Breaking down on a car journey is one of the worst things that can happen and it’s always when you have somewhere to be. Making sure that you look after your car while it’s sitting at home is really important. With just a little knowledge of basic car maintenance, you can avoid a lot of potential roadside waits for the breakdown lorry to arrive.
Here are some top tips for keeping your car in good shape, so you don’t end up stuck on the side of a motorway waiting for someone to come and save you.
Basic car maintenance
Things to check when looking after your car include:
- Brakes – While it’s running, move your car forwards and backwards a few times to stop the breaks from seizing.
- Tyres – Check all of those tyres for their condition and pressure. Make sure you look for cuts and bulges, and keep them inflated to the levels dictated in the owner’s manual
- Battery – If you don’t use your car much, making sure you run it for at least 15 minutes a week can prevent a flat battery.
- Windscreen wash – With all the dust and bugs flying up at your windscreen, you need to clear them off. If you run out of windscreen wash, it can impair your vision. Although you obviously don’t need to call recovery for this, it can be dangerous if you are on a motorway with no access to services for miles.
- Oil – You can damage your engine if you travel without enough oil so check regularly using the dipstick.
How to keep your battery healthy
Battery problems are the number one reason for breakdowns and happen most when you are not using your car
Your car might have a built-in battery monitor, or you can buy a manual monitor so you can check your battery’s health. There is also a product called a battery maintainer which is known as a trickle charger.
If your car has stop/start installed, it automatically switches the engine off after a while, which may interfere with charging the battery. If this happens, then it means the monitoring system has recognised a fully charged battery.
Reasons for a flat battery
A common reason for a flat battery is accidentally leaving the car lights on after the engine has turned off. Make sure you don’t forget to switch them off as you don’t want to be stuck. Leaving the interior lights on or the radio can also keep the battery chugging when you don’t want it to.
Try to keep a pair of jump leads in the car, just in case you do end up stuck somewhere. With these, you can charge your battery from another vehicle.
Most batteries have a guarantee of 3-5 years, but this depends on how often you use your vehicle.
One of the most important bits of basic car maintenance is to check your tyres regularly. Try to give them a look over once a fortnight, keeping an eye out for uneven wear, reduced tread, cuts and bumps.
Things to do to keep your tyres healthy!
- Make sure to increase your tyre pressure if you are carrying a heavy load. (you can find the manufacturer’s recommendations in your handbook)
- Drive around corners and kerbs. The sides of the tyres are easy to damage and grazing the curb weakens them.
- Replace tyres when the tread gets low.
- Check your alignment to make sure your car is driving in a straight line. Any misalignment can wear through your tyres really quickly and affect handling.
Electric vehicles need TLC too
With the rise of electric cars, many of you may wonder how to perform basic car maintenance on them. Their main system is all the same as your regular car. The main difference is the high voltage system. Thankfully your car will likely automatically maintain the 12-volt battery when it is plugged in, but your vehicle handbook will confirm this.