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Car travelling down road.

Simple car maintenance tips

It's important to carry out a number of simple car maintenance checks on a regular basis. Not only can they help prevent your car from breaking down, but they can also help you avoid unnecessary accident claims on your car insurance, which could affect your NCB.

Make the following checks regularly so you can keep travelling safely:

Bodywork

Your car will be thoroughly checked for rust during every MOT. However, you should also inspect your car's bodywork for damage and have it repaired immediately to avoid rust or corrosion becoming a serious problem.

Brakes

Your brakes are one of the most important safety features on your car, so check them frequently and take your car straight to a service centre if they need attention.

  • Check for brake fluid leakages in the footwell
  • Be aware of any loss of pressure when you depress the brake pedal
  • If the pedal feels unresponsive, seek professional assistance.

To check your handbrake, pull it upwards, making sure that it activates after no more than a few clicks, otherwise visit an authorised service centre where your brake cable and rear callipers can be examined and replaced if required.

When it comes to brakes, it is best to leave repairs to the professionals. Take your car to a garage or service centre whenever in doubt about their safety.

Engine Oil

Incorrect oil levels can severely harm your engine. You should carry out dipstick checks once a fortnight and before any long journey. If the level is low or falls below minimum, it's time to top up.

  • When refilling, ensure you use the correct oil - this will be listed in your car owner's handbook.
  • You should keep topping up until the dipstick shows a level roughly half way between the maximum and minimum.

Although oil is generally checked and replaced when your car is serviced, it is important to pay regular attention to oil levels throughout the year to avoid doing irreparable damage to your engine.

Exhaust

If your engine begins to sound coarse or particularly loud you should have your exhaust checked at a garage or service centre. They will inspect for corrosion and dangerous or illegal CO2 emission levels, and ensure you're not at risk from any leakage into your car, which could be potentially fatal.

Lights

You should check your car's lights at least once a week, making sure that they are clean and in working order. Don't forget to test your indicators, brake lights, hazard warning lights and fog lights as well as your sidelights and headlamps. It may be simple for you to replace blown bulbs but for electrical faults it's usually best to consult a professional mechanic.

Tyres

Driving on the correct tyre pressure is essential for your safety and helps prevent excessive wear and tear. Allowing your tyres to drop below the correct pressure and tread depth may compromise your insurance if this was proved to be the cause of an accident and could even result in a police fine.

  • You should check the pressure of your tyres every fortnight. Tyre pressure gauges can be found at most petrol stations.
  • Consult the owner's manual for the correct tyre pressures for your car's make and model.
  • Make sure you also check the pressure of the spare tyre, if fitted, regularly as you never know when you might need it.

Tyre tread is examined at each MOT but you should also check it regularly yourself, especially if you frequently do long journeys. As well as visually inspecting your tyre tread, carefully run your hand over the area of tyre under the wheel arch to check for uneven wear. If uneven wear has occurred you should have the tracking checked at a local tyre centre. Uneven wear can reduce your car's road-holding ability and potentially lead to accidents.

Different tyre treads apply to different weights of vehicle. Consult your car owner's manual or a tyre centre if you're not sure of the legal limits that apply to your vehicle.

Water

A fortnightly check of the engine's coolant levels is crucial to keep your engine healthy. Examine the levels and top up accordingly.

  • Anti-freeze helps to stop corrosion in the engine, so ensure that your authorised service centre fills the cooling system with the correct proportion whenever your car is serviced. You can request them to top up your coolant levels between services too.
  • Don't forget to top up your windscreen washer reservoir. Its fine to use plain water in the summer but adding anti-freeze or buying ready-mixed screenwash is advisable in winter to prevent the water in your reservoir from freezing.