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
In a UK first, a simple smart plug-in connects and protects millions of unconnected drivers. There are 37 million vehicles on the UK’s roads, 30 million of which have none of the accident alert, fault warnings and theft tracking capabilities of newer cars. But now, motorists can ‘get connected’ without having to wait to upgrade their car with Smartdriverclub.
Smartdriverclub is a completely unique membership service that offers motorists greater protection both on the road and when managing their car’s running costs, through the connectivity that comes as standard in new cars but without the heavy ‘new car’ price tag. Available to consumers driving vehicles that have been registered since 2010, it costs just £6.60* per month.
It works like this, once a customer joins the club, as a member, they will be sent a small device – the Smartplug – which they insert in an easily accessed socket, normally underneath the steering column. They can then view all of their Smartdriverclub services via their smartphone using the free Smartdriverclub app called ‘Viewpoint’ or online via their laptop or tablet device.
Benefits include essential safety features like automatic emergency assistance, breakdown help that can see the driver’s location to find them faster, theft tracking that can speed up Police recovery and a digital mechanic that can identify faults to help motorists avoid worsening the damage or even prevent a breakdown. It can even provide in-car wifi for those challenging ‘kiddie’ car journeys and a valuation service is included for when a motorist is ready to sell their car, from Cap Hpi.
Motor industry expert, Penny Searles, the brainchild behind Smartdriverclub, says: “I have elderly parents who make long journeys quite regularly, and it bothered me that I had no idea if they were OK until they reached their destination. If they were in an accident, I wanted to know that there would be no delay in emergency services being informed. If they broke down, I wanted to know that they’d be located by roadside recovery without unnecessary delay. They don’t drive a new car and whilst, of course, they have mobile phones, it’s not always easy to know exactly where you are if you’ve broken down.
“Parents with teenagers who have recently taken to the roads will also value the peace of mind of the services they get with Smartdriverclub, like being able to see where their car is at any time, or being immediately informed in the case of a serious accident.
“But these benefits are just the tip of the iceberg – the money saving features put motorists in control. We have deliberately priced the service to be as accessible as possible to motorists. For example, the theft tracking alone if purchased separately could be from £300 per year.
“It’s easy for motorists to get this level of protection in the US, without having to buy a new car, so I wanted to bring the same concept to the UK. Why should UK motorists have to wait to get the advantages of new car connectivity? Now with Smartdriverclub they don’t have to. We are anticipating a huge amount of interest – not only from motorist themselves but from motor dealers and brands looking to find ways to offer greater protection to their customers.”
SmartDriverClub comprises the following services in one package:
- My Mechanic – This will alert a motorist if a car problem crops up, suggest what they can do about it and find a local dealer they can talk to.
- Crash Assistance – If the customer is in a collision and Smartdriverclub can’t reach the customer on their mobile phone, they will contact the emergency services and direct them to the location.
- Stolen Car – An in-car tracker activated by the customer means that if it’s stolen, the Police should know exactly where to look.
- Breakdown Help – Smartdriverclub will inform roadside assistance so they know where the customer is and have useful information about their car.
- My Driving – Motorists can save money on fuel costs by seeing how efficiently their car performs on each journey with a smart driving history that helps them manage fuel use.
- My Deals – Customers can save money on everything from servicing to new tyres. Just tap through the app for the latest deal from their dealership.
- Value My Car – Smartdriverclub provides a valuation of the customer’s car that’s actually based on their car so that they can use this instant price for better deals and finance.
- Where Did I Park? – A handy little map is provided to those that have forgotten where they parked
- Club Insurance – from May – Cover for good drivers based on their driving behaviour, to ensure customers are not paying for the poor behaviour of others.
- Car Wi-Fi optional – Family car journeys are always a challenge especially with teenagers in the back seat desperate to upload the latest selfie or to connect with their friends on chat. A connected road trip could also mean a blissful journey with everyone occupied in the car.
A new study of 3-8 year old cars from Warranty Direct reveals the Mercedes Benz R-Class (06-15) and Saab 9-3 (04-12) are the cars most likely to suffer suspension damage. Hyundai’s Santa Fe (06-12) and the Land Rover Discovery 3 (04-10) have the next most susceptible suspension, with 13.9 and 13.3 percent respectively of Warranty Direct customers claiming for axle & suspension damage annually.
Potholes are typically at their most prevalent on Britain’s underinvested road network between January and April, as heavy rainfall undermines the lower structural layers of roads, creating cracks then more potholes, increasing the likelihood of suspension damage.
The recent Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey revealed that local authorities spent a total of £118.4m filling 2,190,026 potholes across England and Wales in the last year, but also paid out an additional £13.5m in compensation claims.
With the average repair bill for pothole damage now £350, Warranty Direct’s database of 50,000 live policies shows that the most vulnerable cars are more than 15 times worse than the most robust models.
At the opposite end of the scale, the Ford S-Max (06-15) and Nissan Qashqai (07-14) share top billing as the cars least likely to be affected by the UK’s pothole-ridden roads; both boast an impressive clean sheet when it comes to model claims relating to axle & suspension damage.
Top 10 cars with the highest % chance of an annual axle & suspension related claim
|Make||Model Group||Year||% chance of an axle & suspension related claim annually|
|LAND ROVER||DISCOVERY 3||(04-10)||
Warranty Direct managing director, David Gerrans, said: “The variation you see in suspension damage from one model to another is remarkable.”
“Potholes are a major factor in causing axle & suspension failure and any vehicle regularly driven over impaired road surfaces or used for commuting over pothole-strewn routes will ultimately incur damage eventually.
“Components such as bushes, track rod ends, drop links, springs and dampers are all susceptible. Visit our Potholes.co.uk site for detailed advice on how best to make a compensation claim for any vehicle damaged by potholes.”