Mon, 13 September 2021
Maintaining your car reduces the risk of costly repairs, helps it last longer and ensures that it’s safe for you and other road users. Learning basic car maintenance checks is not only a safety precaution but can save money if you spot and fix minor damage before it gets worse.
Our beginners’ car maintenance checklist highlights all the things you need to do to maintain your vehicle. It groups them into
We give you basic instructions but, if you need more help, look for photos online which are the best way to recognise what you are looking for under the bonnet of your own car!
We also explain how company owners can boost the efficiency of their vehicles by keeping track of their car fuel costs.
Your owner’s manual should be the first thing you check before making any maintenance checks on your car.
The owner’s manual for your car gives you insight into specific details concerning your vehicle — checks more unique to it.
But the most important reason to check your owner’s manual is it highlights the maintenance schedule for your car, explaining not only what checks need to be made but when they must be carried out.
If you can’t find your owner’s manual then visit the website of your car manufacturer. Most automakers publish their car manuals online, so it should be no problem for you to find yours.
These are the safety checks you should make every time you drive on a motorway or go on any long road trip.
Brakes are obviously a vital safety feature of driving that must be in perfect working order before you go on the road.
Here’s how you check your brakes:
You should also keep an eye on your dashboard, as a warning light will come on if there is any wear and tear issues with your brake pads
*Please note that brake fluid is corrosive. If you’re concerned about this then take your car to a mechanic to check its brake fluid levels.
Your car must have roadworthy tyres. If it doesn’t then you could face a fine of up £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre, with a max fine of £10,000 and ten penalty points — ten penalty points leads to an immediate driving ban of six months.
First, refer to your car manual to be certain of the required pressure for your car’s front and rear tyres – they are often different. You may wish to invest in a portable tyre gauge and pump which is powered by your car battery, connecting via the “cigarette lighter” socket.
Here’s how you check your tyres:
Engine coolant stops your engine from overheating and lubricates moving parts in your car, preventing damage to your head gasket, water pump, piston timing and cylinder. You will most certainly destroy your engine if you drive without it!
Here’s how to check your engine coolant:
Oil is one of the most important substances in your car. Oil cleans, cools, lubricates and protects your engine’s moving parts, ensuring it doesn’t seize up and break down.
Here’s how to check your engine oil:
If your wiper blades need replacing you will have noticed streaks across your windscreen when it rains, or if you try to clean your windscreen while driving and discover you are just making even worse smears across your field of vision.
The last thing you should risk is making this discover while driving along a motorway.
If this doesn’t convince you, it’s also worth bearing in mind that the DVSA says faulty wiper blades are in the top three reasons for MOT fails.
Windscreen wiper blade sizes are measured in millimetres or inches, which refers to the length of the blade. There are a range of wiper blades available, in sizes from 9″ to 32″ or 250mm through to 813mm.
If you don’t have sufficient washer fluid then you won’t be able to clean dirt from your windscreen, which will obscure your vision and could cause an accident.
Here’s how you check your windscreen washer fluid level safely:
Check that you have enough fuel to complete your journey. If you don’t, plan where you will fill up as close to home as possible.
It’s an extreme safety hazard to drive your car if your lights aren’t fully functioning. Your lights tell other drivers if you’re going to change direction or stop and allow them to see you on the road at night.
Here’s how you check your lights if you don’t have anyone else to stand outside the car and tell you what is working:
Mirrors allow you to see other road users, from cars behind you to cyclists overtaking you. Faulty mirrors can lead you to take actions that cause accidents.
Here’s how you check your mirrors:
You should check all the seatbelts in your car regularly.
A diesel car can get through a litre of AdBlue every 350 to 600 miles, depending on your driving style and the car model.
You should top up your AdBlue as soon as the warning light comes on because your car will not drive without it.
The British red Cross recommends that you should have an emergency car kit in your car at all times, containing at least the following items:
You can buy an all-in kit containing these items, with prices ranging from £30 to £130. Before going on a long journey, check your kits contains everything and that nothing is broken and that the batteries still work.
We also recommend adding the following items to your emergency supplies kit:
These are checks you should make every 6,000 miles or every 365 days, which will come sooner if you are a low-mileage driver. You should certainly make all these checks before taking your car in for its MOT.
You will find it useful to make some of these checks more often than that, depending on the weather, how you are using your car and whether you suspect something may not be right based on observation.
You should make all the checks in the ‘Long Journey Car Maintenance Checks’ list, plus the following:
Here’s how you check your air conditioning:
Your car battery provides electrical current for your car’s starter, engine and other important electronic features.
Here’s how you check your car battery:
Simply put, your car exteriors are all the important components found on the outside of your car. Some parts of a car’s exterior are covered elsewhere in this guide. This section concerns exterior checks that don’t have a designated explanation.
