If you are planning a long journey that will have you driving for hours on end, then it’s important to make sure that your car is ready for this. Here, we will list a few simple vehicle checks you can perform at home to ensure safe travelling and a happy vehicle. We would recommend doing these checks every month or so, and before your MOT too.
Always Check Your Fuel
Yes, this does seem like a really obvious thing to check but you’d be surprised how many cars break down simply for having no fuel left in the system. When your warning light comes on, it’s best to get to the pumps straight away. These breakdowns happen the most in winter as people don’t want to stand in the cold filling up, however, once they break down they have to stand on the side of the motorway waiting for help to come.
The system on your dash may tell you that you still have 30 miles left in the tank, but these aren’t always accurate so it’s best just to top up your tank regularly.
How to Check Your Car Tyres and Wipers
As you know, these are both wear and tear items and if you have been driving for a long time then the chances are that you have had to replace these a fair few times already.
Tyres that are in a bad condition can cause endless problems for you which is why it is so important to check these regularly. When checking your tyres, you need to look for any unusual bumps, tears or splits and check the tread depth.
Unsure how to check your tread? It’s really simple!
- Find 20p and place it within the tread
- If you can’t see the outer ring of the coin, your tread is ok
- If you can see the outer ring, you need to be replacing your tyres ASAP!
The legal minimum requirement for your tyre tread depth is 1.6mm (the outer rim of 20p is about 2mm which is why we recommend this test). Although the minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, many safety experts recommend we should be aiming for around 3mm, especially in winter when traction and grip with the road surface are more important than ever.
You will also need to make sure that you check your tyre pressure is up to the recommended limit. Most modern cars have TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) that will let you know if your tyres are a little flatter or fuller than they need to be.
Remember to always take a look at your alloys – are there any strange cracks, bumps or buckles? If so, then we can fix your alloy wheel cracks from only £57.95 + VAT.
Your wipers should be able to give you a clear view of the road ahead and behind you. Check each blade for tears and cracks too. Wipers are pretty cheap to replace and you can have a fresh set fitted in less than 10 minutes.
How to Check Your Car’s Screenwash Levels
Another super simple check that will take you no longer than 5 minutes to rectify. If you are lucky, your car may tell you when your screen wash is running low. Then all you need to do is pop to any shop (your local garage or supermarket will stock this) and buy a new bottle. If you don’t have time to get to a shop you can just add water for the time being however, screenwash will be better at removing the grimy mess that sprays across your screen.
During the colder months, it’s worth investing in some winter screen wash as these are mixed with antifreeze. Many can withstand temperatures as low as -10°C meaning that they can blast through the cold pipes and clear your screen even on the coldest of January mornings.
How to Check Your Car’s Electrical Components
Don’t panic, you don’t need a degree in electronics to do these, but having a friend on standby will be helpful.
With you behind the wheel, ask your friend to walk around checking all your lights are working as you turn them on and off. Be sure to check that the light above your registration plate is working too as you can receive a fine for a plate that can’t be seen.
The next step is to check your battery to make sure that all the terminals are clean. You can use a little hot water to carefully clean off any corrosion. Make sure the engine is starting correctly without any struggles and you’re good to go! If your car does sound like it is struggling to start, it’s best to pop down to your local CCM and we can test the battery for you. Car batteries can sometimes come to the end of their lives after around four years so if your car is older than this it’s worth having an expert take a look.
Breakdown companies see over 400,000 battery issues every winter so it’s important to make sure that your battery is up to scratch!
How to Check Your Car Oil at Home
Your car oil is one of the most important elements of your car. Oil keeps the internal parts of your car cool and lubricated so you need to make sure you have enough oil at all times. That being said, dirty oil is also a cause for concern and could cause significant damage to your entire engine if it’s left for too long.
Checking your oil couldn’t be easier. Firstly, you must find out what oil your car needs as there are a lot of variations on the market. You can either check your manual or have a look online. Park your car on a flat surface, and make sure you have let the engine cool down for at least an hour. Find an old rag that you don’t mind getting dirty, and then open the bonnet and locate the dipstick (these normally have a yellow circular top). Remove the dipstick and wipe off the oil, then place it back into the engine and remove it again. You should be able to see a clear line of where the oil is reaching between the minimum and maximum levels. If this is low, you will need to add more oil and if it is high, you can leave it as it is.
Replace the dipstick and nearby you will see the oil filler cap which will have an oil can symbol on it. Unscrew this and pour in the oil bit by bit – you don’t want to overfill! Wait a few moments so that the oil has a chance to settle in the engine and then check again with the dipstick. Repeat this until you are happy with the level shown on the dipstick.
How to Top Up Your Car Coolant
Coolant, sometimes known as antifreeze, is there to protect your engine from overheating in summer and freezing over during those cold winter mornings. Not only that, but it also acts as a lubricator allowing moving parts such as the water pump, cylinder, piston timing and head gasket to move freely.
When checking your coolant levels, remember that your engine needs to be completely cool so it’s best to let the car sit for a couple of hours or overnight first. The coolant goes into an expansion tank which usually looks like a white-ish tank with the coolant icon on. There will be a minimum and maximum mark on the side which you can use to gauge whether you need a top-up or not. Make sure you have the right coolant for your car and then remove the cap carefully as the tank may be pressurised. Add in enough coolant to reach the maximum level but don’t overfill it as it needs room to expand when the car is running. Tightly replace the cap and you are ready to go.
These are all of the main car checks you must remember to do before heading out on the road for a long journey. If you are uncomfortable performing any of these, then we are happy to help! We offer a free vehicle health check to make sure your car is ready for whatever you have in store which you can book online.