Do you keep to your New Year’s resolutions? Or do you forget them as soon as you’ve made them? No matter how quickly you give up going to the gym three times a week, I hope you’ll stick to the five resolutions here. Not only might they save you a heap of money before the year’s out; they could also prevent you having to sit at the roadside in a conked-out car.
Some recent research found that millions of drivers don’t even perform the most rudimentary maintenance to prepare their motor for winter. Here’s a handful of checks that will keep your car motoring long after memories of New Year’s parties have faded.
New Year’s resolution 1: check the oil
Our cars generally lead quite a hard life. Just spending a few minutes every week performing some routine maintenance can make sure they stay in tip-top shape. First, see whether your car needs any oil. It’s frequently called the lifeblood of an engine but you’d be surprised how many cars we see that don’t have enough oil in them. We explain exactly how to check your oil here.
A few months of doing this weekly will give you an idea of whether your car uses any oil and to what degree. If you never have to top it up, and you think you can remember, switch to performing this task on a monthly basis.
New Year’s resolution 2: keep your cool
It’s often even easier to check your car’s coolant. It’ll be in a clear bottle that should be easily visible as soon as you open the bonnet. If you’re in any doubt, check your car’s user manual to find out where it is.
The bottle will have minimum and maximum markers on it. The level of fluid should be between these. Every car has different coolant fluid requirements. Some cars use concentrated coolant – more commonly known as anti-freeze. Others have a 50-50 water to anti-freeze mix. It’s vital that you get the concentration right. Fail to use enough anti-freeze and your engine could ice up. Again, your car’s user manual should tell you what kind of coolant your car needs.
As with oil, start off by checking this once a week. Coolant systems are sealed so your car shouldn’t use any. Once you get a feel for how much your car gets through, if any, switch to checking it monthly.
New Year’s resolution 3: love your battery
Most of the breakdowns we attend are cars that won’t start because the battery is flat. My colleague recently gave advice here on how to buy a new battery. The easiest way to find out if your car needs a battery is by its age. Most car batteries are guaranteed for five years. If it’s older than that, it will probably be coming to the end of its life. You can also take your car to the garage and have them test the battery using specialist equipment. Some will carry this out for free.
New Year’s resolution 4: tend to tyres
Our experience at the roadside suggests many drivers wait until a tyre gives up the ghost or prompts an MOT failure before doing anything about their rubber. Tyres are a vital road safety feature and need to be properly maintained to ensure your car performs at its best. Having a tread depth that’s 3mm rather than the legal minimum of 1.6mm means your car will take about two car lengths less to stop from 55mph. And if tyres are properly inflated, they’ll last longer and help your car to use less fuel.
It only takes moments to inspect your tyres and it’s something you can do whenever you stop for fuel, or at least on a weekly basis.
New Year’s resolution 5: use your eyes and ears
It’s no bad thing to resolve to be more vigilant. Cars will often tell us when something’s not right. Whether that’s through a dashboard warning light, a puddle of fluid on the ground beneath, or a grinding noise when you start the engine, it’s saying something. Don’t ignore these warnings. Noises are unlikely to get any better until the parts grinding together have worn away to nothing. And leaks won’t stop until there’s no more fluid to drip out – by which time your car may have suffered sufficient damage to necessitate a really expensive repair.
Damon Jowett is head of Service Delivery – Rescue for Green Flag