Wheel alignment (aka ‘tracking’) is a check often overlooked and can be most commonly identified by unusual and rapid wear on your tyres. If there is premature wear on the inside or outside shoulder of your tyres, or if your steering wheel pulls to the left or right when driving on an even surface, then your wheels could be incorrectly aligned. In turn, this could affect the safety and handling of your car. If you notice this, especially after hitting a kerb or driving into a pothole in the road, then get your wheels checked by a mechanic as soon as possible. Otherwise, an annual check at the very minimum is recommended. If alignment is checked regularly, the lifespan of your tyres could be prolonged by up to 12,000 miles and your fuel efficiency should see marked improvements.
Brake Check – Fluid Levels
Brake failure whilst driving can be obviously catastrophic. As well as the danger risk on the road, failing to maintain an effective braking system in your car can result in prosecution, so having your car’s brakes checked regularly is very important. Check the brake fluid level in your car on a weekly basis. A low brake fluid level may result in brake failure whilst driving and a subsequent crash, so ensure it remains topped up and keep an eye on the car’s fluid warning lights if present.
Lights, Battery and Number Plate
On a weekly basis, confirm that all the bulbs of your car’s lights are working. This includes the fog lights, indicators, brake lights and reversing lights. Additionally, make sure that these lights are kept clean and free from grime and dirt, as dirt on the headlamp unit can cause glare for others on the road. It’s not always obvious when a bulb has blown on your car, especially while driving, so keep an eye out for tell-tale signs such as low visibility when lights are active or other drivers flashing their own lights at you to warn you of a light failure. Should one of your car’s bulbs need replacing, it’s recommended to replace them in pairs so that optimal light output is always assured.
Bulbs can be changed by a professional or you can attempt to do so yourself. If you choose to do so, then ensure the following:
- The bulbs are turned off
- The bulbs are cooled down (wait if they’ve been on recently)
- Check your car’s handbook for instructions before you begin
- Avoid touching or holding the bulb by the glass if it is halogen. Try to wear goggles and gloves due to handling glass
- Check that the bulb works after fitting it and ensure that the headlight level is re-aligned if replacing a headlamp
Your car’s battery powers all your car’s electrical systems such as the lights and is the only source of power that gets your car started. Having the condition of the car battery checked regularly is therefore vital. Cold weather and the use of in-car technologies such as entertainment systems, air conditioning and satellite navigation systems all put strain on your car’s battery and can lead to a premature failure. As such, regular battery checks are even more important in today’s technological age to avoid a breakdown or failure to start. Some professionals will offer a battery checking service for free if you are in any doubt.
Your number plate must also be kept clean and clear like the lights so that your vehicle can always be identified when necessary. This could result in a £1,000 fine if not followed and a failure of your car’s MOT test.
Like when checking brake level fluid, checking the other fluids in your car on a weekly basis is also recommended. Such fluids include your hydraulic fluid reservoir, the fluids in your screen-wash system and anti-freeze (in winter).
Windows, Wipers and Windscreen
Ensure that your windows and windscreen are kept clean and free from any obstructions to your vision. Dirt and grime can build up quickly on your windscreen all year around, so wash it regularly and keep windscreen washer fluid topped up to maintain visibility. Small chips in your windscreen could rapidly deteriorate into a bigger problem, so it’s best to get these fixed as and when they are spotted if possible.
Like many other parts of your car, your windscreen wipers will deteriorate over time, so it is generally recommended that they be replaced annually. However, this may need to occur sooner should any of the following occur:
- The wiper blade is not making contact with the windscreen
- The wiper blades are leaving streaks on the windscreen
- The wiper blades aren’t reaching all the areas of the windscreen they should be, leaving sections wet and dirty
- The rubber sections of the wiper blades have noticeable cracks/splits in them
- The wipers make an unpleasant squealing noise when passing over the windscreen
- The wipers judder over the windscreen instead of moving smoothly
If your car smells strangely of things like petrol, an electrical fault or burning rubber then investigate the source of the smell immediately. Failure to do so could result in a fire.
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