Regular preventive maintenance is probably the single thing you can do as a car owner to keep your ride happy and save money on repairs in the future. However, not everyone agrees on what preventive maintenance is, what you should do, and when you should do it.
A recent survey has revealed one in 10 motorists* can’t or won’t carry out basic maintenance tasks, putting themselves and others at risk. It’s a well-known fact some basic maintenance tasks are less popular than others. With the help of our qualified engineers from the Warranty Direct claims team we’ve looked into some of the least popular tasks and pulled together a list of recommendations and solutions to make things a little easier…
Changing your windscreen wipers
It’s not always obvious when windscreen wipers need changing – that is until you experience a spell of really bad weather and find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. Changing your wipers yourself is relatively straightforward and can save you a wad of cash if you know how to do it correctly:
- Before buying new wipers, try simply wiping the dirt and hardened rubber off your blades with a wet rag. Sometimes you can prolong the life of them by doing this.
- If you do need to change your wipers they will exhibit some of the following symptoms such as streaking water, leaving a milky film when wiping and making a squeaking nose when turned on.
- Before you buy your wipers, make sure you know the exact model of your car. This includes the year, make, model and further specifications such as ‘type.’ It’s usually a good idea to replace both blades at once if one has gone bad, as the other will soon follow suit.
- When you begin the process, make sure you pull the entire wiper assembly up, so that they remain vertical. Then turn the blade perpendicular to the arm so that the hinge is visible. You’ll notice a small tab on one side of the hinge. Pull that tab out and then pull the wiper down towards the car, this will enable you to separate the blade from the arm.
- Be careful not to let the wiper arm snap back without a blade attached as this could crack your car’s windscreen.
- To determine which hole a new wiper goes through, adjust the hinge to be perpendicular to the wiper and line it up so the arm’s hook will go over the hinge. You’ll feel and hear a click when it’s snapped in.
Apparently when it comes to tyre maintenance, 45% of drivers are not confident** they know how to check their tyres are in safe and legal condition, which is worrying as drivers are recommended to check tyre pressures and conditions every two weeks. Some solutions to help improve tyre maintenance include:
- Making air pressure adjustments a two-man job. Having a friend or partner with you to hold the tyre caps and check the rising pressure whilst your moving around the car will make the process quicker and more efficient.
- If you get a flat or punctured tyre on the motorway, you will need to pull into the hard shoulder in a safe manner. The hard shoulder, however, is not a suitable place to change a car tyre. You’ll want to either turn off the motorway first or, if that’s not possible, call for breakdown assistance and get a recovery vehicle to pick you and your car up. Warranty Direct offers two unique breakdown cover products that offer roadside assistance with either local or national recovery included.
- If you are in a safe place, such as your drive, and want to attempt changing a tyre you’ll need the right equipment. Besides the spare tyre itself of course, you’ll also need a car jack and the correct wheel-nut wrench. It’s always best to keep all of this in your car, in case you need to change a tyre while far away from home.
Changing headlight bulbs
Many non-car enthusiasts are scared of what is under the hood of a car. But whether you want to save money, time, or both, changing your car headlight bulbs can be easy and rewarding.
- As headlights grow dimmer with age it is often recommended that you replace both headlight lamps at the same time, so as to not make driving difficult due to different brightness on the road.
- Make sure your car engine is turned off, then open the hood to your car.Usually the hood release is located in the cab of your car, below the steering column
- Remove the plastic backing.Most modern cars have a plastic bulb cover, which can be removed by either popping off the cap or turning the cap. Remove the electrical connector from your bulb. This piece is usually a plastic plug with a wiring running from the light bulb to the electrical equipment of your car. At this point, the bulb should be ready to pull out of the headlamp casing.
- When handling both the old and the new bulb, it is important that you do not touch the glass with your hand or any part of your skin. The oils from your skin could cause the bulb to short circuit and not work properly, or even break.
- Once the new bulb is put in place, it’s important to retrace your steps and put all elements back in place, making sure to apply a small amount of force to reseat the new bulb into the plug and of course remembering to test them afterwards!
Charging your car battery
Car batteries go flat for a number of reasons such as if you forget to turn your lights off when you park your car, or leave it parked for a long period of time. A lot of people worry about charging a battery on their own, usually because they assume it is going to be very technical or because they aren’t familiar with regular checks under the car bonnet. However, if you know the correct checklist it is easier than you might think.
- Make sure you take a look at what kind of battery you have, as not all chargers will be suitable for the make of your vehicle. A car with start/stop technology will have an AGM or EFB battery, which will need a ‘smart’ charger.
- Check the lead terminals and clamps that connect them before starting the process. If they look dirty or tarnished, you’ll need to clean them in order to charge your battery properly.
- Always disconnect the negative lead first and reconnect it last, otherwise you could get a nasty shock when you touch the positive terminal and are grounded.
- Check the manual for your individual charger to find out how long it will take and what you need to do when the battery is charged. Some may turn off automatically when the battery is charged, but others may need to be disconnected.
- Remember batteries can give off hydrogen gas while they’re being charged, especially if they’re being charged at a higher voltage by a fast charger. Keep the charger away from the battery and make sure you don’t leave anything on top of the battery that could be impaired.
It’s tempting to avoid car maintenance, especially in tough economic times, but that’s not a financially sound method to manage the big investment you’ve made in your vehicle. A well-maintained vehicle lasts longer, retains more of its resale value, pollutes less, and gets better mileage than one that’s been neglected — to say nothing of being safer to operate.
Just for that motoring peace of mind, it’s also worth considering having a reliable car warranty service in place for your vehicle as well in case your car should ever let you down with a sudden failure. With Warranty Direct, policies include up to a maximum contribution of £250 towards recovery costs if a breakdown is a result of a failure of an insured part and if you do not have cover elsewhere. For information about our warranty products, visit our website here.
* – GoCompare survey results published in The Mirror – 30th September 2015
** – As reported by Fleet News – 28th January 2016