Maintaining your car to keep it reliable, safe and to maintain its value, will save you money in the long term and is not as daunting as you may think. Without proper care, your car’s condition will slowly deteriorate. The key is: preventative car maintenance.
Here are some tips for maintaining your car:
Check the brakes
The brakes are the most important safety feature of your car. The brake pads must be replaced when the Brake pad material has reached its minimum thickness as specified by the manufacturer. The brake discs should be machined with every brake pad replacement and in some instances may also have to be replaced if they have reached their minimum thickness as specified by the manufacturer. The car’s entire braking system should be thoroughly inspected at every car service.
Here are several signs indicating that your car brakes should be checked:
- The brake pedal is very soft.
- The brake pedal is pulsating.
- The brake pedal is too low.
- Brake warning lights are flashing on the dashboard.
- The brakes make a noise when applied.
The cost of major brake repairs can be significantly reduced if minor problems are rectified before the braking components are completely worn out.
The video below shows you a professional way for changing brake pads, brake disc machining and proper testing of the braking system.
Change the oil and the oil filter
Motor oil is the blood of your car. It lubricates the many moving parts of the engine and by being pumped through the entire engine system via an oil pump just like your heart.
The oil and oil filter also cleans the insides of your engine and eventually gets dirty and needs to be changed.
Most cars need their oil and oil filter changed every 5000-10000 kilometres depending on the type of driving that you do. It’s important to regularly check your engine oil level especially before you go on long trips.
To check the oil yourself, leave the car running for few minutes, then park it on a level surface and turn off the engine. Open the bonnet and find the oil dipstick. Pull out the dipstick and wipe it clean with a rag. You need to look for the high and low marks on the dipstick. Then push dipstick back into the engine as far as it will go. Then pull it out again and look at where the oil rises to on the dipstick. The correct level of oil will rise to somewhere between the high and low marks on the dipstick. If your oil level is lower than the low mark on your dipstick, you will need to top up the engine oil via the oil filler cap. After topping up the oil, allow at least 3 minutes for the oil to get to the bottom of the engine before re-checking. Never put in more than half a litre at a time because you can overfill the engine which can create other problems. You need to fill it to the full mark on the dipstick.
The oil should look brownish yellow and clean. If the oil looks very dark and dirty, then you may need to change the oil and the oil filter.
Check the belts and hoses
An important component of your car’s cooling system are the cooling system hoses. The hoses help to pump the coolant to and from the engine block via the radiator which is cooled by a fan. If the hoses are cracked or old, they can easily blow under pressure which will cause the engine will overheat quickly. Not only will this leave you stranded, but it could result in severe engine damage which could run into thousands of dollars to repair, when replacing a simple $20 hose could avoided the damage.
An experienced car mechanic will have a cooling system pressure tester tool which will check the whole system for any leaks.
The cooling system can also be adversely affected by a worn fan belt. This needs to be checked for wear and tear. Look for any cracks or shredding on the belt.
Watch a video of how much damage a Bad Cooling Hose can cause to the car.
Check the tires
Car tyres are probably the most ignored parts of the car. According to the industry experts, only one of ten drivers check the tyre pressure regularly, compared to the fact that nearly seven out of ten drivers, clean their cars regularly.
Less inflated, over inflated or worn tyres can be extremely dangerous, especially in wet weather or at high speeds.
The tyre pressure changes with temperature increase – every 5° C changes about 1 PSI pressure differential. Consult with your car manual or see the outer wall of your tyres to see what your recommended tyre pressure is. If you need to increase the tyre pressure, go to a petrol station with a tyre pressure pump and inflate to recommended specifications.
Tyres inflated at incorrect pressures can be very dangerous to drive as well as increase tyre wear.
Do not forget the spare tire!
Replace the air filter
IThe car air filter prevents dust and other particles from entering your air intake system of the engine which could cause engine damage. In addition to this, a clogged air filter can really increase the fuel usage of your vehicle.
How do you know when it is time to change your car’s air filter?
It is recommended that the air filter gets inspected every service and either gets cleaned or replaced. It also depends on the specific road and air conditions in which you drive. If you drive a lot on gravel and dirt roads, then the air filter will clog much faster than if you were driving mostly on highway roads.
Most car batteries start to deteriorate after 3 years and they need to be checked for current output every service.
The only thing you can do to keep your car battery in good condition is to keep the battery terminals clean and not leave electrical items on when the engine is not running.
Regularly remove the car battery cables and clean the terminals. Make sure the car battery is firmly placed and all the connections are secure.
If you need to change the car battery, make sure it is the right type for your brand and model of car.
Check the coolant and the radiator
Car engines are designed to achieve high temperatures, but there is limit to how much they can get hot. Internal combustion engines are most efficient at around 90° C. But if an engine raises a higher temperature, the moving metal parts can start melting, causing additional problems.
It is very important to check your coolant level regularly when the engine is cold. This is done by looking at the coolant bottle and making sure the coolant level is between the low and full mark on the bottle. You can top up the coolant with plain water. When driving your car regularly, check the position of the temperature gauge to make sure it does not go above halfway. If the gauge ever goes to two thirds of the way up or more, quickly pull over to a safe place and turn the engine off. In most cases you should call the RACV or a towing company to tow your car to your local mechanical workshop. Driving your car when it has overheated will cause further damage.
Always be careful when opening the bonnet because there could be steam or hot water which may burn you. Under no circumstances should you remove the radiator cap. If you have opened the bonnet, do not touch anything on the car as you will get burnt. Wait for 60 minutes or more before touching anything.
Maintain the air conditioner
If your car air conditioning system is not getting cold on a hot day, it may need a specific air conditioning service. With regular car inspections, faults in air conditioning system will be identified and rectified before a failing system could leave you all hot and bothered. This is especially important to check before a long trip to ensure your comfort levels are maintained. Air conditioning systems have filters which periodically need to be replaced. The system should be checked for leaks and the levels of air conditioning gas should be checked in the system.
Because most air conditioning systems these days can be very complex, if you experience car air conditioner problems it is best to visit a professional car inspections centre to see what the problem might be.