Skip advert
Advertisement
Tips and advice

Car maintenance: top tips

Taking care of your car doesn't need to be difficult. We show you how

Checking engine

New cars are becoming more reliable and require less frequent repairs and maintenance. This can make it easy to overlook important maintenance and regular checks that all cars need to keep them running in peak condition.

However, keeping an eye on all things car-related is extremely important – especially in the winter months, when the short days and cold nights make simple checks harder to perform.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The RAC recently launched ‘National Check your car day’, as a reminder that summer is an ideal time to get a car maintenance checklist together and make sure your vehicle is in top condition.

The RAC even came up with a helpful acronym to help remember the items on your car to check if you want to avoid a breakdown. Called ‘FORCES’, it stands for Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics, and Screenwash.

If you’ve fallen out of the habit of performing a vehicle inspection or need a reminder of the simple things you can do, read our list of the basics below.

Tyres

According to the RAC, one of the main issues facing motorists in need of assistance is failed car tyres. When checking your car’s tyres, don’t fall into the trap of just feeling the outside tread with your hand and assuming it’s fine. Forgetting to check the pressure of all four tyres can not only result in reduced performance and grip, but also cost you extra money, because increased friction plays havoc with a car’s efficiency. It’s vital to check tyre pressures at least once a month and before every long journey.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

A tyre tread depth indicator is a cheap device for checking the amount of tread remaining on a tyre is above the 1.6mm minimum depth. Turn the steering wheel all the way in one direction, making it easier to check across the entire tread pattern,  and allowing you to spot uneven wear early.   

Advertisement - Article continues below

Also, be sure to check for any cracking of the rubber; this can become an MOT failure and can reduce the grip of the tyre and make a puncture or blowout more likely. The date of manufacture is stamped on the sidewall of the tyre near the manufacturer name and Michelin recommends changing them at ten years of age to maintain safety.

Engine oil

The oil in your engine helps it to run smoothly by reducing the friction between moving parts. A monthly check of the oil level and topping it up as required is a good way of prolonging the life of your car’s engine. Make sure you buy the correct grade of oil for your car and take care not to overfill the engine when topping up.

If you are running a slightly older vehicle it can be worth getting a local garage to perform an oil change between services. Reducing the mileage the car covers between oil changes can help prolong the life of an engine, particularly if your vehicle has a turbocharger.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Car lights

Broken or faulty lights can be dangerous (not to mention illegal), particularly in winter. You may not be aware of any problems, especially with rear lights or if you drive mostly on roads with street lights. It’s a quick job to walk around the car with your lights switched on to check they’re all working properly.

Advertisement - Article continues below

To check the rear brake lights, press the brake pedal with the rear of the vehicle parked facing a reflective surface so you can see if they’re working, or ask someone to go behind the car and check for you. Never attempt to use an object to press the brake pedal and get out while the car is running, as this could easily lead to an accident.

Timing belt

Check when your car is next due to have its timing belt changed. It will be mentioned in the owner’s manual and will be due after a certain amount of years or miles (whichever is reached first). The timing belt is a very important part of a car’s engine and the cost of repairs due to a broken timing belt will be very expensive if it’s left to wear out.

Windscreen and paintwork

They may seem like minor problems but chips in your windscreen or paintwork need attention as soon as possible. Windscreens can crack if chips are left unattended and damaged paintwork can lead to rusty bodywork. This is worse in winter weather – when even a light frost can cause windscreen cracks to spread.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Clean the interior

Keeping the inside of your car tidy and well vacuumed will help maintain the condition of the interior, which will help you get a good price if you ever want to sell or part-exchange your car. Buyers and dealers will often use the condition of a car’s interior as a general indicator of how well the car has been looked after. It also gives you chance to take out any items that may cause a strong odour.

Wash and wax your car

Washing the outside of your car is important, as it removes road salt, grime, tree sap, bird droppings and other dirt that can be corrosive to your car's paintwork. Taking the time to apply wax to the bodywork once it’s clean does not just make it look good – the wax forms a barrier between the weather and the paint, acting as a protective layer.

For specific tips on how to prepare your car for the winter, check out our winter driving tips page.

Money-saving tips when buying a car

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Kia Sorento review – a great SUV now made even better
Kia Sorento 2024 front quarter driving
In-depth reviews
10 Apr 2024

Kia Sorento review – a great SUV now made even better

New Audi S3 revealed: £47k hot hatch brings greater focus on handling
Audi S3 saloon front quarter
News
17 Apr 2024

New Audi S3 revealed: £47k hot hatch brings greater focus on handling

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers
Carbuyer best new car deals hero
Deals
12 Apr 2024

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
26 Mar 2024

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Public EV charge point
Tips and advice
11 Jan 2023

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
17 May 2022

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
21 Mar 2024

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors

Top 10 best electric cars 2024
best electric cars
Best cars
28 Mar 2024

Top 10 best electric cars 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024
The best cheap-to-run cars 2023
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024
Fastest hot hatchbacks hero
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024