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7 Routine Maintenance Checks You Should Not Neglect

8 July 2019 AutoMarket, Petrol saving tips

Having a car is a responsibility. In many ways, taking care of one is like taking care of your health. You need to practice regular check-ups to prevent more serious issues developing. While you can’t avoid every emergency, there are lots of measures you can take to keep your car in good shape. Prevention is always better than the cure.

The reality is, however, many car owners tend to skip regular maintenance checks. This may be due to money issues, laziness or simply forgetfulness. If cars are consistently neglected, this can potentially cause big problems in the long run. The trouble with cars is that often times, they can appear to be working perfectly well. It’s easy to ignore something if there are no obvious symptoms. However, there could be a number of internal issues that are slowly getting worse and worse.

Your car endures lots of wear and tear every day.  Stopping and starting in traffic, exposure to harsh weather conditions and high mileage all are all big contributors. Having your car serviced regularly can help nip things in the bud and keep more serious issues at bay. Think of it like a regular trip to the doctor. We’re all busy in our lives, but we must prioritise our health to keep ourselves in good condition. If we miss too many appointments, we might end up with a much bigger problem that’s not so straightforward to solve.

Aside from causing costly damage, negligence can also get you into trouble with the law. If you get stopped at a checkpoint with a broken tail light, for example, the chances are you’ll get served with a big fat fine. This is because they can cause road hazards, putting both yourself and other road users in potential danger.

Essentially, performing regular maintenance checks on your car will keep it running smoothly, as well as keeping you safe and protected on the road. Here are the most important things to stay on top of.

Man checking tyre pressure

1. Watch your tyre pressure

Your tyres are the only part of your car that has direct contact with the road. Therefore, they experience lots of friction and tend to deteriorate over time. They also play a large role in the handling of your vehicle, and your overall comfort. Tyres lose pressure naturally over time, so it’s important to keep an eye on their pressure. Low tyre pressure causes it to flex, which can increase the friction between the tyre and the road beneath. This increase in friction leads to heat generation, which can in turn lead to dangerous problems such as tread separation or even tyre blowouts. Yikes. To avoid your tyres literally exploding on the road, check their pressure at least once a month and always refer to your car manual for model-specific requirements.

Changing engine oil

2. Change engine oil

This is one of the more basic maintenance checks, but if left unattended, it can leave you in a sticky situation. Over time, engine oil breaks down. Its composition collapses, and dirt particles and sludge collect.  It loses its viscosity and becomes thinner at high temperatures. As a result, the oil fails to lubricate your engine metal parts adequately. A routine engine oil change keeps your car engine at its peak condition and prevents any engine disasters. As recommended, oil should be changed every 5000km (or 10000km for fully synthetic oil).

Maintenance checks timing belt replacement

3. Replace timing belt

Your car’s timing belt helps run your engine, alternator, air conditioner, and power steering pump. The lifespan of today’s timing belts is around 7 to 10 years. This means that, depending on how long you’ve owned the car, you may never have to change yours. But what happens when your timing belt snaps? For car engines with an interference timing configuration, it could cause possible damage to the valves, piston, cylinder head and camshaft. These repairs will burn a major hole in your pocket. A piece of belting can cause thousands of dollars so to avoid expensive trips to the mechanic, replace your timing belt at the recommended intervals.

Maintenance checks drive belt replacement

4. Replace drive belt

Another important belt, the drive belt has a similar life expectancy to the timing belt. If it breaks, the power steering pump halts and the steering becomes unassisted. In such a situation, you would need to exert much more force which can be dangerous on the road.  If your alternator stops too, your car battery is left uncharged, which could cause your car to stop running altogether. It’s like a domino effect – once your drive belt breaks, it prompts a series of further damage.

Maintenance checks fluid levels

5. Check fluid levels

If you don’t keep your fluid topped up, you’re asking for trouble. Insufficient brake fluid causes a malfunction in the brake system. Low power steering fluid causes unwanted engine noise and sometimes difficulty in steering. Each fluid level is important in its own right and has significant implications if neglected. Get into a habit of regularly checking the minimum and maximum markings on the reservoir.

Maintenance checks brakes

6. Mind your brakes

The hydraulic components of the braking system can deteriorate over time. The brake hoses can crack and piston seals can leak, which are all signs of normal wear and tear. However, if left unattended, these problems can lead to very serious accidents. If your breaks suddenly stop working in the middle of a drive, it won’t end well. Avoid a potential catastrophe and take care of your brakes.

Maintenance checks coolant

7. Monitor coolant levels

As a general rule, the car’s coolant level should be at the tank’s ‘maximum’ mark when the engine is hot and lower when it is cold. Because of its hot environment, coolant also breaks down over time. Its rust inhibitors get worn out, causing corrosion in small cooling passages and the radiator. Ignoring this issue will make your cooling system rust from inside out, which can eventually cause your engine to overheat. To prevent this from happening, check your coolant level periodically.

Here are some other maintenance checks you should practice on the reg if you want to keep your car in tip-top shape.

BASIC VEHICLE SAFETY

FLUIDS

TYRES

LIGHTS

OTHERS

Seatbelts – check if their tension and belt buckle operate normally

Engine oil

Tyre pressure

Headlights

Radiator hoses – ensure no leaks or cracking

External lights – regularly replace bulbs or whenever necessary

Radiator coolant

Treadwear

Indicators or Hazard lights

Engine air filter – ensure it is clean

Handbrake – test if it can hold your car on a slope

Brake fluid

Tread depth

Brake lights

Battery – check for corrosion around terminals

Windscreen and mirrors (rear and sides) – check for cracks and replace if there’s any

Power steering fluid

Spare tyre

Reverse lights

Fan belts – check if there’s loose or is squeaking when engine starts

Windscreen wipers – check the wiper blades for wear and tear and replace if necessary

Windscreen washer fluid

Car jack

Park lights

Unusual engine sounds / noises – difficulty to start engine, hissing, ticking, or clunking

Horn – check if operational

Clutch fluid (for manual cars only)

Car tools

Fog lights

Child seats – ensure that it is fitted correctly

Fluids – regularly check engine oil and engine coolant levels

Gearbox oil

 

 

 

Tyres – check all tyres for correct pressures and tread wear

Differential fluid

 

 

 

Spare tyre and jack – check your toolkit and ensure each is operational

 

 

 

 

Keep on top of these maintenance checks and your car will thank you for it. When it comes to cars, you get what you put in so the more you look after her, the longer she will last you. You’re better off spending a little as you go, rather than a fortune all at once.

Remember, no however careful we are or how well your car is maintained, accidents do happen. So make sure you and your car is insured with a trusted broker. Contact us at www.motormatcher.com.au now to find out more.