If your car is getting a little older now, you’re probably increasingly starting to dread your next trip to the garage. A quick service could easily turn into a new camshaft here, a new head gasket there and a four-figure invoice that you could have definitely done without.
Keeping your car in good nick may seem like a hassle, but it’s actually pretty easy if you keep on top of it… and it could save you a lot of money.
1) Oil Change
Engine oil is essential for keeping all the small, moving parts in the engine well-lubricated; it allows them to slide past each other with ease, minimising any excess friction and heat which will eventually wear down the engine. Over time, however, this oil starts to break down making it much less effective.
Thankfully, this is one of the easiest things to fix yourself. Better still, you don’t have to do it every 3,000 miles like you would have done in the past. You can easily go 10,000 miles before needing to change it. If you’re still worried about how much it will cost to change your oil, there are some things you should keep in mind. It’s up to you whether you decide to use synthetic or regular oil. Synthetic oil may be more expensive, but it also lasts longer and contains fewer impurities, making it better for your engine.
If your car has a turbo then you will need the synthetic oil too.
If you do decide to use a garage, be mindful of which one you visit, as there can be a big difference in prices depending on the location of the garage.
2) Change your brake pads
If you’re starting to hear screeching noises when the brakes are engaged, it might be time to replace your brake pads. This is something that garages will charge a premium for. They may make it sound difficult but it’s actually very easy, provided you have the right tools.
If you can rustle up some wrenches, pliers, a wheel lug wrench, a jack and a set of jack stands then you could save yourself a lot of money by buying and changing the pads yourself.
3) Rotate your tyres regularly
You may have noticed that your tyres don’t wear evenly. That’s perfectly normal. If you think about it, the front tires on a front-wheel drive car will be under far more pressure than those at the rear – they’re responsible for accelerating, braking and steering, so it’s natural that they wear down a bit faster.
If you rotate the tires, this additional wear can be spread across the back tyres as well. Not only does rotating your tyres methodically ensure that you get the most use out of them, but it also gives you the chance to check the brake pads while you’re at it!
Watch out for tyres that have direction indicators. If you rotate these you will need to keep them on the same side of the car or the tred will be backwards.
4) Replacing the wipers
Being able to see where you’re going is pretty important when driving. So it’s a wonder that people don’t change their wipers until they’re practically falling off. It’s better to change them before this happens so that you don’t end up losing a blade and scratching your windscreen. Doing this twice a year is a good idea.
You can make your wipers last a bit longer by taking a clean damp cloth and wiping the squeegee from end to end to get rid of any dirt that has accumulated and may be scratching your window.
5) Check your tyres
It may seem like an obvious one, but uneven or sub-optimal tyre pressure can be one of the biggest causes of irregular tyre wear and fuel usage. Some people say that you should check this weekly, but we’d say at least every month.
6) Fuel additives
The fuel choice for a classic car is important. Modern fuels have ethanol mixed into them to make them more environmentally friendly and meet those critical emissions tests. However, this can cause problems with corrosion, particularly if your car is standing for a long time. In addition to this, over the years, carbon deposits can also accumulate in the engine. Fuel additives can combat these issues.
7) Change your bulbs
It’s not legal to run your car with defective lights but these can be changed quickly and easily without the need for any fancy equipment. Cleanliness is essential when changing bulbs as grease or sweat on the bulbs can lead to a quick failure. Changing the headlight bulbs as these can be hard to access on small modern cars and the Xenon bulbs can use high voltages. These might be ones to leave to a mechanic,
You’ll probably only ever need to do this when you notice a problem, but it’s worth knowing how to do it so that you’re not left in the dark.
8) Change your battery
If you go to a dealer or a mechanic about this, they’ll charge you a lot for what is actually very little work. If you want to be on the safe side, change your battery every two to three years. This could save you a lot of time and money.
For most modern car models, you don’t need to reset your car computer when installing a new battery because they’re equipped with small back-up batteries loaded up with your data. If you’ve got a very old model, it’s worth double-checking whether your car has this feature before you go ahead and unplug your battery!
9) Check your spark plugs
Faulty spark plugs can lead to misfiring, slower acceleration and lower fuel economy. It can also lead to problems starting the car. Thankfully, if you know what to look for, you can assess the situation yourself relatively easily.
The colour of the electrode and the sparks produced can tell you if there’s something wrong, or if they need replacing.
10) Take care when driving
We all do it. Hard on the accelerate, tough on the brakes. But what about the cumulative impact of aggressive driving? Everything from turning sharply to riding over bumps at speed and hard shifting can have an impact on your car.
So start paying attention to the way you drive. Drive smoothly and within the speed limit and you’ll not only be safer, but your car (and your wallet) will thank you for it.
About the author
Though Emily writes on a broad range of topics, she is most at home when writing about cars and sheds.