Whether you’re a new driver or an experienced one, it's always important to know the basics of keeping your car in good repair. We’ve put together this basic car maintenance check list which we’ve also illustrated with a handy car repair and maintenance infographic. These steps will help keep your vehicle functioning correctly and hopefully prevent any mechanical problems from becoming serious enough to cost you more than money. Although, if the worst were to happen while you’re out on the road, we’ve already covered the best things to do if you suffer a car breakdown.
Of all the parts of your car, this is probably the one with the most parts that needs checking and requires constant attention. Of all checks, it is the oil level that is most important and should be done frequently. Have your oil changed at least once every 5,000 kilometres or three months (whichever comes first). If you regularly drive long distances, you should consider changing it more often. Low oil levels can cause damage to a car's engine if left unresolved. It is important to check the oil level regularly using the dipstick and top it off if necessary. Consult the owner's manual or a local dealer to determine the proper type of oil to use.
Check that your car's coolant level is correct monthly because a low coolant level can cause your engine to overheat. The coolant tank is made of a transparent material and has an external maximum and minimum mark in most modern vehicles. To avoid injury only check your coolant levels when the engine is cold and look in your handbook for the correct coolant and anti-freeze mix to use should you need to top it up.
Power steering and brake fluid should also be checked between services. Like the coolant this should only be done when the engine is cold and an expert or instruction manual should be consulted when looking at how and when they require topping up.
Have the battery tested once a year. One of the most frequent reasons of breakdowns in Ireland is worn-out and flat batteries. A battery's capacity and its ability to charge is greatly decreased in adverse weather conditions. Your vehicle may have trouble starting or completely fail to start as a result of this. You should also look out for signs of corrosion and that it is mounted securely every 3 months are so and make sure your battery is inspected by the professionals when it is due for its service.
The spark plugs in your engine are responsible for providing the spark that ignites the fuel-air mixture in the combustion chamber, which creates the energy that powers the car. Your engine will lose power and won't run as efficiently if your spark plugs aren't working properly. In accordance with the car manufacturer's guidelines or if you notice a loss of engine power, have a professional inspect your spark plugs and replace any that are defective. As a rule of thumb, spark plugs should be checked every 50,000 kilometres.
A faulty or dirty or clogged air filter can reduce fuel efficiency and engine power. It is recommended to replace the air filter every 12 months or 20,000 kilometres, whichever comes first. To replace the air filter, locate it under the bonnet, make a note of how it is installed, remove it, replace it with a new one, and secure the housing back in place.
Always keep tyres properly inflated and balanced by checking the pressure regularly. Get the tyres rotated every 8,000 to 16,000 kilometres. This will help keep them from wearing unevenly and help you avoid emergency tyre repair bills. The next step is to have your tyres checked. Tyres can be expensive and should last you several years depending on how much you drive. You can tell when it’s time to replace them because they will feel worn down, especially on long journeys where you log a lot of kilometres at once.
Tread wear patterns can vary depending on a variety of factors such as vehicle alignment, driving habits, and the type of road surface. Uneven tread wear can also indicate a problem with the vehicle's suspension or wheel alignment, and should be inspected by a professional. Regular tyre rotation and maintenance can help to prolong the life of the tires and ensure even wear. Rotating your tyres will increase their service life by distributing tread wear more evenly and reducing vibration and noise issues. Only ever swap front with back tyres, never left side with right or vice versa. When properly looked after tyres can last between 6 and 10 years.
It's crucial that you frequently inspect your brake pads for deterioration. Brake pads that are worn out make it dangerous for your car to stop immediately when you need it most. City dwellers will need to replace their pads more frequently than those who live in rural settings. You may notice signs of worn brake pads through sound and feel. Listen to your brakes as you come to a stop.
Many brakes have squealers installed on them which will indicate when your brake pads start to wear thin. Or if you push the brake down to the floor but your car doesn’t come to an immediate stop, that’s another clear sign. When you notice these signs of worn brake pads, you can measure them roughly with a straw or more precisely by taking off the wheel. If you cannot recall the last time a professional examined your braking system, you should arrange an appointment as soon as possible. Replace your brake pads as soon as you can if you find that they are worn out.
Replace wiper blades when they aren’t doing their job due to wear, usually between every 6-12 months. Wiper blades are relatively cheap, so be proactive in replacing them, as driving with reduced visibility puts yourself and other road users in unnecessary danger. Also check your windscreen for little chips, as if you get these seen to immediately, you will prevent them from becoming full cracks which are a lot more troublesome. We cover this in more detail in our tips for windscreen protection.
Also ensure your windscreen fluid is topped up every few months. The windscreen fluid container is found underneath the bonnet. When topping off is necessary, we advise using a fresh funnel to avoid water from dripping onto other engine parts. To keep the system from freezing, an additive containing an antifreeze agent must be used (in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions).
These are a great way to protect your windscreen from extreme weather conditions. Using a thermal blanket to de-ice your windscreen will prevent damage from hot water from the kettle and stop wiper blades rubbers freezing to the windscreen. Not only is it incredibly useful during the cold winter months, but did you know that you can also use it in the summer? By placing it on the inside of your dashboard, you can reflect the sun's rays and keep your car's interior cool, preventing any painful burns on hot surfaces.
Properly functioning lights on a vehicle are essential for safety on the road. They help other drivers see your vehicle, and they help you see the road ahead. It is important to regularly check and maintain your car's lights to ensure they are working properly. You can test this whenever you're parked in front of a level surface, by turning on your headlights to make sure they're both on and in the proper positions. Visually inspect your turn signals and parking lights by turning them on and circling your car from the outside. To make sure your brake lights are on, have a friend stand behind the car while you apply the brakes. They all need to be checked monthly to keep you safe.
During winter, it can be important to do it every month if the roads are being treated with salt to fight snow and ice, but aside from this, it should be done at the very least twice a year. This will protect the cars finish and aid in the prevention of rust and damage. If anything were to happen to your cars body, AIG can show you how customers can find their nearest eligible body repair shop. Regular cleaning is also important to ensure sure that your registration plate doesn’t become dirty and remains fully legible at all times.
Make sure that you’re prepared for all eventualities when taking to the road. It is recommended that motorists carry a number of essentials in the boot of their car including:
• High visibility vest • A working torch
• A hazard warning triangle • De-icing equipment (for glass and door locks)
• First aid kit
A compact tool kit is typically included with modern vehicles, especially those that have a spare wheel. Ensure that the kit contains all necessary components, including the wheel brace, axle supports, and jack.
The kit needs to be kept in a secure location where it can't come lose and hurt anybody. Additionally, make sure the spare tyre is inflated properly. A space-saving wheel or a puncture repair kit may be provided in place of a spare wheel in certain cases. Owners should know how to operate and maintain these kits.
Following these tips should mean that your car will enjoy a long lifespan, but if the worst is to happen, it’s best to be supported by an AIG car insurance policy. AIG are here to help you get back on the road as quickly and easily as possible. If you need assistance with any aspect of your policy, contact an AIG car insurance consultant today.