As one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make and one of your most relied upon possessions, it makes sense to keep your car in good working order.
In a standard vehicle, there are quite a few things that require regular maintenance, whether it’s weekly or annually, and providing just a little bit of time now can prevent some huge problems down the road.
What regular maintenance should be done on a car? Urgent issues like tyre pressure and broken headlights should be tended to immediately, whereas regular maintenance like oil checks, fluid checks, air filters, and tyre condition should be completed regularly on a set schedule.
You’ll also need to have the car schedule in for a service as required to make sure a professional is taking a look at it as well.
If you own a car and don’t already have some sort of maintenance schedule in place, there’s no better time to start than now.
We’ll show you how easy it is to keep an eye on your car’s most important parts and know which issues are urgent and those that can be left a little longer, with our detailed guide to car maintenance.
Why Maintenance Matters
A car is much like a human body and there are hundreds of parts that must all work together smoothly to allow it to run. Just as you’d make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and tending to any health concerns you have; your car also needs this type of ongoing care to prevent issues and keep it in good shape.
Ignoring regular maintenance on your car is a bad idea for many reasons, and considering how easy it is to do some DIY checks yourself, there’s no excuse not to.
These are some of the things you’ll achieve by coming up with a regular maintenance check schedule for your pride and joy:
The most expensive trips to the mechanic are those when something has gone terribly wrong, and usually, these kinds of issues can be avoided.
If you’re giving your car a quick once over regularly and know its current condition, there’s less chance of being blindsided by a major problem that’s grown out of control and will now cost thousands to fix.
Driving a car can be dangerous, especially when the vehicle you’re driving has a major failure in one of its parts.
Maintenance is required to ensure you’re using a safe vehicle and it can highlight any issues that might put you and your family at risk before it’s too late.
Prevents break downs
There’s nothing worse than being stuck in the middle of nowhere because your car has broken down.
You can reduce the chance of this happening with regular maintenance and DIY checks, and it’s especially important to do just before you head off on holiday.
Peace of mind
There’s nothing more valuable than having peace of mind and if you want to feel comfortable and safe driving your car, performing regular maintenance will deliver that feeling.
You’ll know that you’ve checked it over and are driving something safe and in good condition, giving you a satisfying feeling that money can’t buy.
Urgent Car Issues You Shouldn’t Ignore
While there are certain things you should be checking automatically as part of an ongoing maintenance schedule, there are some urgent issues that may pop up from time to time.
If you notice any of these, it’s best to check them out right away and seek help from professionals if you’re not able to fix it yourself.
Check Engine Lights
If you’re driving along and the Check Engine light starts to flash, pay attention. This light is telling you there’s an issue with your car and it could be as simple as a faulty gas cap or as serious as a faulty engine.
Have a look at the engine yourself first and if you can’t see the issue, get it booked in ASAP with a mechanic to diagnose it.
Driving around with damaged or worn tyres is dangerous and can lead to serious trouble. If you notice one of your tyres feels low or you see damage on it or a lot of wear, make it your priority to fix it.
This could mean replacing the tyres altogether or simply putting some air in them at the petrol station, but whatever it is, it’s not an issue you want to ignore.
Go around the car and look at all of the windows and mirrors, inside and out. You want to look for signs of scratches, dents, and cracks, which will need to be taken care of.
If the glass looks dirty anywhere, give it a quick wipe so that it doesn’t impact your ability to see clearly while you’re driving.
Do a quick toot on your horn once a week to make sure it works. While it may not seem like an important part of the car, it will be when you need it, and you don’t want to risk it not working when something goes wrong on the road.
Your headlights are sometimes the only way that others can see you on the road, and the only way to see the road itself.
If your headlights aren’t working or they’re only coming on intermittently, it needs to be rectified immediately, and it could be as simple as a wiring issue or replacing the bulb.
Without them, you’ll lose visibility from other drivers and won’t be able to see anything in the dark or while it’s raining.
Bad Wiper Blades
Although a faulty wiper blade might not seem like a big deal when conditions are good, you don’t want to be caught out with one when it starts raining or snowing.
If you notice one of your blades isn’t working, you will need to have it replaced or repaired immediately. It’s not worth taking the risk even if you think the weather will hold up until you can get it fixed.
