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Car tips & advice | 24.04.2014 - 18:03

The Most Important Vehicle Maintenance

There are areas of vehicle maintenance that are very important and should be performed on a regular basis to help keep the cost of running your vehicle down and keep everything running smoothly to prevent unexpected repair costs.

Your car is an important part of your daily life; you rely upon your vehicles to provide you with transportation, not just for yourself but your families, friends and even pets. Cars are expensive and as you have probably learned over the years they aren’t always problem free, however, the problems that vehicles most commonly experience are often caused by a lack of maintenance and are completely avoidable.

Spend just twenty minutes a month checking your vehicle over and maintaining it and you can not only improve the life expectancy of your car but you help to keep the cost of repairs down.

Start with your oil and coolant, when was the last time you changed them? When was the last time you topped up the washer fluid? IT doesn’t sound like a big deal, and of course there are plenty of people who are confident they’ll get around to it when they have the time, but that isn’t good enough. A large number of the problems engines experience are a result of waiting too long before changing the oil; there is a reason you put oil in your engine – the engine needs it. Failure to provide regular oil and coolant changes can cause big and very costly to repair faults in your engine, not excluding damage that can result in you having to replace the engine all-together. Something that could be prevented with a fairly cheap bottle of oil or coolant and ten minutes of your time.

Consult your car manual; generally this includes instructions as to how you can go about draining and replacing your oil and of course this will include how frequently your manufacturer recommends that you do this; some vehicles can happily go for much longer without an oil change than others. Of course if you have misplaced your owner’s manual you can run a Google search with the model of your car to find the manual; most manufacturers host a copy on their website.

Do you drive a lot in the countryside? In dirty, dusty areas? Your air filter prevents dirt and dust from getting in to your engine, so it is not surprising that if you encounter these on a regular basis it becomes clogged up and covered rather quickly, which means that your engine isn’t getting as much air as it should be. Aside from reducing your mileage and horsepower it can cause stalling and if left for a considerable period of time can create more lasting damage to your engine. Most manufacturers recommend changing your air filter every 5000 miles or so, however this does not take into consideration your conditions. An air filter could rather easily last 10,000 miles should you be driving along reasonably clean streets in conditions that are not abundant with dust, sand, dirt and such. However those in rural areas, driving across fields, up and down back-roads and such on a regular basis may need to change the air filter much more frequently. The best way to be sure is to check your air filter every now and then to see what sort of condition it is in.

Most drivers can tell when their brake pads are starting to wear down, it might be a result of the annoying squealing noise your car makes when you use your brakes (a very clear indicator that a change is due soon) or it might just be that you aren’t stopping and slowing down as quickly as you used to. New brake pads are highly responsive, as most drivers will be very aware of, so it isn’t hard to tell when they’re starting to wear down and when they need to be replaced. Failure to do so can cause a lot of big problems for your vehicle; the more worn down your brakes become the more damage they’re likely to do to your rotors, and replacing those will not be anywhere near as cheap as a set of new brake pads. Of course just about every garage and service station will sell brake pads and will often offer to fit them for you, but those who feel a little more confident or vehicle savvy might want to try changing them themselves. This is fairly easy to do and the internet isn’t short of instructions and step by step videos to help you, you may even be able to find some specific to your vehicle.

It isn’t just your brakes either, the tires themselves have to be replaced and refilled every now and then. The amount of air you have in your tires and the frequency of your tyre changes will depend on your driving style and conditions. Those who drive in wet and or boggy conditions or in areas with heavy snow could benefit from having less air in their tyres, whereas most people will have very firm tyres. Letting some air out of the tyres increases the surface area in contact with your driving surface and thus the friction and grip are also increased, this can make driving on snow and in mud much easier and safer, however it can cause your tyres to wear down faster for the same reason, particularly on road surfaces that already have plenty of friction anyway. Most drivers can see when their tyres need replacing, they start to look worn and ragged, your grip on the road is decreased and your car is no longer as easy to control as it was. Change the tyres yourself, this is easy to do and most older drivers already know how and are confident to do so; be sure to take the time to research it and learn how, practice changing your tyres when they are worn down so that, should you ever get a puncture, you will be confident doing this on the roadside.

Kate Critchlow is a freelance writer who is passionate about cars having grown in a very automotive based family, writing about everything from buying a new car to selling an old car.

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