Give your car a little lovin’ this month: 10 tips to keep your ride in shape

<B>TIPS FOR ALL MOTORISTS:</B> Show your vehicle some love during February. <I>Image: iStock</I>
<B>TIPS FOR ALL MOTORISTS:</B> Show your vehicle some love during February. <I>Image: iStock</I>

Cape Town - It’s the month of love and just like you would take care of your loved one, you should be taking care of your car. With the cost of living on the rise, taking care of your vehicle should be at the top of your priority list. 

Vishal Premlall, director of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), says: “There is no truer saying than, ‘Take care of your car and it will take care of you’." 

“You don’t have to be a mechanical expert to take care of your car. You just need to be aware of what you should be keeping an eye on, and keep a regular maintenance schedule."

Premlall provides 10 simple basic car care tips to ensure your car stays on the road longer, and that you pick up smaller repairs before they become big ticket items. 

1. Read the car's manual and schedule maintenance accordingly. Don’t let your manual sit neglected in your glove compartment. Keeping up with your car's recommended maintenance schedule can help avoid costly problems with your cooling system, drivetrain, suspension and other components. Following the recommended schedule religiously and only use quality oil, fluids and parts.  

2. Battery check: Like other car parts that have been made to last longer, most car batteries are maintenance-free and can last more than three years. The first sign that may indicate you need a new battery is if you have trouble starting the engine.

3. Good visibility: One of the most neglected basic tips is taking care of your windshield wipers. You should change your wipers every 12 months, or if the rubber becomes worn. You will also want to check the wiper fluid reservoir and keep it full.

READ: Vehicle maintenance in SA: 7 essential checks

4. Use online forums: You want to learn about potential problems before they happen so that you can prevent them - or fix them immediately. Find an owners’ forum online and get on the wavelength of what the potential problems could be as your car gets older.

5. Check the fluids: You should check the level of your antifreeze, oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid, regularly. Perhaps get someone who knows more about cars, or your mechanic to check it. Even if your car doesn't leak fluids, it can develop a leak and quickly have a dangerously low level of fluids. It’s also important to change the oil regularly. This will improve your mileage and protect your engine.

The recommended mileage between oil changes is 5000 - 8000km or every three to six months. It's also important to change the oil filter as well - there is no sense in putting clean oil through a dirty filter, and filters are cheap and available at any parts store. Please check your service manual, or contact your dealer for your car's specific needs.

6. Brake pads: Monitor your brake pad thickness and don't let the pads wear down to metal. This will cause damage to your brake rotors (discs) at least and possibly your calipers as well. Rotors and calipers are much more expensive to replace than pads. 

7. Rotate the tyres: Changing tyre position is very important and reduces uneven wear and tear on the tread, thus extending the life of the tyres. Generally they should be rotated diagonally - front right to rear left and front left to rear right. You also need to check your tyre pressure regularly. Proper tyre inflation will help the tyres handle better and last longer, and it will help you get the most out of a tank of petrol. It’s also a good idea to have your tyres checked for wear regularly.

READ: SA's cheapest cars to service and repair revealed...

8. Use your hand brake: Even if you are driving a car with an automatic transmission, use your hand brake regularly, especially if you're parked on an incline. It helps keep the brakes adjusted in the rear of the car and makes them last longer. 

9. Don’t ignore small problems: Pay close attention to your vehicle’s noises and also to its warning lights and even cosmetic things, like a piece of rubber trim that’s loose. Ignoring a problem only allows it to get worse and parts for aging vehicles only get harder to find. 

10. Give your car some love: Wash it, wax it and vacuum it, and treat all leather surfaces. You will protect both the paint and the interior from aging prematurely.

Premlall says these tips are all valid irrespective of whether you own a new or used vehicle and stresses again the importance of regular maintenance which is the key to extending the life of your car. 

He concludes: “Why not make this month the month to give your car a little love and attention. It could save you in the long run. Visit your local service centre for additional advice and tips on how to best maintain your car."

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