Cars are big, they’re expensive and they can be incredibly intimidating knowing exactly what that noise is or whether the way your car feels when you drive is normal can be massively overwhelming, but missing key signs for urgent repairs or neglecting simple maintenance can be costly, damaging to your vehicle and potentially dangerous.
Professional mechanics can be a godsend in most situations, but there are a number of really easy things that even a car newbie can do to ensure your car’s motor purrs instead of spluttering.
1. Keep A Check On Your Tyre Pressure
Your car’s handbook will always have the recommended pressure per-square-inch (PSI) for the front and rear tyres, so it’s easy to know exactly how firm they should be. A simple hand-held pressure gauge can be found for no more than Â£10, and will fit in your car’s glovebox for checking whenever necessary. Just screw off the air valve cap, push the gauge into place and you’ll hear a brief puff of air before you get a reading.
If the pressure is too high, then you’ll need to let some air out as your tyres will likely be over-inflated. If it’s too low, then a foot or electric air pump will usually up the pressure enough but you could use the air pumps at a garage or petrol station for any significant discrepancies.
2. Take Care During Long Storage
It might seem quite surprising but doing nothing can actually be a real strain on your car. If your car is locked away in your garage you might want to disable your alarm, as this can be a huge drain on the battery â€“ central locking systems can also have a similar effect. If you aren’t able to safely disable any battery-draining alarm systems, due to outside storage for example, then it’s a good idea to invest in a mains supply car battery charger to keep it topped up.
It’s preferable to keep the car under cover, too, as cold weather can play havoc with a car’s internal components, including the battery. Either store your car in a garage, under an awning or under a cover. It’s also worth topping up your tank with fuel, to prevent moisture from accumulating over time.
3. Regularly Check Your Oil
If you feed your car petrol to keep it running, then oil is your vehicle’s lifeblood you’re not going to get very far without it, and a lack of it can severely damage your vehicle and its engine. Simple pop open the bonnet, take out the dipstick and wipe it clean with a rag or some kitchen towel.
Put it back in all the way, before removing it and checking the level of the oil against the min/max’ indicator on the stick. So long as it’s between the two markers, your oil is fine but watch out for oil that’s getting too low and be sure to get it changed when required.
4. Always Keep An Eye On Your Brakes
It’s not easy to check on key, complex components of your car if you’re not a budding mechanic or car engineer, but considering the amount you use your brakes it’s easy to keep a check on how they’re performing. While you might not get why they’re not working as they should, you’ll be able to identify the fact that there’s an issue, giving you a chance to get down to a reputable garage.
If your brakes feel soft’ or squishy’, or the car pulls to one side as you brake, then this is a sign that your brakes are in need of servicing or possibly replacing. The odd squeaky brake isn’t necessarily anything to worry about, as it could simply be moisture, but you should always listen out for scraping or scratching sounds. This is a sign of metal-to-metal contact, and this can cause irreparable damage to parts over time.
5. Get Concerns Checked Out ASAP
Obviously there’s a wealth of small maintenance tasks even a motoring novice can carry out at home to keep your car ticking over and running smoothly but there’s only so much you can do before your need to call on the help of the pros. If things don’t sound or feel right when you’re driving, and you don’t feel comfortable or capable of fixing the issue then get it looked at by a reputable garage.