In normal circumstances, it is a lack of time that tends to be the main reason that we neglect to look after our vehicles. We spend most of the day out at work, then we have things like school runs, gym, shopping and all of life’s other duties to take care of. We generally rely on our cars for most of what we do and are often lost without them. In fact, we may even look forward to the occasional day when we can leave them parked up on the driveway. Now, however, with the COVID19 outbreak and the lockdown it has resulted in, many of us our seeing our cars parked up for several weeks on end. And lack of time is certainly no longer an excuse not to look after them. There are many things you can do yourself to help keep your car in the best possible condition. Here are some tips.
Before you begin – safety first
In Ireland, the rules surrounding vehicle maintenance as far as private cars are very relaxed, however, safety should always be the absolute priority – both that of yourself and of other road users. You should think about safety while carrying out maintenance and also the safety of your vehicle when using it on the road. For this reason, unless you are a relatively competent mechanic, it is advisable to stick to basic maintenance such as looking after oil and filters, battery, coolant and other such tasks that are fairly straightforward.
If you are performing any maintenance that requires you to work under the vehicle, take all the necessary precautions to work safely – a comprehensive guide is available here on the Haynes website.
Also, be aware of others around you when manoeuvring a car, and take care to dispose of any used fluids safely and in accordance with the law.
Taking care of your tyres
The natural place to begin when it comes to maintaining your car is the tyres – they are, after all, the most important safety feature that your vehicle has. As well as playing a vital role in braking, steering and general control of your vehicle, your tyres also have a big impact on your fuel economy. Properly maintained tyres can actually save you a significant amount of money on fuel in the long run.
When your car is standing for long periods of time, it is very important to keep an eye on your tyres. You should make it a habit to check the pressures as they can slowly lose pressure when stationary, which can lead to unnecessary damage occurring. Also, if your car has been standing, be sure to check the tyre pressure before first driving.
As well as pressure now is a great time to examine your tyres for any signs of damage, such as uneven wear, bulges, nail heads, etc. Also, be sure to check the tyre tread is above the legal minimum of 1.6mm. This can be done using a tread gauge or using the markers between the tread as a visual estimate.
Checking your oil
Another straightforward but highly important job that is easy to do at home is an oil check. For most modern cars, engine oil is generally good for around 30,000 miles, but ideally should be changed at least once a year regardless of the mileage. Your car will often give you a reminder on the dashboard to help you know when this is due.
When you are not using your vehicle for a prolonged period of time, or if you are not driving a sufficient distance, your oil will not heat up to the optimum temperature, meaning that it will deteriorate more quickly than under normal driving conditions. The first thing to check is that your oil is at the correct level, a job which does not require any tools.
Changing your oil
If you believe that your oil is due for a change and you are confident with basic mechanics, there is no reason that you can’t do this at home provided you have a safe environment in which to work. It is best to run the car in order to warm the engine before beginning.
You will need to raise the car up in a safe manner so that you can get to the oil sump, and a good quality spanner or wrench will be needed. Always take care not to strip the head of the screw, and be sure to prepare a suitable container to collect the waste oil. It is advisable to replace the oil filter at the same time as changing the oil. This component can usually be ordered online and you should be able to find instructions for your make and model of car, either online or in an official manual. Before replacing the sump plug, give it a good clean, and make sure it is fully tightened. Your vehicle service manual will tell you how much oil is needed to refill the system, and which type is recommended.
Checking your coolant
Your coolant serves two purposes – it prevents your engine from freezing in winter and helps to prevent your engine from overheating when it is running. Like your oil, it should be changed at least once a year as it will gradually lose its effectiveness. There is a detailed article about changing your coolant here on the Sunday Times Driving website.
Waste fluids from your car are considered dangerous substances and should be disposed of correctly in accordance with the law. This usually means taking them to your local authority household waste and recycling centre. If your local facility is currently closed, please store them in sealed containers and keep them safely away from children, so that you can dispose of them correctly once possible.
Tyreland Covid-19 Opening
Our Mobile Tyre Fitting Units are currently available Mon-Sat Covering the greater Dublin area. Please book your mobile tyre-fitting in advance via the phone or email. Car, Van and 4×4 tyres only; No call out charge with any 2 or more tyres.
Tel: 01 860 20 20
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