Routine maintenance is vital to keep your car running smoothly for longer. It also keeps you safe. Here are five areas of your car you should pay attention to around once a month.
Ever come across some poor soul by the side of a busy road, with his car’s bonnet lifted up? A car breakdown is something all drivers dread, especially when the repair bill arrives. That’s why it’s important to get your vehicle regularly maintained. This helps to keep your car in shape.
“But which parts of my car need maintenance care?” we hear you ask. First of all, get acquainted with your car manual. Take note of your car’s recommended time interval for checking on items such as engine oil, oil filter, and when the tyres need rotating, among others. This will give you a good grasp of what keeps your car operating smoothly on a daily basis.
Here are five things to look into on a roughly monthly basis:
Tyres keep your car in contact with the road surface, so they should be checked on at least once a month. What you need to know is the correct tyre pressure for your car to operate optimally. This is really important as improperly inflated tyres can cause road accidents. Check your car manual for the recommended tyre pressure. Often, the recommended pressure differs for the front and rear tyres, so do take note of that.
Visually inspect your tyres’ condition; keep an eye out for any wearing of the treads, and degradation issues, such as bulging sidewalls, which usually means under-inflated tyres. Apart from increasing fuel consumption, it could compromise grip and affect the steering response.
The engine oil is the lifeblood that lubricates and keeps the engine running smoothly. Most drivers rely solely on mileage as a gauge of when there’s a need to do an oil change. However, driving habits and road conditions also play a part, so it is better to check the oil level and condition monthly rather than wait for the car to attain a certain mileage.
Fresh oil is amber in colour and slightly translucent. Over time, as the oil is used, it becomes filled with contaminants from the engine, turning darker in colour. Check your engine oil at least once a month to monitor the oil level as well as the condition of the oil. Remove the dipstick from the engine oil tank and wipe it clean before dipping back into the tank. Take it out again and check the oil level. The oil level should be between the maximum and minimum mark. If the condition of the oil looks dark and muddy or opaque, it is an indication that the engine is likely having problem and require further checking by a mechanic and oil change. Be vigilant as well for any oil leaks — chances are you can almost smell the oil in the car or discover dark leak spots under your car when it is parked. This could be a sign that the engine oil gasket or oil filter is faulty or degraded, or even something else.
The brake fluid is vital in keeping your brakes working efficiently and effectively to keep you safe on the road. Check on the level of the brake fluid to make sure it’s at the recommended amount. If the level is constantly dropping, there may be a leak. This is cause for concern, as the resulting loss of hydraulic pressure will affect your ability to brake or slow down your car. If you find yourself constantly topping up the brake fluid, it could also mean that the brake pads are worn out and need replacing.
When you check on your brake fluid, see that the level is topped to roughly near the top — don’t overload it. The fluid reservoir is usually located near the top of the engine block. If in doubt, check your manual. Like the engine oil, the brake fluid should not look discoloured or dirty looking, which usually means it is contaminated and should be replaced. Clean and clear any dirt or dust from the surrounding area of the reservoir to keep it working optimally. Overtime, the brake fluid condition will deteriorate, and thus, it is advisable to replace the brake fluid in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended intervals.
Not many of us are aware that a clogged air filter can affect our car’s mileage. The filter’s job is to prevent dirt, grit and grime from getting inside the engine in order for the engine to keep running smoothly. A blocked air filter gradually chokes the engine compartment as it restricts air intake.
Check the air filter condition at least every month and clean it if necessary. The air filter is located right under the hood or at the top of the engine, so it is easily accessible. Simply take it out and hold it up against a light source to check whether it is clogged up. Have it vacuumed first, then give it a wash with a suitable cleaning solution. Make sure it is completely dry before reinstalling it. If the filter is beyond maintaining, having it replaced should be fairly easy and inexpensive.
Keep tabs on your car battery’s physical condition. The battery terminals should be kept clean and corrosion-free, especially around the terminals. In our humid weather, moisture retention around the terminals may cause a short circuit of the battery. Dirt and grime around the terminals can also lead to acid and copper-sulphate accumulation, which can lead to the battery undercharging and giving out low power supply. If not taken care of, the terminals may overheat, eventually leading to battery damage.
An easy way to clean the terminals is using baking soda solution. Simply sprinkle baking soda over the terminals to coat them. Then pour just a couple of tablespoons of water — don’t over do it — on each terminal. The baking soda solution will neutralise any corrosive acid; it is then safe for you to use a stiff brush to scrub the corrosion off.
Don’t forget to check on the condition of the battery cables. Frayed and damaged cables should be replaced as soon as possible. Also make sure the battery is mounted firmly and safely in position. Check that the mounts are not loose and causing the battery to move around, which may damage the battery over time.
CAR SAFETY MAINTENANCE WORKSHOP
Has this article gotten you all fired up to be more hands-on when it comes to maintaining your car? Sign up for this one-day workshop first so that you are better prepared. Even if you don’t own a car, this workshop can be fun and eye-opening. Click here to register today!