DIY Car Maintenance Tips
Whether you're following the government guidelines and staying at home, or you're one of our incredible key workers - we salute you!
To support the national effort, we've opened up some of our service departments to key workers, but access to professional vehicle maintenance can still be difficult for some.
While MOTs were extended, people were still warned to keep their vehicles safe and roadworthy - but how do you do that?
Don’t worry - you may not know your spark plugs from your alternators, but this guide should give you an idea of where to start!
British weather being what it is, we should expect to see a bit of rain, whatever the season. That’s why it’s important to make sure your wipers are in good working order - in order to be safe and roadworthy, you need to be able to see where you’re going!
Check for splits, cracks and debris caught under the wiper blades. They are quite delicate which means they do need to be replaced fairly regularly - the good news is that they’re very easy to replace!
There isn't a standard size or type for windscreen wipers, so make sure you find out which ones you need for your specific vehicle.
If your windscreen wipers are turned on, switch them off (unless you feel like challenging yourself). Lift the wipers away from the windscreen gently as they are quite delicate. They will have retaining clips but they vary from vehicle to vehicle so pay close attention to how they fit. Once you've worked out how your existing blades detach, do the process in reverse to fit your shiny new wiper blades. Give them a quick test and away you go!
Without being all preachy about it, you should be checking your tyres regularly anyway. Things to look out for include, any cracks or gouges around the tread and sides of the tyres; low air pressure, and of course tread depth. You should have a minimum of 1.6mm in a continuous band around the central three-quarters of your tyre.
If your car is stationary for a very long time (months), you should watch out for the tyres losing their shape a little and developing a flat edge at the bottom.
This is super easy so don't worry if your mechanical skills are limited! Usually, under the bonnet, you'll find the windscreen washer bottle cap, which will have a washer jet symbol printed on it. The lid usually unclips but if you aren't sure, check your manual before you start pouring!
Screenwash is better than water alone as it contains a detergent to remove stubborn dirt, and you’ll often find there’s de-icer in there too – it can still get quite cold at night. Check to see if it needs to be diluted before adding to your vehicle. Job done!
CHECKING/TOPPING UP YOUR OIL
Another easy job - although this has the potential to get a little bit messy! Your engine needs to be cool and your car should be parked on an even surface for the most accurate results. You need to be looking out for the dipstick, which is near the engine, usually yellow or orange in colour. If you can't find it your car manual, or Google, is your friend here.
Once you find it, carefully remove and wipe with a piece of kitchen roll. Pop it back in fully then remove it again. On the dipstick, there are minimum and maximum markers, and your oil level should be sitting somewhere between those.
If it's below the minimum, you will need to top up your oil. Making sure to get the correct oil for your vehicle to avoid any engine catastrophes! Remove the cap, pour in the oil, then check the depth again using the dipstick. Be sure not to overfill!
There’s nothing more unwelcome than the clicking sound of a car that won’t start because the battery is low on juice. If your car is going to be stationary for long periods of time, it’s definitely worth giving your battery some consideration.
Most car batteries will last around 5 years, depending on how the car has been driven. Lots of short stop-start journeys, leaving lights, heating and radio on constantly will take its toll in the long-run.
There are other things that can affect your battery life though – a faulty component, a fault with the battery itself, corrosion, extreme temperatures, too much vibration from the engine - to name a few.
One of the most common though is the lack of driving. Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? How can not using my battery be a cause of draining it? Well, that’s because cars are quite cleverly designed. The very act of driving your car actually charges it up. Genius!
The trouble is, you need to be driving for a good 30 minutes before this can happen – so if you’re thinking about driving around the block to keep it ticking over, short trips won’t be enough.
Also - you should be at home (unless you’re going to work, or picking up essential supplies)! Going for a drive isn’t classed as an essential trip – we need to keep the roads clear for our emergency services and key workers. Plus, while there’s never a good time to be involved in a road accident, there probably won’t be many worse times than now!
So, what can you do to keep your car battery healthy?
Invest in a smart or a trickle charger
A smart charger can be connected to your battery for longer periods without risking damage. This is because it only delivers charge to your battery when energy is low – and it switches itself off once there’s sufficient charge.
A trickle charger delivers a constant charge, so shouldn’t be left attached to your battery for longer than necessary.
You could also try a solar charger. It won’t charge a flat battery, but it can definitely help to keep it topped up.
Switch all electrics off
Make sure your heaters, wipers and radio are switched off when you park - and wait a few minutes after restarting your car before you switch things back on. The most important job your battery has is to start your engine - if you’re worried about how much charge you have, don’t risk asking too much of it at once.
Dip that clutch
Dipping the clutch can help take some of the load from the battery when starting up.
WASHING YOUR CAR
Although it may not seem quite like maintenance, removing grime and bird droppings will preserve your paint and protect against rust. Plus, who doesn't love a gleaming car?
Get your sponge and bucket out and give your car some TLC. Use a soft microfiber cloth to avoiding scratching your paintwork, and finish with a wax and polish. Ideal!
Hopefully this will help to keep your car in working order for now! If you're a key worker or a vulnerable customer, please don't wait - visit our Find a Dealer page to find your nearest available service department.