Basic Weekly Safety Checks
Each week, you can spend just a few minutes checking over your car to see how it’s going and make sure it’s safe to drive for the week ahead.
These simple checks won’t take long at all but will ensure you’re driving with peace of mind.
Turn on your car’s headlights and make sure they’re working. Then, test the indicators and brake lights with someone’s help, if needed.
You want to ensure your lights are ready for action and that others can see you on the road, especially when conditions are less than ideal.
Windscreen Wipes and Washers
Test your windscreen wipers and washers once a week by turning them on and off, including the rear ones if your vehicle is fitted with them.
You don’t want to be caught out with any of these faulty while you’re on the road. Spray some of the washer fluid out to see if it’s working and make a note to refill it if it looks empty.
One of the easiest checks you can do is to look underneath your car or on the ground where it’s usually parked.
If you see signs of things like oil, coolant, or any other liquid that’s leaked out from the car, you know there’s something that needs your attention.
If you get this sorted when the leakage starts, it’ll be a lot cheaper and easier to fix than a few months down the line.
Seatbelts and Car Seats
Make your way around the car from front to back and check the seatbelts to look for signs of damage or wear. Click each of them in and remove them again so you know they work.
If you have any child or infant seats fitted in your car, check where they’re anchored and that the seatbelts and harnesses are in good condition as well.
Monthly DIY Car Checks
Each month, there are additional checks you can give your car that will prevent larger issues from forming and keep your car in good shape.
Make sure you perform checks in these areas once a month as part of a regular maintenance schedule.
Always check the engine oil when the car is in a level position and the engine is still warm, usually by letting it sit for a few minutes after turning off.
Take the dipstick out, wipe it off, and then put it back in to see what level it’s at and whether it needs filling. Once done, make sure you push the dipstick all the way in before putting the cap back on.
Antifreeze and Radiator Coolant
The antifreeze or coolant is what keeps your radiator from overheating and this is an important liquid to monitor once a month.
Check the levels of this coolant to see they’re okay and if needed, fill it back up. If you see spots of coolant leaking on the ground underneath the car or notice that the vehicle is overheating more often than usual, there’s a problem that needs to be fixed. simple check each month.
As well as the weekly windshield wiper test where you’ll turn them on and off, you should give a further inspection to this part of the car.
Pick up the windshield wiper blades and look at them for signs of damage. Check the levels of the windshield wiper wash and refill it if it’s low. After refilling, give a test spray to see that it works.
Once a month, give your tyres a closer inspection to see if they need to be replaced or if there’s anything wrong.
You’ll want to look for signs of wear on the tread, unusual wear patterns, whether the wheels seem misaligned, or if there are any punctures or obvious damage.
Take your car to the petrol station once a month also to fill the tyres with air and balance the pressure, and consider having the tyres rotated or their position swapped if needed.
Brake and Clutch
The brake and clutch fluid levels should be checked in your monthly maintenance and this can be done easily enough by finding the plastic reservoirs that hold them.
Take off the cap if they’re not translucent or look through them to see what level they are and that they’re in between the two marks.
If you do have to replace the brake fluid make sure you use the correct grade, and if you find this is being topped up too regularly, take it to the mechanic to check for leaks or faults.
Most cars come with a transmission dipstick that works like the engine oil dipstick and lets you check its levels easily, and this needs to be monitored weekly.
If fluid levels are low, you can add this yourself but you need to give the oil more time to stabilise before you retest it.
During an annual service, a mechanic will check these fluids but it’s important to keep an eye on them once a month for signs of leakages.
Three Monthly or 5,000km Car Checks and Maintenance
These are issues that can be left a little longer in between checks but still require your attention every few months or 5,000km, whichever comes first.
If you drive your car regularly or have an older vehicle, you might perform them more often.
Battery and Cables
Find the car’s battery and spend some time inspecting it for signs of trouble but be sure to wear protective gear as you do.
You’ll want to look at not just the battery but also the cables to see if there’s any corrosion or damage and see that the terminals are clean and tight.
The battery’s fluid levels should also be checked so they’re at the right level and then topped up with distilled water as required.
