Most of us out there will only ever look under the bonnet of our cars if and when we suspect something has gone wrong; otherwise we just hop on into the driver seat and pay it no thought. Taking a look at your car’s inner workings regularly can alert you to the early symptoms of serious issues, as well as simply help you to keep it running at 100% efficiency.
In the 50’s & 60’s it was said that you should check your car’s oil, tyre pressure and water every week, and it was very much a part of the average Sunday afternoon routine. Modern cars, with all their dials and meters may negate the necessity for such regular checks, but it never hurts to observe good practice and checking your car’s levels once or even bi-monthly can end up saving you endless time and piles of money.
Oil is arguably the most important thing to check, and is a major part of your car’s health. Oil is necessary to keep the components that make up an engine lubricated, and as an engine is comprised of numerous pistons, propellers, valves, shafts, rods etc. which all in all add up to over 200 moving parts, it is essential that your engine remains lubricated. If oil levels are permitted to drop the friction caused by the movement of all these parts can result in a whole host of issues, and may result in you having to replace a part of your engine. Just to enforce the point, a 5 litre bottle of motor oil can be bought for roughly £20; a new carburettor will cost over £150, not including garage fees.
Sometimes it will be necessary for you to replace the oil in your car even though there is still an abundance of it present. This is due to the dirt that can build up in the oil and if left unchecked, it will also eventually clog up the filter. In terms of the human body, this would be the same as something blocking off your kidneys, all the bad stuff would bypass the filtration system and cause untold damage. Luckily, you would have to drive thousands of miles before it would cause truly irreparable damage, but we would recommend that you think about changing your oil about once a year, or roughly every 7500 miles, depending on which comes around first.
Tyre pressure is the next thing you should always keep an eye on. Most modern cars have a warning light that can give you a degree of prior warning before a blowout occurs, but it is not like the low petrol warning light where you can cover another 20-ish miles. When the low tyre pressure light is activated this means your pressure is dangerously low, and the tyre could very well blow at any moment. This is especially dangerous if you find the light on whilst the car is in motion as the tyres will be hot and the air inside will have expanded, so there is actually less air in the tyre than your car thinks there is, but the likelihood of your tyre bursting is increased. Additionally the warning light may not always be accurate, as the lower the pressure becomes the greater the chance of the tyre spontaneously failing, resulting in a blowout that will, in the very least, decimate the wheel-arch, axel and your insurance.
If you do find yourself with low tyre pressure, make your way to the nearest petrol station or garage, while driving as slowly as possible, thus reducing the chance of a blowout and the level of damage done compared to if one occurred while you were driving at speed. Tyre integrity can also be maintained and prolonged by avoiding parking with your tyres pressed against a kerb or anything else that can keep them misshapen for any amount of time. Additionally, the warmer the weather, the more regularly you ought to check tyre pressure.
Water levels in your engine, much like the oil, should also be considered as essential, as it is used to prevent the engine from overheating. An over-heated engine can cause immense damage to itself and your bank balance, especially as most insurance companies will not cover it as it is generally 100% your fault if it happens. One of the most common results of over-heating an engine is blowing the head gasket, which is used to stop foreign liquids from getting into the engine and hindering the pistons ability to function properly. This issue generally presents itself by producing an abundance of steam from your car’s exhaust. Once again, this level of damage will result in very expensive repairs and could be easily avoided, and can be with only a few minutes given every now and again to check water levels and a few more to top it up, if needs be.
These checks are imperative and should be part of a regular routine, if they are not already, but there is no time more important to conduct them than after a holiday or a prolonged period of inactivity. This is because it gives the sediment in the oil and petrol time to settle and clump together, which can cause damage in and of itself, and can also give the air in the tyres time to dissipate, causing them to wear thin.
They say that prevention is better than cure, and it has never been truer when it comes to your car. Hopefully those of you who have been irresolute about performing such simple maintenance on your vehicles up till now will be inspired to do so from now on.