinge. Meanwhile, coolant is yellowish/green and the windscreen washer fluid is bright blue or pink.
Any signs of liquid left on the floor underneath the car could indicate a leak, so it’ important you get a mechanic to investigate the cause. Many leaks can be fixed easily if caught early but can result in expensive repairs if you don’t act when you first notice something amiss.
3. Car Fluid Levels
It is important to check all your car’s fluid levels to ensure they meet the minimum requirement. Your engine oil can easily be checked using your car’s dipstick, while your windscreen washer fluid has visible minimum and maximum lines on the side allowing you to check just by looking if it is sufficiently filled.
To check your coolant levels, power steering fluid and transmission liquid you should consult your handbook. Alternatively, you can take your car to your local garage and get them checked over.
4. Brakes & Wheel Alignment
The brakes are one of the most important aspects of your vehicle, so it is essential you regularly make sure they are in full working order. It is best to check your brakes on a quiet, flat stretch of road. You should gently rest your hands on the steering wheel and start to apply the brakes, gently increasing the pressure. If the vehicle veers to one side it could indicate the brake lining may be more worn on one side than another. It is best to get them checked out as it can also indicate the brakes need adjusting or that the wheels are misaligned.
5. Wiper Blades
The rubber on wiper blades can deteriorate over time causing it to split and crack. When this happens the wiper blades not only smear dirt rather than clearing it, but can also scratch the windscreen. Wiper blades are relatively cheap and incredibly easy to replace and doing so can help prevent more extensive damage to your windscreen.
6. Car Electrics
There are a range of electrics on your car from your headlights to your car battery, so it’s important to make sure they are all working correctly from time to time.
It’s easiest to check your lights are all working with someone. Get them to walk around the vehicle and check the lights as you switch them on/apply the brakes. If you don’t have someone to help, park somewhere you can see the reflection of the lights as you apply them.
You should also check over your car battery making sure the terminals are clean and free from corrosion. It’s important to remember that car batteries over five years old are prone to deterioration, which can result in problems starting.
7. Air Filter
A clogged or faulty air filter can reduce your fuel efficiency and lead to reduced engine power. To prevent this, it’s important to check your air filter regularly. Your car manual will usually give you full instructions for doing so.
The filter is usually housed in a black box under the bonnet and is simple to remove. Once you have removed it you should check to see how clogged it is and replace it with a new one if necessary.
8. Under Bonnet Checks
Checking under the bonnet may seem like a daunting task, but everyone is capable of carrying out a few basic checks. You should look for split or cracked spark plug wires (on petrol cars), cracked radiator hoses or loose clamps. If you notice anything that doesn’t look right, you should get a professional opinion.
Once you’ve completed all of your monthly checks, it’s a good idea to give your vehicle a thorough clean, both inside and out.
You should remove any unwanted items or rubbish from the car. Carrying additional weight around in your car can reduce its efficiency and result in you spending more than necessary at the pumps. You should also take the time to give your car a good hoover, to keep it in good condition.
When it comes to the exterior you should give it a wash, polish and wax to keep your paintwork in tip-top condition.
When to seek professional help
If at any point during these car checks you think something may be faulty, you should get it checked by a professional mechanic. At Stoneacre, we have fully equipped garages at all of our sites and our fully trained mechanics are able to offer the advice you need to keep your car on the road.