How to maintain your car and keep the costs down
Advice to first time car owners
Owning a car is expensive- here’s how to keep the costs down
1 Check the Air, Oil, Fluid and Water times 3, at least once a month.
For an old car this may need to be done before every drive,
for a 3+ year old car, once a week.
For a brand new car, it’s still a good habit to check these things.
Always do it before a long drive.
AIR: In the frame of the drivers door there are recommended air pressures for the tyres.
Always run the tyres at or slightly above the recommended levels. Eg recommended 34psi, keep them at 34- 37psi.
Oil: Keep the engine oil at the recommended maximum.
The engine has a dipstick. With engine off, remove dipstick and wipe it clean. Insert fully and take it out. The oil level can be seen between two notches. Keep the oil level at the full notch. Buy 4 litres of oil from Repco/Supercheap/Autozone etc so you can top it up cheaply. Be careful NOT to overfill. The difference between low and full may only be half a litre.
Auto transmissions need checking too, read the manual for how to.
Brake Fluid: The brakes work by hydraulic pressure. There are one or two master cylinders at the rear of the engine bay, on the drivers side. There will be marks to show the level. Keep them topped up but not overfull. Be aware that brake fluid destroys paintwork, if you spill any, wipe and wash with detergent instantly. Buy a small container of brake fluid when you need it, it doesn’t keep because brake fluid is hygroscopic (water absorbing).
Water Times 3
Water 1: Check the level of coolant in the radiator. NEVER try to remove the radiator cap when hot because steam is under pressure and you will be scalded. Most cars have a small overflow tank and you can see the level, or there is a dipstick built into the lid, which is safe to remove at any time. If so, you never need to remove the radiator cap. You can buy concentrated or premixed coolant when you buy the oil.
Water 2: Keep the windscreen washer fluid tank full with tap water. A few drops of morning fresh detergent helps cut through the grime.
Water 3: When you buy a new battery get a sealed one and you won’t have to check the level of the battery acid every week. If not sealed then you have to remove the cap or caps from each cell. The liquid should be 20-30mms above the plates. You can top up with cool boiled water although distilled water is best. Don’t over fill. Batteries tend to die in the winter and last 3 years.
2. Look & Listen to your car – you can save a lot of money by getting things fixed early.
Tyres: Look at the tread and see if there is any unusual wear. Wear on inside AND outside means tire pressure too low. Wear on the center, tyre pressure too high
Wear on one edge means wheels are out of alignement. Get that axle aligned, tyre shops/workshops do that. They will advise you to get all four wheels aligned, but if you have taken notice of the wear you will save yourself some money by only getting the front or the rear wheels aligned. If you have caught it quick enough you won’t have to replace the tyre and can use it for longer. Saves money.
Brakes: Disc pads wear out and when they do, you hear metal on metal when you brake. They are built so that a little bit of metal shows first and makes the slight noise. Get the pads replaced at a workshop pronto and you won’t need to have the rotors skimmed or replaced.
Get to know what your car sounds like. If you hear a new noise, track it down. It could be nothing, it could be life threatening or worse, expensive. Sometimes it’s not a noise but a smell, which could mean an electrical problem (with potential fire or maybe oil leaking.
Early prevention saves money and lives!
Don’t drive with the handbrake on, it wears the rear brakes
Don’t drive with your foot resting on the clutch, it wears out the clutch and they have to remove the engine to replace the clutch, you can guess that one is expensive.
Don’t sit at the Traffic lights with the clutch depressed, you are wearing out the thrust bearing.
Disc brakes should last 3-6 years depending on how you brake
Tyres should last 3-6 years depending on how hard you brake, accelerate and go around corners – providing you keep an eye out for uneven wear. Front wheel drive cars wear out the front tyres much quicker than the rears.
Signs of a car in good condition:
The air stays in the tyres for 6-18 months
Uses no engine or automatic oil
Never uses brake fluid.
Never needs the radiator topping up.
Battery level shouldn’t change too much but will lower more in hot conditions
If any of the above changes then you know there is something that needs attention.
Remember – check the Air, Oil, Fluid and Water times 3, at least once a month
Keep your car undercover – Cars that are stored in weatherproof garages stay in much better condition and generally have better resale value.
As cars age they begin to rust. Leaving a car exposed to the weather 24 hours a day will encourage the rust, which often makes its first appearance as tiny bubbles under the paint. Electronic components can also be damaged by the constant temperature extremes and damp conditions.