While we all wish we could afford to drive around in a brand new car, the reality is that for most of us our priorities are putting food on the table, paying our kids school fees and if we are lucky enough to own a property, paying the monthly instalment on time.
With cars being kept that much longer there is no truer saying than, ‘Take care of your car and it will take care of you’,” says Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation.
“You don’t have to be a mechanical expert to take care of your car. You just need to be aware of what you should be keeping an eye on and keep a regular maintenance schedule,” he says.
Ranft provides 10 simple basic car care tips to ensure your car stays on the road longer and that you pick up smaller repairs before they become big ticket items.
• Read the car’s manual and schedule maintenance accordingly. Don’t let your manual sit neglected in your glove compartment. Keeping up with your car’s recommended maintenance schedule can help avoid costly problems with your cooling system, drivetrain, suspension and other components. Following the recommended schedule religiously and only use quality oil, fluids and parts.
• Battery Check. Like other car parts that have been made to last longer, most car batteries are maintenance-free and can last more than three years. The first sign that may indicate you need a new battery is if you have trouble starting the engine.
• Good Visibility. One of the most neglected basic car care tips is taking care of your windshield wipers. You should change your wipers every 12 months or if the rubber becomes worn. You will also want to check the wiper fluid reservoir and keep it full.
• Use online forums. You want to learn about potential problems before they happen so that you can prevent them — or fix them immediately. Find an owners’ forum online and get on the wavelength of what the potential problems could be as your car gets older.
• Check the fluids. You should check the level of your antifreeze, oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid, very regularly. We advise you check every time you put in petrol. Even if your car doesn’t leak fluids, it can develop a leak and quickly have a dangerously low level of fluids. It’s also important to change the oil regularly. This will improve your mileage and protect your engine. It is also important to change the oil filter as well – there is no sense in putting clean oil through a dirty filter, and filters are cheap and available at any parts store. Please check your service manual or contact a MIWA accredited workshop for your car’s specific needs.
• Brake Pads. Monitor your brake pad thickness and don’t let the pads wear down to metal. This will cause damage to your brake rotors (discs) at least and possibly your callipers as well. Rotors and callipers are much more expensive to replace than pads.
• Rotate the tyres. Changing tyre position is very important and reduces uneven wear and tear on the tread, thus extending the life of the tyres. Generally they should be rotated every 8000 kilometres and it is recommended to follow the advice of an accredited tyre and fitment centre specialist. You also need to check your tyre pressure regularly. Proper tyre inflation will help the tyres handle better and last longer, and it will help you get the most out of a tank of petrol. It’s also a good idea to have your tyres checked for wear regularly.
• Use your hand brake. Even if you are driving a car with an automatic transmission, use your hand brake regularly, especially if you’re parked on an incline. It helps keep the brakes adjusted in the rear of the car and makes them last longer.
• Don’t ignore small problems. Pay close attention to your vehicle’s noises and also to its warning lights and even cosmetic things, like a piece of rubber trim that’s loose. Ignoring a problem only allows it to get worse and parts for aging vehicles only get harder to find.
• Give your car some love. Wash it, wax it and vacuum it and treat all leather surfaces. You will protect both the paint and the interior from aging prematurely.
Ranft says these tips are all valid irrespective of whether you own a new or used vehicle and stresses again the importance of regular maintenance which is the key to extending the life of your car.