Basic Car Maintenance Tips

Wheels and tyres

  • Rotate your tyres!
    Every 5,000 miles or 8,000km, rotate your tyres.
  • Clean brake dust off regularly
    Brake dust contains all sorts of nasty stuff. If you leave it too long, the combination of road grime, moisture and heat from your brakes will bake it on to your wheels. Brake dust normally clings to wheels with static electricity so a damp sponge and clean cold water is the best way to get it off.
  • Check your tyre pressures
    Check your tyre pressures regularly - once a week is ideal. Bad tyre pressures can affect fuel economy, handling and comfort. It's easy to do and there is no excuse not to
  • Check your tread depth
    Bald, slick tyres might be good for motor racing but they're no good on the road. Most tyres come with tread wear bars built into them now - find one, examine it and if your tread is too low, replace your tyres. Four new tyres might seem expensive but they're cheaper than a fine or an accident.

Engine

  • Check your belts
    At the front of your engine there will be a series of rubber drive belts that loop around various pulleys, driving everything from the alternator to the a/c compressor. Rubber perishes, more so in extreme conditions like those found in an operating engine bay. Get your timing belt and accessory drive belt checked every 25,000 miles, preferably replacing it every 50,000 miles. See the Fuel and Engine bible for information on interference engines and why checking your timing belts is a necessity, not a luxury:
  • Checking your oil level
    This is something everyone can do - it's quick and easy and it'll tell you if your engine needs oil. If the oil is too high or too low, it can cause trouble for your engine. To check the oil, park on level ground and wait until the engine has cooled down after driving, then locate the dipstick. Pull it out and wipe it clean, then push it all the way back in until the top of it is seated properly in the dip tube again. Wait a moment then pull it out again. Check the level of the oil. If it's between the high and low marks, you're fine. (If it's too low, add a little.) The high and low marks can be denoted by two dots, an "H" and "L" or a shaded area on the dipstick. The photos below show a Honda dipstick which has the two dots. Why not just read the level first time around? The first time you pull the dipstick out, it will have oil all over it and it will be difficult to tell where the level is. That's why you need to wipe it on a rag to get a clean dipstick, then dip it back into the oil to get a good reading.
  • Checking your coolant level
    Again, something everyone can do. The coolant is the other thing your engine cannot go without. Every engine is different but if you check your handbook you should find where the coolant reservoir is. It will normally be bolted to one side of the engine bay or the other, and be a white semi-transparent bottle. Wait until your engine is cool and take a look at it - the outside should have 'low' and 'high' markings on it and the level of coolant inside should be between the two.

Fuel / gas

  • Will higher octane or premium fuel give me better gas mileage and/or more power?
    No. Sportier cars have higher compression engines which generate more power and require higher octane fuel to prevent detonation. That's where the myth of "premium = more power" came from. If your handbook says "regular", use regular.

Bodywork / paint

  • Keeping your paint finish in good condition

Electrical

  • Disconnecting and reconnecting your battery

Lights

  • One indicator or blinker is flashing faster than the other
  • Don't touch the glass when changing headlight bulbs