While we all know we should look after our cars, it’s easy to let things slide. If we’re busy, tired and focused on other priorities, then as long as it starts ok we don’t worry too much. That’s why Car Care Month is important – it’s a good reminder to look after our vehicles.
Car Care Month takes place every April. It was introduced by the US Car Care Council as a way of encouraging motorists to take better care of their cars but has since spread further afield.
The organisation’s executive director, Rich White, says that keeping on top of routine maintenance not only ensures your car is reliable and safe to drive, it also helps avoid more costly repairs later.
“Neglected vehicle care almost always means much higher costs down the line in the form of more expensive repairs or lost resale value,” he explains. “Chances are, if you own a car, it needs some work. National Car Care Month in April is the perfect time to focus on your vehicle’s maintenance needs.”
He highlights a survey last year that revealed seven out of ten American vehicles failed their annual inspections on at least one point.
“These results show that the majority of owners could save money by being more proactive when it comes to their vehicles,” says White. “Whether you do it yourself or take your car to a professional service technician, make sure your car is ready for the spring and summer travel season.”
So, what should you do to keep on top of your car’s basic maintenance needs? Take a look at the following ten points – they’re not too time-consuming and will benefit your vehicle (and your wallet) in the long term. Happy Car Care Month!
- Check the oil, ideally every time you fill up with fuel. If you need to top it up frequently, there may be an underlying problem. Otherwise, change it as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. You should also inspect your car’s filters and replace them as required. Check other fluids – brake, transmission, power steering, coolant and windscreen wash – too.
- Take a look at the hoses in your engine. If they are leaking, brittle, cracked, rusted, swollen or misshapen, they need to be changed. Check V-belts and serpentine belts to make sure they are not loose, cracked, frayed or worn. As a rough guide, the timing belt will need replacing every 60,000 – 90,000 miles (96,500 – 145,000 kilometers), or as specified by the manufacturer.
- At least once a year, have your braking system thoroughly inspected. Brake linings, rotors and drums should be checked during each oil change.
- Make sure your battery connections are clean and uncorroded. The battery should be fitted securely; it shouldn’t be loose. Test it regularly, especially if it is more than three years old.
- Look for any leaks, damage or broken fittings around the exhaust, especially if you’ve noticed any unusual noise while driving. Leaks can be dangerous and should be rectified as soon as possible.
- Check the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. As well as ensuring a comfortable environment for you and your passengers, it’s important these work well for safety reasons.
- The steering and suspension system should be checked once a year, including shock absorbers, chassis, ball joints and other components.
- Give your tires a once-over at least every month. Inspect the tread for signs of deterioration, uneven wear, and damage to the sidewalls. Get their alignment checked as this will reduce wear and improve your car’s handling and fuel economy.
- Test your lights, both interior and exterior. Replace any faulty bulbs or cracked covers immediately. Check windscreen wiper blades for cracks or tears; there should not be any streaking or ‘chattering’ on the glass when they are in use.
- Go over your car’s bodywork and check wheel hubs for scuffs and scratches. Repairing them promptly will reduce the risk of rusting and helps your vehicle hold its resale value.
As well as your own checks, remember to have your car fully serviced by qualified technicians at least once a year to maintain optimum condition and levels of performance.