Car Maintenance Guide

Car maintenance: An ultimate guide

All drivers know that to keep your vehicle running smoothly and efficiently it should be maintained as often as possible. Regular maintenance of your car also means that in the future you could save money on repair costs.

There are a variety of car tips and advice out there and they can be very confusing, so we thought we’d clear that up for you. To make this easier for you, we will divide this guide into three parts; the interior of the car, the exterior of the car, and a general overview of other features that make the automobile function effectively – for example; water, engine oil and more. The first thing to do is to familiarise yourself with the user manual of your automobile. It is important to do this so you can immediately identify if there is a problem and can easily locate essential information again later.

Interior

Some people spend an exorbitant amount of time in their cars and we know that it can get quite messy in there – and for those of us with kids we know it can look like a war zone. There’s mud and debris on the carpets, there’s food stains on the seats and food crumbs stuffed into parts of the car and maybe even liquid stains as well. If you have pets you can also add fur to the equation.

If you have owned your car for a long time then you probably will have noticed that the leather is covered with spots and stains. There are a variety of cleaning products on the market right now for this exact purpose. You should try to find one with fewer chemical ingredients, especially if you have kids or pets. It’s worth remembering that if you plan on using a cleaning product for the first time you should do a spot-test on an inconspicuous part of the car first just in case there are any negative reactions. If you are using a leather cleaner, you should spray onto a clean cloth and then use the cloth to wipe the stains until you are satisfied with the results. Be careful not to scrub too hard to avoid fading the leather. If you want to clean the crevices in the car you can use a wet cloth, if possible, but some crevices are harder to reach with a cloth, so in this situation you can use Q-tips (also known as cotton buds). Dip the tip in water before using to catch all the dirt and dust.

Other spots within the car with heavy usage are the carpets, which may be covered in dirt, mud, stains, hairs, furs and more. You should vacuum first to get rid of loose debris, food crumbs, fur and more. After vacuuming you can use a stain lifter or just dish washing liquid to scrub at the stains. For scrubbing, you should use an old soft-bristled brush or sponge and keep repeating till you are satisfied with the result. When you are satisfied, wipe over the wet spot with a clean cloth and the vacuum one more for good measure. Remember to lift the carpet and vacuum underneath it.

After cleaning the carpets the next important part that needs cleaning are the seats. As with the carpets, the seats see a lot of action so they require special attention. The method of cleaning depends on the fabric. Most cars are fitted with leather upholstery, but there are still cars with a variety of fabrics out there. First, use a vacuum cleaner to suck up any loose dirt in the crevices of the car, then concentrate on the stains. It will be a bit easier to clean seats with leather material: just spray on the cleaner after spot testing (see above), and wipe the stains gently until clean. For any other fabric, spray cleaner onto a clean cloth and the scrub at the stain and repeat until clean.

Exterior

Your tyres are the most important feature of your vehicle and therefore extra attention should be paid to to them. You should endeavour to check your tyre pressures every couple of weeks against the recommended levels in your user manual.

You should also look out for cuts in the tires. If this is not addressed immediately it might lead to safety issues further along the road. Also, remember to check your spare tyre as well. You can purchase a cheap tyre pressure gauge online and store it in the glove compartment.

If you plan on buying new tyres then you should make sure that you either know the tyre sizes that are suitable for your vehicle or you take in one of your tyres to a tyre shop.

To clean your tyres you should use a non acid based cleaner; acid based cleaners are normally used by professional cleaners because they know exactly how much to use and what parts of the tyres to use it on. For a standard weekend clean, you can use something as general as dish washing liquid and a clean cloth to wipe dirt and stains.

Driving a car with broken lights is actually a safety hazard and a crime in most countries, so it should therefore be checked regularly. To do this, turn on the engine and turn on the headlights, test the brake lights, indicator lights and the main beam. You will need help to do this, but if nobody is available you can use the reflections from windows to check if your lights are working. If you notice any damage you should address it as soon as possible.

The first point of contact to your car is the body and paint job, so we need to make sure that it looks immaculate. We recommend regular hand washing. Most drivers actually enjoy washing their car as they do not see it as a chore, and instead they find it quite peaceful and tranquil. Hand washing gives the driver an opportunity to familiarise yourself with the shape and curve of your automobile. It also gives you the opportunity to inspect the surface, the bumper and the wing mirrors for anything that requires attention, such as exposed bodywork or rust. You should avoid using washing detergent to wash the body of your car as it can damage the protective wax coating and exposes the paintwork to scratches and stains. After washing, you should dry with a clean cloth to avoid giving the water the chance to dry on the vehicle, as this will leave your car with spots and dirt on the surface. After washing you should then pay extra attention to the paint job. Run your hand over the surface of the car and if it feels rough then it needs to be cleaned. You can use paint cleaners to remove wax and clean the top layer of the paint, or you could use a paint cleaning clay that has been lubricated with a liquid wax cleaner for a safer contaminant remover.

General

The last bit of cleaning should be the glass. It is going to be covered with hand prints, smudges, stains, condensation and more. The best glass cleaner shouldn’t have ammonia present in it’s ingredients as it is not good for the upholstery. Buff the glass with a clean cloth to get rid of residue and oil streaks.

You should also use your dipstick to check your oil levels often, especially before long journeys, to avoid breaking down while you’re on the road. Try to check your water levels every week. Be sure to do this when the engine has cooled down as the levels are different when the oil is still hot. You should also use a tissue to with the stick clean before replacing and the withdrawing again to see if the oil level is between the minimum and maximum levels indicated on the stick. It is also worth checking your antifreeze levels in the winter seasons. Having a functioning screen-wash system is not only a safety precaution but is also mandatory by law so you must always keep it topped up with screen-wash that clears grime. You should also familiarise yourself with your windscreen. Keep and eye out for damage and chips and address them as soon as you spot them – if not the chip might grow into a crack and the crack can turn into shattered glass at the next speed bump. You should also check the treads of your tyres at least once a month, the legal minimum requirement in the UK is 1.6mm so drivers need to make sure their treads are up to standard or run the risk of being penalised.

Finally, it is always a good idea to have a toolkit stored somewhere within your car. You never really know what might happen but it’s an advantage to have the necessary tools to address any issues that might come up when you are on the road.