Here’s how you check your exteriors:
Leaves and gunk are exactly what they sound like, they’re debris from plants that can clog up parts of your car. If they clog up parts of your car, it could lead water to build up.
Here’s how you check for leaves and gunk:
Rust may seem like a cosmetic issue but it can lead to serious problems and damage if it gets to the frame of your car. This is why signs of rust in prescribed areas will cause your car to fail its MOT.
Here’s how you check for rust:
Your interiors are the things inside your car, such as your dashboard, footwells and boot.
Here’s how you check your interiors:
Your horn lets other drivers know your car is on the road, making it an important safety tool when driving in poor conditions.
Here’s how you check your horn:
Reversing cameras are a great tool for parking, as they allow you to see how close you are to objects (such as other vehicles) and animals (like people, cats or dogs).
Reversing cameras get coated in mud very frequently so you should keep wipes in your car to clean the camera any time you need to. If you need help to locate this tiny camera close to your rear bumper, refer to your car manual.
Here’s how you check your reversing camera is working properly:
These are not checks you are likely to be able to make yourself, but you should keep an eye on them and phone a mechanic if they present problems.
Your dashboard messages alert you to how your vehicle is behaving and performing. Dashboard messages are colour-coded and range from confirming your car is working correctly to highlighting a serious problem that requires immediate attention.
Here’s how you check your dashboard messages:
Every car has different dashboard symbols, so look at your car manual to make sure you recognise them and be sure to print off a set of images from online to keep in your car if you don’t have a manual.
Your air filter is responsible for preventing damaging contaminants, debris and dirt from getting into your car’s engine, such as dust and pollen. This is similar to your cabin air filter, which removes contaminants from inside your car.
Here’s how you check your engine air filter:
Continue lightly dropping the air filter until you can see light coming through it
Your car exhaust is tasked with removing harmful emissions from your vehicle and the environment. The emissions removed by your exhaust include nitrogen oxide, nitrogen monoxide and carbon monoxide.
Here’s how you check your exhaust:
Transmission fluid acts as a lubricant for your car’s transmission. Low or non-existent transmission fluid can lead to transmission failure, difficulty in shifting or gear slip.
Here’s how to check your transmission fluid:
If the level doesn’t reach the ‘warm’ line then you’ll need to add more fluid
A diesel particulate filter (DPF) captures soot and stores it from your car exhaust. It does this to reduce harmful exhaust emissions.
You’ll know if your DPF is blocked because a warning light will come on your dashboard. If this happens then you should get your car checked by a mechanic.
There is a huge amount of electrical wiring in your car, running from your lights to your dashboard and all around the car. These are some of the most common signs that your car’s electrics are failing:
If you notice any of these issues then you should take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible. When the electrics in a modern car stop working, you usually cannot drive at all.
Spark plugs are a vital part of your car. If they’re faulty then your engine will misfire so it won’t start.
A general rule is to get your spark plugs replaced every 30,000 miles. Have a look at the service history for your car and if it’s been 30,000 miles since the spark plugs were replaced then it’s a good idea to get a mechanic to put new ones in to pre-empt problems.
More of a replacement than a check, but spark plugs are integral to the running of your engine — one or more faulty plugs will cause an engine misfire so it’s worth knowing how to replace them.
If you want to replace spark plugs yourself, you’ll need the right tools. It’s also a good idea to check your handbook or consult a dealer to check that a DIY replacement is possible.
Tracking is where your car’s wheels are set to the best position for its tyres.
The clearest indication that your tracking is off is if your steering wheel pulls to one side when you are driving. This could also be a sign that your power steering fluid is low, but this is far less often the cause.
If your tyre alignment is off, then you should get your tracking done by a mechanic with laser tracking equipment for the best precision in alignment. This is particularly important because, in case you have to do an emergency stop, misaligned types could make your car skid off sideways, potentially making a dangerous situation much worse.
The fuel filter captures dirt and rust from the fuel so they can’t enter the engine and cause damage. This type of dirt would cause unnecessary wear and tear on the engine components and cause serious damage to the overall system.
Filter housings or connections can leak, or allow air into the system.
Fuel filters can start to cause issues if the correct service schedule isn’t adhered to. Filters should generally be replaced between 20-40,000 miles. Your handbook will have the suggested replacement intervals for your particular car. It’s not a bad idea to replace them more frequently than the recommended service schedule states.
If you don’t know the last time the filter was changed, have it changed as soon as you can. It has a huge bearing on how well your car runs, and they only cost £15 on average.
iCompario is the free online marketplace for business products and services, where managers and owners can research and rapidly compare fuel cards, vehicle tracking systems, insurance, telecoms and other essentials. The team follows up online queries by telephone so every site visitor finds their ideal, future-proof product at the best price possible.
Fuel cards are a great way for businesses to keep track of their diesel and petrol expenses. If you’re ensuring your company’s cars are properly maintained then it could be a wise idea to ensure your business’ fuel efficiency levels are maintained too.