Belts and Hoses
A car’s belts and hoses need to be checked regularly to ensure they’re in good working order as you don’t want to deal with issues like an overheated engine or power steering failure.
For this task, you’ll need to check the white coolant recovery tank, squeeze all the hoses to look for signs of damage, flush and replace the coolant, and look for any collapsed parts in the hose.
The belts should be inspected for glazing, cracks, and other forms of damage as well.
A car’s exhaust has the important job of funneling away the harmful products that the combustion engine produces and it uses a set of pipes to do so.
Make a point to check the exhaust system every few months by looking at the joints, scraping away rust and dirt, and checking the supports.
If you notice signs of an exhaust leak or hear a strange sound coming from that area when you drive, get it checked by a professional.
Inspect the air filter and look for signs that it needs replacing, but keep in mind they can look clean but still not work efficiently. An air filter should be replaced regardless of its condition after every 20,000kms.
If you regularly drive in dusty conditions, your air filters will need more attention than most. A clean air filter will give you better fuel efficiency and improve the engine’s performance, among other benefits, so it should never be ignored.
Most modern cars come with power steering and if so, you’ll need to check their fluid levels every few months.
The power steering fluid will have a level you can check but only do so when the car’s engine is still warm and the car is off.
To find where this reservoir is, look at the car owner’s manual and make a note of the fluid type that’s recommended if it needs to be topped up.
Simple Tips for Car Maintenance
The key to a happy car is a little bit of TLC, and it’s as easy as a few minutes a week in maintenance and checks.
To make matters easier, we’ve got some simple tips everyone can follow to keep their car in good shape for the road ahead.
- Read the owner’s manual of your car to get any specific information on taking care of it and to see what’s recommended for ongoing maintenance. There are specific products like oils, coolants, and other liquids that should be used for better performance, and certain parts may be housed in different areas compared to other cars.
- Follow up with scheduled servicing and don’t miss an appointment, even if you’re performing regular checks yourself and haven’t found an issue.
- Create a checklist you can tick off each week, month, and three-monthly so you know that you’re covering everything with your car’s maintenance. Tell your mechanic what you do as regular maintenance and take their advice if they suggest adding anything else to the list.
- Keep your car clean inside and out with regular washing and interior detailing. This not only keeps it looking good but will prevent damage and premature wear, and give you a chance to inspect it more closely for any signs of looming trouble.
- Older cars require more frequent maintenance due to their aged condition, so adjust your schedule to meet the requirements of your vehicle. While it may seem okay to ignore a newer car’s maintenance needs, this schedule should adhere to just the same.
- Before going on a holiday or long journey with your car, give it a special check over a few weeks before so you can get any problems fixed with time to spare. You’ll want to perform all of the checks on your weekly and monthly maintenance schedule to ensure it’s ready for the drive ahead.
A Maintained Car is a Happy Car
It’s not just in your car’s best interest to receive regular maintenance, but as the driver, it’s in yours as well.
With just a few minutes each week and a heightened sense of knowing when something doesn’t feel right, you’ll save yourself time, money, and risks by performing DIY car maintenance.
A car is more than just a way to get from point A to point B for many people, and if yours isn’t in good working order, you’ll certainly know it.
If you plan on implementing your own DIY car maintenance schedule but want to learn more about what your vehicle needs, read on to see some commonly asked questions that others have had before you.
When Do Cars Start Having Problems?
Once a car has reached around 150,000kms, it’s presumed that it will start to have more serious problems.
Before this time, you can expect to perform some general maintenance and may have already fixed a few minor issues, but the condition of the car and how it’s driven and looked after will factor into this estimate as well.
What Are the Four Types of Maintenance?
The four types of maintenance you can perform on your car or any other object or being that needs maintenance, including corrective, preventative, condition-base, and risk-based.
Each of the DIY checks you do can be categorised into one or more of these areas to show you their purpose and why it’s important to perform them.
How Much Does a Full-Service Cost?
A basic full service performed at the mechanic shop will cost roughly £125 and should be performed once a year to keep costs down.
This cost varies depending on the mechanic, condition of the car, and any other issues that are tended to. On top of this, you’ll need to pay for additional parts and labour required to replace or repair anything that needs attention.