Everyone is a new driver at some point and, like anything else, experience matters when you seek to look after your car correctly. Your driving test covers the physical operation of a motor vehicle and a few safety features, but maintenance and other tips tend to only come to the forefront when you need actually to do it for the first time. While there is no official handbook out there for how to tackle different car issues as they arise, there are some tips that we are at liberty to share to ensure that you are fully capable of managing your car the right way. This goes both for preventing issues before they get the chance to arise and dealing with them if they do.
1. Keep a Close Eye on Tyres
As the part of the car that comes into contact with the road, tyres work very hard and are among the most susceptible to damage and replacement. Before we consider any of that, however, we need to check the tread depth. There is a legal minimum in most countries, and if your tyres do not meet it, you cannot drive the car on public roads. This is not just the result of picky lawmakers either – poor tread means a poor grip, and the last thing you want to do is endanger yourself every time you take to the road.
2. Check Oil Levels
A common mistake among new drivers is to assume that you fill-up the oil, and it will last forever. It certainly does not go down as quickly as petrol – you can expect to get through around a litre of oil for every 1,000 miles you travel. The dipstick will indicate current oil levels, and you want to ensure that you never reach the empty point. There, and you risk making the car undrivable. Make a habit of checking oil levels regularly, with additional spot checks before embarking on a long journey.
3. Keep the Windscreen Wash Topped Off
Your windscreen wash is not just there to make the car look good – it can be the difference between safe levels of visibility and crashing into something. There is a reason why all cars have the functionality, and it is up to the car owner to make sure they have enough. Unlike oil, running out will have no detrimental impact on the car itself, but you should have suitable amounts of screen wash, water and antifreeze in cold conditions on hand.
4. Keep an Eye on Fuel
We know several people that are happy to keep driving even with the low fuel indicator on. In our opinion, you should not get into the habit of assuming you can get fuel whenever you need it. An unexpected journey or traffic jam can burn through what you have left, and it is recommended to refill the tank as soon as it drops to a quarter full.
5. Keep Tyre Pressure at Acceptable Levels
We acknowledged that there was more to say about tyres, and pressure is crucial for all sorts of reasons. The ideal pressure, which often differs between the front and back tyres, is usually listed in your car’s handbook. They need to be sufficiently inflated to keep fuel economy up and safety issues down, but not overinflated to the point that wear on the tyres is negatively impacted.
6. Make a Habit of Checking Lights
Lights that do not work not only compromise the safety of you and other drivers around you but they are also often illegal. They are an essential part of driving in low-light conditions, so in addition to ensuring that they always work, give them a clean every couple of weeks to get the most benefit, even if your regular car cleans take place less often.
7. Heaters and Air Conditioning Require Maintenance
The good thing about modern cars is that as long as you keep the fuel and oil topped up, they are generally pretty self-sufficient. However, your car will have heaters, air conditioning or both, and they should be maintained properly. Heaters use filters for various purposes, and once they are clogged, they negatively impact on performance and should be changed. Similarly, air conditioning should be used often enough to keep it in good working order, and then re-gassed by a mechanic when its effectiveness drops.
8. Avoid any Sudden Impacts
You don’t need us to tell you to make every effort not to crash into cars, structures or people, but you should go out of your way to avoid potholes, kerbs and other seemingly innocuous obstacles. While the visual impact is often limited, a pothole can knock your steering out of line and damage the suspension, which can be relatively costly to repair.
9. Deal with Minor Damage Proactively
Everyone wants their car to look pristine, but, in practice, it can be difficult to keep on top of things. A careful handwash represents the perfect opportunity to check over your car for minor damage, with the windscreen a particular focus. Small chips and scratches there can soon turn into major cracks, and you want to avoid any compromise in the integrity of such a crucial safety function. Bodywork is less important, but there is always a chance that a seemingly minor dent or scratch can get worse if left untreated.
10. Brakes are the Most Important Part of the Car
To many drivers, the whole point of a car is to get from one place to another as quickly as possible, but stopping and slowing as required should be your primary concern. You may have the best reactions going, but if your brakes cannot keep up with you, they should be addressed. Any noises from the brakes, a sense of ineffectiveness or impact on overall driving when the brakes are in use should be addressed immediately for safety reasons.