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How to care for your car

Car servicing is a major expense - but you can slash the costs if you keep an eye on wear and tear yourself

Words By Claire Evans

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You can reduce the costs of servicing and enjoy more peace of mind at the same time by doing easy maintenance jobs yourself in between services. Here are the main points to consider.

Fluids

Fluid checking is easy. Coolant, windscreen-washer fluid and brake-fluid levels can be checked visually against the markers on the side of their translucent reservoirs.

The only gloops that aren't immediately visible are engine oil, gearbox oil and power steering fluid. Gearboxes don't normally consume oil, so you can leave the garage to sort this within the normal servicing schedule.

Steering fluid can leak out of rusty pipes on older cars. If the steering suddenly gets noisy or inordinately heavy you may have a leak. Getting a garage to replace a steering pipe shouldn't be expensive and will be cheaper in the long run than simply topping up the reservoir and coating your driveway in steering fluid.

Check the engine oil and other fluids once a month, and always before setting off on a long journey.

Tyres

At least once a month, check the condition and pressure of your tyres when they are cold. You'll find the recommended pressures in the owner's handbook and either inside the driver's door frame or behind the fuel cap cover. the legal minimum for tyre tread depth is 1.6mm across 75% of the width of the tyre, but your car will drive better and be safer (especially in wet weather) if you replace tyres when they get below the 2mm tread depth barrier.

Windscreen

A high percentage of small windscreen chips and cracks can be fixed quickly and cheaply by a β€˜liquid glass' repair. It's worth catching these early because repair work is far cheaper than replacing an entire windscreen if a crack spreads.

It's worth checking your car insurance to see if it incudes windscreen cover, which should cover the cost of either repairing or replacing a damaged screen.

Windscreen wipers

If your screen always seems to have a blurry β€˜film' on it, no matter how much washer fluid you squirt on there, it's almost certainly down to your wiper blades. They may look normal, but they're worn out. Replacement blades can be picked up very cheaply on the internet and fitting them is usually a quick, easy job.

Windscreen washers

We've all found ourselves behind cars whose windscreen washers are better at washing our cars than they are at cleaning their screens. Changing the direction of the washer nozzles is usually a 10-second fix. Local garages will often perform this adjustment for free.

Lights

Ask a friend to check your car's lights from the outside. Get them to look at the front as well as the back when you're testing the brakes, because bad earths or damp s can cause weird things to happen to the lights when you press the brake pedal while the indicators or side lights are switched on.

Replacing blown indicator or other minor bulbs should simple. Replacing headlamp bulbs should also be easy, unless your car has LED lights with a sealed headlamp unit - in this case you'll have to buy a new unit from a main dealer and replace that.


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