We’ve talked (three articles now, whew, that was a lot, we hope you learnt something) on getting to know your car and the importance of understanding it’s feel and it’s warning signs so that you don’t find yourself caught on the side of the road. This article takes it a step further by outlining how a little more in depth practical knowledge, we daresay, almost mechanical (it’s okay, breathe, it’s not too involved) information to keep your vehicle in tip top shape and on the path from the road to you home rather than somewhere unexpected. Or worse, a fully qualified mechanic. Here is some more of that info that allows you to go that extra mile (pun intended) and can help you from needing a car towing service.
Checking the Oil
Engine oil lubricates the engine so everything runs smooth and easily, reducing friction and preventing overheating as well as wear and tear on parts. It’s a good bet that while many people know they need to check the oil in their car often, most people don’t do it. IT’s important to know how much oil you have and monitor its level. Further for those who are noobies in the car area, how to read a dipstick, and where to put oil if you are low. Car towing services see people with engine trouble all the time and one of the first thing a mechanic will ask you is whether the oil had been checked recently.
Learn to change a tyre and check their pressures
Changing a tire is simple. The mechanics anyway. While even we would agree, especially in the age of wheel nut drill guns, that sometimes it takes a bit of strength to get those wheel nuts off. If you can’t, we understand. We forgive you.
What we wouldn’t forgive is not changing a tyre because you simply don’t know how, or don’t have the equipment in the car to do so (whether or not you may have taken them out to instead replace them with a bottle of Jim beam is something that we won’t discuss).
Long story short, if you don’t know how to change a tyre, learn! It’s one of those everyday important pieces of knowledge everyone should have in their back pocket and may save you a few dollars by not requiring a car towing service or roadside assistance.
Get in the habit of checking the tyre pressure and treads. This requires no mechanical knowledge at all, only having to remember a number (tyre pressure level) however as we have discussed this before in a previous article (HERE) last week we won’t go into too much depth. Similarly, a quick check of the tread will allow you to give you plenty of warning when you need new ones.
Finally, tyres should be rotated to make them last longer. This is swapping the left with the right as they will tend to wear in the same place. Swapping, or “rotating” them will spread out the wear and extend their life. The best thing you can do is leave a card in your glove box and write down the number of kilometres the car had done when new tyres were added. Most manufactures recommend the tuyres being rotated at least every ten thousand kilometres.
Battery and Electrical Maintenance
Another easy preventative method that falls on the easy mechanical checklist to prevent need of a car towing service, is checking the battery. General battery maintenance is both easy and essential for long term health of your car and as always, care and attention allows you to monitor and locate possible future problems, cutting them short before something drastic goes wrong.
NOTE: – It is important when dealing with the battery however that you do not touch anything you do not touch anything you are not familiar with. As always, dealing with electricity, your health and safety is paramount.
Every now and then it is good to keep an eye on how well the electrical systems are working in the car. Pay attention to your dashboard lights and see if they are telling you anything (consult with your car’s manual). IF you feel you have issues with dimming lights or they are flickering, pull over and try all the car lights, both external and internal. Take the time to turn them on and get out and check them? Are they flickering? You may have a battery or electrical fault. Be careful to turn them all off once you are finished so you don’t drain what power you have.
If you believe you have an issue, try the horn. It’s normally electrical and if it does not work either, it is likely that there is a battery or electrical problem.
One further thing you can do if you are having problem, is to check the fuse board. IT is quite simple to learn a) where the fuses are kept and b) how to check the manual to see which fuse performs which task. IF you don’t know how, just ask, this is a very simple task and even replacing them normally takes less than a minute unless they are in a hard to reach location. It is also recommended that you keep a arrange of spare fuses that match your car on hand as these a relatively inexpensive.
Changing the Spark Plugs
Given the right fitting, changing a spark plug takes no time at all. Hopefully you are getting your car serviced regularly and any spark plugs are changed when required but sometimes they do get missed or they deteriorate rapidly long before the next service is due. The recommended changing time for spark plugs is between twenty thousand and forty thousand kilometres and similarly to the tyres, it’s worth having the kilometres of the last change written on a card (yes it can be the same card) in a glove box so that you can always check. Things to look out for is the engine jolting or misfiring. If so, one of the first things you can check is the sparks plug.
Again, as you are dealing with electrical components, check your manual or online about safety requirements before handling or removing them.
An engine requires certain fluids to operate other than oil, such as water and coolant. Again, it is an easy, simple job that can be done in about two minutes to check that all levels are where they should be. This includes even the levels for your windscreen wipers etc. Another minute or two is required to top these up when necessary. While you are under the hood, check to ensure there are no spills or hoses leaking. If you see an unknown fluid, you may want to keep an eye on it to ensure that it isn’t coming from the engine.
Lights and Windscreen Wipers The final quick check that you can do to prevent the need of a car towing service is check that all your lights are working and that windscreen wipers clean efficiently. While any of these won’t stop your car from working, they are essential when driving through bad weather and there have been many a people who have found themselves caught unaware of bad lighting or windscreen wipers that don’t work during a downpour. Even if you don’t regularly drive at night or rarely drive in the rain, a monthly check of these to ensure they are working properly and efficiently can be a saving grace if caught expectantly.