Ever wished you knew a little bit more about how your car works? Want to avoid having that glazed look come over your face as soon as your mechanic starts talking? Or want to sound just knowledgable enough not to get ripped off next time your car needs seeing to? The average car contains thousands of parts, so you’re not going to become an expert overnight, but we have a few basics to get you started…
Nothing could really be more critical to driving safely than having brakes that are in good nick. Make no mistake, you will need an expert to tell you whether your brake pads or brake discs actually need changing, but there are some indicators that will help you. If your brakes feel spongy or less responsive, feel as though they’re vibrating when depressed, or make a grinding or screeching sound, then get them checked out. Don’t dawdle when it comes to brakes – apart from the safety risk to yourself and others, the longer you leave them, the more likely you are to damage the discs, which are much costlier to change than the pads.
There are three key things you need to be aware of. Firstly, ensure your tyres are not threadbare. The minimum acceptable thread depth is legally 1.6mm, but most tyre manufacturers recommend a minimum of 3mm. An easy way to measure the thread depth is to use a one euro coin. Insert the coin into the tread and if the gold border is still visible, your tyre needs changing. Secondly, ensure your tyres are sufficiently inflated. The sticker on the driver’s door jamb will tell you the correct pressure. Otherwise, most local petrol stations will know the right pressure for your tyres. Thirdly, ensure you get your tyres professionally aligned annually. Misaligned tyres not only make driving unsafe, but will mean uneven wear.
Don’t take your battery for granted. They usually need to be replaced every three to five years. There may be numerous indications that your battery needs changing: Using your hazard lights gives you a flat battery, your electrics start playing up, your car seems to struggle to start in the morning, you see warning lights flash up on your dashboard. If you suspect your battery has seen better days, but you’re not quite ready to change it, it would be wise to keep a set of jump leads in your boot and learn how to use them. Get a mechanic, or petrol station, to test your battery for you and when buying a new battery ensure it is the right model for your car.
It’s important to keep all your vehicle’s fluids topped up. Checking the levels of your motor oil, coolant, washer fluid, and brake fluid is usually quite simple, but do check your car manual to ensure you don’t inadvertently do any damage. For example, some ABS braking systems require you to pump the brake pedal before checking the levels. First of all ensure your car is parked on a level surface, switch off the engine and locate each reservoir under the bonnet and check the label to ensure you know which fluid you’re dealing with. Some car manufacturers may require you to have a warm engine before you check certain fluids.
Your car has filters to keep it running smoothly: Air Filter, oil filter, and fuel filter. The air filter removes impurities in the air taken in by the engine for combustion. It affects how well the engine runs, its power, and fuel-efficiency. It should be changed annually, or more often if you drive in very dusty or polluted areas. The oil filter is also extremely important to the health and performance of your car. It removes any contaminants that accumulate in your motor oil and should be changed whenever you change your oil. The fuel filter protects your fuel pump and injectors by removing impurities and also water in diesel engines. Shaky idling, difficulty starting, engine cutting out, or poor performance at low speeds are signs your filter may need changing.
Remember, always check your car’s manual before attempting any of the above yourself, or use a qualified car mechanic. At least now you won’t sound so gormless when you talk shop with your mechanic!
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