Essential Car Care: Why Regular Maintenance Matters for Trouble-Free Rides
5th January 2024
When you are buying a car, it is important to think about the running costs as well as the upfront investment. Whether you're a seasoned driver or new to it, understanding the value of regular car repair and maintenance is important. It can help save time, money and stress.
This article dives into the importance of car maintenance, covering what it entails, when it’s necessary and how it may help you prolong your car’s life.
Benefits of regular car maintenance
Regular car servicing may not be a legal requirement, but it offers several key benefits.
- Better road safety
- Reduces car running costs
- May increase the value of the car
- Reduces the risk of breakdown
- Improves fuel economy
Routine maintenance checklist
For a smooth journey, the RAC recommends spending a few minutes on regular car checks. You can follow a simple acronym FORCES (Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics, and Screenwash)
Fuel: Always ensure your tank has enough fuel, especially in harsh weather.
Oil: Check the oil level using the dipstick, topping up if needed, and use the correct oil type.
Rubber: Regularly inspect tyres for wear, bulges, and correct pressure. Check wiper blades for splits.
Coolant: Verify coolant levels, especially before a long journey. Do this by following the owner's manual guidelines.
Electrics: Regularly check lights, including number plate lights, and inspect the battery for cleanliness and tightness.
Screen wash: Ensure that the screen wash tank is filled using a quality additive or pre-mix.
Key things that might need frequent attention
- Cleaning: Schedule a wash and wax of your car every six months. Do this especially if you live in a cold climate as you might be prone to road salt. This simple yet frequent maintenance preserves the paint and prevents corrosion.
- Routine check-ups: Follow your car's suggested maintenance schedule based on mileage. Most cars require routine check-ups every 5,000 miles or six months. The routine maintenance schedule generally depends on the distance your car has covered.
- Fluid check: Check fluid levels monthly. This includes engine oil, coolant, power steering fluid, and windshield washer fluid. Also, check brake and transmission fluid at least twice a year, preferably every six months.
- Tyre inflation: Proper tyre inflation is important for safety and fuel efficiency. You can use a tyre pressure gauge to check the inflation level of your tyres.
Key things that require less frequent check-ups
- Major services: Tune-ups can also include the replacement of parts like spark plugs, PCV valves, oil filters, belts, and hoses. Plan for these services ahead, and get cost estimates in advance.
- Brake check: While there's no standard time, it's a good idea to give it a look whenever you rotate your tires or every six months. You should also get it checked immediately if you notice a change in brake use while driving.
- Tyre tread inspection: Monitoring tyre tread is essential. Especially in adverse weather conditions like rain, sleet, and snow. To inspect the tyres, you can do it yourself with a tread depth gauge or a penny.
- Leaks, sounds, and smells: Is there something different from the normal sounds of the car? Or is it something different about the smell? In most cases, signs like fluids leaking, unusual noises, or strange smells, are important to be checked immediately. Prompt investigation might help you avoid costly car repairs and maintenance.
- Alert awareness: If your check engine light or any unfamiliar icon appears, don't overlook it. Schedule a check for your car to ensure everything is okay. It might not be a major issue, but it's wise to prioritise safety.
1. Do you need a full car service every year?
RAC recommends that you should get a full car service every year, or every 12000 miles.
2. Do garages keep service records?
In most cases, garages do keep a history of records. Larger chains of garages also have a centralised system for this.
3. How do I get a history of my car service?
- Contact the dealership or garage where you had your car serviced for a copy of the service history.
- Reach out to your car manufacturer.
- Use an online service specialising in service history. Some companies may offer online records. You might need to provide personal information for it.
- Check your car's owner's manual for documentation, as manufacturers often include a service history sheet.
Preventive maintenance for your car can help you spot the signs early. They help you prevent major breakdowns, resulting in saving money on repair, making your vehicle last longer and help you uphold your car warranty and avoid denied claims.
How to choose a car maintenance garage or a good mechanic
When do you need to visit the mechanic?
The following signs make it important for you to get your car to a garage:
1. Strange noises
It could be anything from a overheated motor engine to a worn out cambelt
2. Frequent stalling
Occasional stalls are normal. If your car is stalling frequently, it could be a failing battery, cracked fuel line, or damaged timing belt, all of which require attention.
3. Difficult steering
If steering your car feels increasingly challenging, it's a red flag. The problem might stem from a damaged steering rack, a power steering fluid leak, or a worn-out power steering belt.
4. Smoke emission
Smoke from your exhaust or under the car bonnet is a serious issue. If you notice it, schedule a service immediately. In case of a fire, exit the vehicle and call emergency services.
5. Dashboard warning light
If you see a spanner icon on the dashboard, it signals that it's service time.
Choosing the right car maintenance service is important for good care of your car. Here are key factors to consider:
- Certification and training of the technicians
- Reputation and reviews of customers
- Comprehensiveness of services
- Transparency and communication
- Quality parts
What is MOT testing?
In your car maintenance routine, MOT testing plays a crucial role in ensuring safety and compliance with environmental standards. This mandatory annual check, applicable to UK vehicles over three years old, focuses on safety-critical elements such as tyres, brakes, and seatbelts. It verifies that your car meets the minimum safety requirements, contributing to accident prevention and environmental responsibility.
According to Gov UK, your car needs to pass an MOT test to make sure it passes safety and environmental standards. You should get an MOT by the third anniversary of its registration or the anniversary of its last MOT if it's over 3 years old.
If you drive a car without a valid MOT or if it's not safe to drive, you could get fined up to £1,000. There are only two exceptions: if you're going to or from a repair shop, or if you're heading to a pre-arranged MOT test.
Remember, it's your job to keep track of when your MOT is due. The authorities might not always remind you, so it's important to stay on top of it.
How much should MOT cost?
Council test centres and private garages are not allowed to charge whatever they feel like for MOT tests. The government has set a price cap to maintain fair pricing. The highest price for a car MOT, capable of carrying up to eight passengers, is £54.85.
Although this price cap is set, many centres offer discounts on MOT’s hoping that they will earn from any repairs required.
The initial upfront for MOT at a council test centre might be a bit higher than a private garage. This is because private garages often charge less with an expectation of business from potential repairs.
While MOT at a council-run centre might be more expensive, you could potentially save a significant amount in the long term by avoiding unnecessary car repair and maintenance expenses.
How much will car servicing cost?
The table below summarises the average cost of car servicing in the UK:
Car Service Type
Average UK Cost
Full service - small car
Full service - medium car
Full service - large car
Oil and filter change
Checkatrade estimates that hourly rates for car service also differ, with independent garages charging around £56 per hour, and dealerships charging £99 on average.
A car is often one of the biggest purchases an individual makes. It’s understandable that sometimes to keep its value maintained, you might spend more than estimated. In cases like these Finio Loans, might be able to help you out in spreading out the cost and make it more manageable.