It’s easy to think your car is invincible, isn’t it?
It looks good, feels good and drives perfectly, but have you considered what might be going on unbeknownst to you? Your timing belt might be about to snap, your tyres might have a slow puncture, or your engine oil might be critically low. And in a split second, you’ve got a nightmare on your hands.
It’s when you’re planning a road trip that ensuring your car has a proper service check-up can most easily pass you by. You’re busy organising your schedule, packing, making sure you’re work tasks are up to date, or paying that overdue bill before you go.
But actually, your pre-road trip planning can be the perfect opportunity to get your car into tip-top condition not just for the trip itself, but for when you return. Many aspects of a car service can keep your vehicle maintained for some time.
Most car servicing centres and garages offer different types of service, each of which will vary in the number of checks performed and naturally, they will also vary in price. But even the most basic service should check certain essential aspects of your vehicle’s maintenance.
So here are my 5 top car maintenance tips to consider before your road trip.
Tyres without enough air can cause blowouts or accidents. It’s essential to have the air pressure well maintained. I get mine checked at least once per month and then every 6,000 to 8,000 miles, I get my tyres rotated for longer tread life. The alignment of your tyres should also be checked routinely to avoid uneven tread wear.
When I first moved to the UK, my other half used to travel a few times a week, for work, between Cambridge and Northampton. One winter evening he suffered a big tyre puncture and couldn’t get back home without getting the tyre replaced. He called me in a panic and 5 minutes later I saw that you can book your tyres online from Calmac Tyres Northampton. An hour, all was good.
Unexpected issues with your tyres can arise even when they are well maintained. So it’s also worth having a tyre pressure gauge in your boot. It’s an affordable, easy-to-use tool that can also help you prevent pulling over with a flat tyre.
Oil keeps your engine’s parts rotating smoothly. Basically, your car can’t run without enough oil. Most vehicles can go 5,000 to 10,000 miles between oil changes but consult your owner’s manual to determine how long yours will last. And make sure you don’t leave it longer than you should. It’s a good idea to check your oil level once a month and check other fluids as well, like your water and brake fluid levels. And remember, every car service, however basic, must cover fluid checks and top-ups.
It’s vital that you don’t wait for the audible signs that your brake pads need to be changed before getting them checked out. These signs will include screeching or grating.
There’s no fixed formula for knowing how often a change of brake pads is needed. It’s based on a variety of factors, including your driving style. So if you live in an area where the volume of traffic means you have to stop and go a lot, your pads are going to feel the effects of it. Always get your brake pads checked out when you have your car serviced.
Wipers are pretty inexpensive compared with other car parts. Your visibility is more than essential, so don’t wait until you can hardly see what’s ahead of you to get your wipers changed! If you notice your wipers screeching or causing too much friction with your windscreen, get them checked out. It’s a simple but vital maintenance issue.
Take it from me – you don’t want to wait until you’re stuck in a downpour for your faulty wipers to make you rear end shunt the car in front of you!
Lights include your headlights, brake lights reverse lights and your indicators. Basically, they let other vehicles and pedestrians know what you are doing. So a broken or faulty light can really increase the chances of a completely unnecessary accident. You can also be fined for not having lights in working order.
A good service will manually test each light to check that it’s working properly. It’s an important maintenance issue, so consider it essential to keep on top of.
And one more…
I’ll mention one more essential issue here because it’s one I’ve paid a big price for. I mentioned it earlier on – your timing belt – aka cambelt or camshaft. It’s a relatively simply maintained and inexpensive part of your car (next to the engine). But if not checked at least once a year and changed when necessary, it can cause irreparable engine damage.
It’s something I learned a few years ago when I delayed my annual service by a month. A week before my service, I popped across the channel to France for a day trip. An hour after driving off the ferry, my timing belt snapped and completely destroyed my engine. The repair costs would have been higher than the value of the vehicle and I had to write it off. So be warned! This, in addition to the other aspects of car servicing and maintenance I’ve discussed here, will not only save you thousands over time but could save lives, including yours!