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Eight Checks to Keep Your Car Running Smoothly

As a car owner, you’ll need to take crucial steps to prolong the life of your car and to keep your car in great condition. Not only does this mean taking your car for its annual MOT, regular servicing and as and when the car requires repairs, but it also means regular maintenance and carrying out regular checks to keep your car running smoothly.

Unfortunately, many car owners are unsure of what steps to take to routinely maintain their car, and instead, wait until something goes wrong. This leads to the risk of breakdowns, costly repairs and longer time off-road.

This guide explains some of our most useful recommended checks you should be undertaking to keep your car running smoothly.

1. Battery Health

Car battery problems are the number one cause of breakdowns in the UK, particularly more so when cars aren’t used as often or when motorists fail to check the health of their car battery.

If your car doesn’t have a built-in battery monitor, we recommend buying a manual monitor to check the condition of your battery’s health frequently. 

Of course, you should also take the necessary steps to prolong the life of your battery by only having the lights on when necessary and leaving all other electrics switched off when not in use. It can also be a good idea to have a pair of jump leads in your car in the unlikely event that you break down. 

2. Tyre Condition

Tyres are arguably the most important part of your car. Problems with the condition of the tyres can cause a number of problems, so it’s crucial that you check them regularly, whether that be once a week, several times a month or, at a minimum, every time you leave for a long journey.

As well as the condition of your tyres, you should also be paying close attention to the tyre pressure every two weeks. Look out for tread depth outside of the legal limit by checking the correct pressure in your vehicle handbook. This information can also be found inside your driver door or the fuel flap.

3. Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF)

Diesel cars are designed for long-distance driving on the motorway rather than urban driving. This means that, if you generally do short journeys and live in a busy town or city, a petrol car may be better suited for your lifestyle.

If diesel cars are used for town driving with frequent stopping and starting, you may find problems with the diesel particulate filter, which can be costly to repair or replace. Not all diesel cars have a diesel particulate filter as these are generally found in diesel cars produced after 2007. 

The DPF captures soot particles and burns off when at high speeds for a minimum of 10 miles. This means that accelerating for long periods of time can really help to clear the DPF. When the DPF needs to regenerate but isn’t getting the opportunity, a DPF warning light will illuminate. If you regularly drive your car on a motorway or dual carriageway, this shouldn’t be a huge problem, but this doesn’t mean that you won’t need to take care of your DPF and carry out regular checks.

You should regularly check warning lights that show up and seek advice from a mechanic as soon as possible if your car shows a warning about your DPF. While the mechanic will most likely recommend taking the vehicle for a run down the motorway and accelerating sharply in a lower gear, you may need to pay for costly repairs if this doesn’t fix the issue. 

4. Air Conditioning

Many drivers believe that keeping the air conditioning on when not needed is unnecessary, however, it can quite often result in a bill for air conditioning re-gassing. Leaving your air conditioning running can prevent issues like this.

We do recommend regularly looking out for leaking refrigerant gas or a hissing/whistling sound when the air conditioning is switched on. If you do suspect a leak, it’s best to keep the air conditioner switched off and visit a mechanic.

5. Fuel Levels

As obvious as it may be, your fuel levels should always be sufficient, not just to prevent breakdowns, but to also prevent unwanted air, debris or sediment from clogging the system and corroding your pump and filters.

Particularly in winter but also throughout the year, you should be more careful with keeping sufficient levels of fuel in your vehicle. Keep your fuel levels high to avoid expensive repair bills later on.

6. Warning Lights

Another one that may sound obvious is to regularly check your warning lights and error messages.

Unfortunately, some of us have a habit of easily ignoring warning lights, especially if these errors only appear on our dashboard every once in a while. Leaving these problems for too long without being checked over by a mechanic can result in further, more expensive, problems down the road.

7. Check Liquid Levels

There are several fluids that should be checked regularly and always kept at the appropriate levels to ensure the car runs smoothly. These fluids include:

  • Engine oil

  • Engine coolant

  • Power steering fluid

  • Brake fluid

  • Transmission fluid

If you aren’t sure how to check these fluids, we advise you to check with a mechanic. If you do spot a leak, your mechanic will be able to identify the source and can repair your car if necessary.

8. Condition of Brake Pads and Discs

Brake pads and discs generally need replacing every few years, depending on driving style and how often you drive. There are some checks you can carry out at home to identify when these may need replacing.

Brake pads require regular inspection. You should listen out for brake noise when driving and pay close attention to vibrating from the brake pedal.

When checking the brake discs, you’ll need to run your finger along the outer edge( always do this before doing any driving as discs can get hot and burn your fingers) . A rough surface can indicate that this may need replacing soon or that it could be corroding. Whereas a smooth edge would indicate that they are still in a good, usable condition.

Take Care of Your Car

Of course, these above checks are the checks you can carry out in the comfort of your own home, however, we do advise regularly getting your car checked over if you notice anything suspicious.

We recommend routinely checking the fuel, oil, coolant, electrics, brake pads and discs, air conditioning, screenwash, engine coolant and tyres. These should be checked on a regular basis preferably weekly and more often if you do a lot of driving and especially before you embark on a long journey.

If you would like further guidance on the basic car maintenance tips to prolong the life of your vehicle, we would be more than happy to assist. For repairs, servicing, MOTs and diagnostics, please get in touch with Parkland Services.