Car Maintenance Tips

Wheels and Tires

Check your tyre Pressure

Check your tyre pressures regularly – once a week is ideal or after any lengthy journey. Bad tyre pressures can affect your fuel economy, the cars handling and comfort while driving.

Are your Wheels Balanced?

Is your car pulling to one side of the road? Do you feel vibration at cruising speed? Then have your tyres balanced. Uneven tyre wear indicates an alignment problem. In worst case improper alignment may cause your car to skid, especially if the road happens to be wet. When the alignment of your car is correct it will make your driving experience a lot more comfortable. A rule of thumb suggests rotating tyres at every second oil change – it will insure all tyres wear equally.

Check your thread depth

Bald or slick tyres are not good for road handling when driving on the road. They could also cause a bad accident. Examine the thread depth on the wheels of your car and if your tread is too low on one tyre, change the tyre or if the case may be, all four tyres. Four new tyres might seem somewhat expensive but they’re cheaper than perhaps an accident. The minimum thread depth for cars in Ireland is 1.6mm.

Engine

Checking your Oil Level

There really isn’t much to this and really anyone can do it – it’s quick and easy and it’ll tell you if your engine needs oil or not. If the oil is too high or too low, it can cause trouble for your engine.

How to check your engine oil

To check the oil, park on level ground and wait until the engine has cooled down after driving, then locate the dipstick. The dipstick usually has a bright coloured top on it in the shape of a hoop where your finger can fit in to pull it out. It’s usually next to the cap reading “engine oil”. If you don’t know where to locate the oil dipstick, check your owner’s manual.
Check the oil condition to see whether it needs to be changed or not: If the oil is slightly-brown, its fine. If the oil is a dark-brown, but still transparent, it’s fine for a few hundred miles but you should change the oil soon. If the oil is really black, it’s definitely time for a change of oil.

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Oil warning light

image04This light will usually come on if your oil pressure is too low. Running low on oil is not good for your car and if you continue to drive with this light on, eventually your engine will stop. If your engine starts to leak oil this can sometimes mean one of your oil pumps has failed, a blocked oil filter or your engine is burning oil. Either way this must be seen to immediately.

Checking your Coolant Level

image05Again, this is something anyone should be able to do. The coolant is another additional thing your engine cannot go without. The coolant mixture behaves as an antifreeze in winter and stops your engine from freezing as well as a corrosion-inhibitor to stop your engine rusting from the inside out. Every engine is different but if you check your handbook you should find where the coolant tank is. It will normally be bolted to one side of the engine bay or the other, and will 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. It is usually easy to see what level the coolant is at because the colour is different to that of the tank. But if it happens to be the same colour gently press upon the front of your car so as the level of coolant moves.
Note: If you find that there is no coolant in the tank or you have to top it up quite often, have your car inspected in the garage, this could possibly mean a leak.

Coolant warning light

image06This is normally the coolant level warning light. If you see this light stay lit on your dash it means that your coolant is low and you need to top it up. Again if you don’t know where where the coolant goes, go to your garage and they will top in up for you.

 

Checking your Brake Fluid Level

image07Every engine is different but if you check your handbook you should find where the brake fluid tank is. It will normally be bolted to one side of the engine bay or the other, and might have a yellow cap on it with a picture of a wheel and braking disks. Wait until your engine is cool and take a look at it – the outside of the tank should have ‘low’ and ‘high’ markings on it and the level of brake fluid inside should be between the two. In this case though the brake fluid is usually the same colour as the tank so as mentioned above, gently press on the front of the vehicle to see the fluid moving to check level.

Note: If you find that there is no brake fluid in the tank or you have to top it up quite often, have your car inspected in the garage, this could possibly mean a leak.

Brake warning light 1

image08The purpose of this light is to inform you that there is something wrong with your cars braking system. Unlike the single purpose ABS warning light as seen below, the brake warning light doesn’t have a standard meaning; there are many reasons for its use. For example, this light will might appear to indicate that your hand brake is on. The light can also indicate that the fluid in the cars master cylinder is low. Each manufacturer has a different use and standard for this light so if in doubt check it out.

Brake warning light 2

image09Most current cars now have ABS as standard and will have an ABS light on your dash. If this light it comes on, go to your nearest garage as soon as possible. It means the ABS computer has recognised that something is wrong in the system. It could be something quite simple as dirt in one of the sensors, or something not quite as simple as replacing the ABS unit. As with most of the other lights it’s important to remember that this light normally comes on when you start the car and then switches off a few seconds later. If it stays on or keeps flashing on and off take it to a garage and have it looked at.

The check engine light

If your check engine light comes on, it can mean a number of things. The check engine light is part of your cars onboard diagnostics (OBD) system. When it finds a problem in the electronic-control system, a yellow warning indicator that’s usually labeled ‘check engine’ will appear on your dash. Or the light might just be a wee picture of an engine, known as the International

Check Engine Symbol.

image12If the “check engine” light illuminates, it will either blink or remain on, depending on the problem. In any case you should take your car to the garage to see what the problem is. This light usually always indicates a problem that needs immediate attention.

Note: if any light comes on in your dash and you don’t know what it is, check your owner’s manual to find out its meaning.

Electrical

Disconnecting and reconnecting your battery

image10If you’re thinking of doing any work on your car involving the electrical system, a piece of good advice would be to disconnect the battery first. To do this, always loosen the connector for the negative (ground) terminal first, and take the terminal cap off. Use a piece of cord or something similar to tie the cable back out of the way. If you need to take the battery out completely, you can now take off the positive connector.
Why negative then positive? If you disconnect the positive side of the battery first, the negative side will still be connected to the car. If you drop to drop something like a spanner or vice grips and it lands on the positive battery terminal and touches anything else on the car, this will cause an electrical short. So by disconnecting the negative part of the battery first, you’re cutting off the return path for the current. Now, if you drop any of your working instruments onto either of the battery terminals, it doesn’t matter if it touches part of the car or not because there’s no continuous path for the electrical current.
Reconnecting your battery. Connect the positive terminal first, and the negative second – the reverse of removal, and for the same reasons. When you slip the negative connector on, there will be a spark as it gets close and makes contact with the negative battery terminal. Don’t be afraid of this – it’s nothing to worry about. Make sure the terminal caps are done up nice and tight.

Check your Battery Terminals

Most modern cars run on a 12 volt negative ground electrical system. If your battery terminals or contacts aren’t clean, you’re making it more difficult for the current to pass around the electrical system. Remove the terminal caps as described above and clean each contact post with a wire brush to get a nice clean metal contact surface. Do the same to the terminal caps, then reattach them as described above.

The electrical fault light

image11Again this warning light may be different in every car but normally it looks like a picture of a battery, similar to the picture on the left. This is another light that will come on and go off when you start your engine as part of the car’s self-test, but if this light comes on and stays on, it means the electrical charging system is no longer working properly. Every car has an alternator – the charger – and a 12v battery used to supply power to the electrical system. If the alternator becomes faulty or the drive belt which connects to it happens to snap, then it will fail. The longer you drive, the more your car will use up the remaining life in the battery and eventually the engine will stop. This usually leads to a new alternator.

Lights

One indicator or blinker is flashing faster than the other.
When you happen to indicate to turn one way and your indicator flashes quicker than when you indicate the other way, it means one of your bulbs has blown. A local petrol station or an auto parts store will be able to tell you what sort of bulb you need to replace it with and your manual should show you how to get at the indicator bulbs in order for you to change it.

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