Car maintenance: top tips
Taking care of your car doesn't need to be difficult. We show you how
New cars continue to become more and more reliable while requiring less frequent maintenance, making it easy to put off doing the basic but important checks to keep your car in good 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.
If you’ve fallen out of the habit or need a reminder of the simple things you can do, read our list of the basics below.
Making sure your tyres are at the recommended pressures is one of the easiest ways to save money on fuel and stay safe on the road. Under-inflated tyres cause extra drag and will not grip the road as well, particularly when driving around corners or braking. You may be surprised at how much pressure your tyres can lose over time, even if you don’t have a puncture. Make sure you check your tyre pressures at least once every month, if not every week.
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 you car and take care not to overfill the engine when topping up.
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 streetlights. It’s a quick job to walk around the car with your lights switched on to check they’re all working properly. To check the rear brake lights, put the brakes on while parked in front of reflective surfaces so you can see if they’re working, or ask someone to go behind the car and check for you.
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.
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.
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 a 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.