Even though I am married to a mechanic, I am completely guilty of not knowing a whole lot about the workings of a car, simply because I have never had to. Even before I met my husband, I was reliant on my brother, dad and mechanic and to be honest, they could have told me anything, I would have believed them.
There are plenty of women, and men alike, that don’t know the bare minimum, nor do they know anyone that does. This is perfectly fine, until you need the help or end up spending hours on YouTube trying to find a DIY video to fix the problem or its simply too late and the damage is done.
This list isn’t comprehensive but its certainly a starting point if you were wanting to get more in-tune with your car and learn how to better maintain it. I mean, let’s face it, weather you buy new or second hand, your car will be one of the biggest purchases you make in a lifetime. It makes sense to learn how to look after it.
These tips listed in this article aren’t comprehensive or specific to one car. It is general advice and you should always refer to your vehicles owner’s manual for your vehicles manufacturers specifications.
THE BARE BARE BASICS
There is no where else to start then with the absolute basics. The first thing you should always do is become familiar with the vehicles owner’s manual; this book will give you a run down on everything you need to know about the car. It will show you where the latches, lights and buttons are and what they all do, right through to what types of engine oil is needed and the recommended service intervals. Knowing all this basic stuff will make it so much easier for you, as the owner, to maintain your vehicle.
Familiarising yourself with the vehicle is so important- and I don’t mean by just reading the owner’s manual, driving the car and getting a feel for the steering, the tyres and noises will also make it easier to know when something is wrong. This also comes with time, the more you drive your car, the more ‘in-tune’ you become with it and you will be able to start identifying different feelings, bumps or noises that weren’t there previously. A new feeling or sound isn’t necessarily an indication of a serious problem, but it could be the start of one and this is when it is best to consult with your mechanic to diagnose any issues.
OIL BE THERE FOR YOU
Just like our bodies need water, cars need fluids. Oils lubricate surfaces and carry heat away from your engine. They are the lifeline of your vehicle, clean, replenished oil is critical for good car health.
Types of fluid you will find in your car are:
- Engine oil
- Transmission Fluid
- Brake Fluid
- Washer Fluid
- Power Steering Fluid
Usually, cars need an engine oil change every 10-15,000 Km’s- but this is fully dependant on age of car and oil composition.
Fluid replacement is largely based on manufacturers guidelines, so it is always best to check your owner’s manual.
Always check your vehicles oil when the car is off and preferably on level ground. Checking your engines oil is simple, under your bonnet you will see an oil dipstick. Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean and re-insert it again. Remove the dipstick out of the engine for a second time, this will ensure that you have the most accurate reading. The markings on the dipstick indicate the required level of engine oil. You will normally have 2 etched lines at the end of your dipstick, 2-3 cm apart. Your engine oil level should sit anywhere between those two notches, if the level of engine oil is towards the bottom notch or below then it is a good idea to top up your engine oil.
Engine oil should appear to be lightly tinted and clear. Engine oil does get darker in appearance as it gets older, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as it still looks clean. If you are ever concerned about your engine oil or other fluids in your car, I strongly suggest making a visit to your mechanic.
Driving with a dirty windscreen is not only a pet peeve of mine but it can also be extremely dangerous, so it is important to regularly fill your windscreen washer fluid. This is such a simple task and can be refilled using water. There are also plenty of additives on the market that you can add into your windscreen washer tank that help clean the windscreen as you spray it with water.
TIP- Look for spots of fluid on the ground underneath your car to make sure your car isn’t leaking any fluid.
**There are several different types of engine oil on the market, each made for a specific type of engine- ALWAYS check your vehicles owner’s manual for the right oil for your vehicle BEFORE attempting to add the oil to your engine. **
LET’S GET ROLLING
Tyres- When to replace them? When to rotate them? How to change them? Have they got a specific pressure?
Tyre pressure can have a huge impact on the handling of your vehicle. Having over or under- deflated tyres will lead to your tyres wearing quicker, resulting in you having to replace them more often- and trust me, no one wants to be paying for that.
On the inside of the driver’s door, you will find a placard with the recommended tyre pressure level for your wheels. Once you have determined what pressure your tyres should have, checking is pretty straight forward. You can either use a portable tyre pressure gauge, these guys are fairly inexpensive to buy online, and it would be a good idea to keep one in the glove box of your car. If you find that the pressure is too low, you will need to fill your tyre/s with air to raise the pressure. If you have access to an air compressor this is an option but, if a portable pressure gauge isn’t an option or you don’t have access to an air compressor, your best bet would be to go for a drive to your local fuel station. Most fuel stations will have an electronic tyre station. These tyre stations will allow you to check your tyre pressure along with adjusting the air in your tyre accordingly and they are so simple to use.
Changing a tyre
If you could learn anything about a car, this is it. It is so important to know how to change a tyre because getting a flat tyre is so common. Changing a tyre is not a complicated process, it is complicated to try and explain how to do it- So I am going to cheat a little bit and direct you to YouTube. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube that I suggest you at the very least, familiarise yourself with the process. Take this opportunity to also check your car for a working jack, wheel brace spanner and the condition of your spare tyre so that you are never caught out.
TIP- To get the most mileage out of your tyres, make sure you get them rotated every 5- 10,000 kilometre’s. A lot of tyre shops will offer this service for free if its where you have purchased the tyres or ask your mechanic to do it as part of your cars service.
Familiarising yourself with a few basic functions of your car can keep your car on the road for longer and keep you much safer- not to mention that it will keep costs down over the life of your car.
All these tips in this article will only take a few minutes of your time but will serve you and your vehicle well in the future.