If you don’t want to be left stranded on the hardshoulder while everyone else speeds by on holiday this summer, you should carry out some simple car checks.
Like all of us, our cars need a bit of love and attention every now and again. Some of this can be performed at home; some needs to be carried out by a professional with the right kit. So we’ve split our summer checks into two: those you can do yourself, and those to ask a garage to do. The good news is, some garages will even do all the work for you by carrying out free summer car checks.
Home car checks
All year round it’s your tyres that connect your car to the road. But to do so effectively and safely they need regular, fortnightly maintenance. A visual inspection will tell you whether there are any nails or shards of glass sticking in them. And you should look for bulges in the sidewall. These indicate a possible structural failure that could lead to a blow out.
Then inspect the tread depth and pressure on each tyre, including the spare if your car has one. Random checks by the tyre industry have shown the majority of tyres don’t have enough air in them. In the summer when road surfaces can be hot, this increases the chances of the tyre overheating and failing.
Of course, the summer should be dry and sunny. The reality is there can be some serious downpours. To prevent your car aquaplaning on soaking surfaces, the tyres need to have more than the 1.6mm legal limit of tread depth. Find out how to check your tyres here.
Screen wash and wipers
There’s nothing that perks us up more than the summer sun. Sadly it has the same effect on the insect population, many of which come to a sticky end on our windscreens during the summer months. Water alone won’t shift them; you need screen wash. But on most motors it’s impossible to check how much screen wash is left. You simply have to fill the reservoir to the brim. Here’s all you need to know about filling up with screen wash.
Check your windscreen wiper blades too. Run your finger along the leading edge of the blade. It should be completely smooth with no nicks or tears. If the blades are screeching on the screen or smearing, they could have come to the end of their life. Here’s how to check your wipers.
You wouldn’t head to the beach without a drink so don’t embark on a long journey before checking your car has sufficient coolant. The level should be between the ‘MIN’ and ‘MAX’ markers on the expansion bottle beneath the bonnet. If you’re not sure where it is, look in your car’s user manual. Check your oil too. If you wait until the engine warning light comes on, it could be too late to prevent lasting damage. Read how to check your oil here.
Checking your car’s light bulbs is simple. You just turn them on and walk around the car. Remember to make sure the indicators are working. And get someone to help you check the brake lights. On some cars, bulbs are easy for an amateur to replace. But if you’re not sure, ask a professional.
Garage car checks
The most frequent cause of breakdowns is battery trouble. There are some clues that a battery might be about to fail such as the starter motor struggling to turn the engine over. However it’s best to have your battery checked by a professional. Most garages will do this for free. Read all you need to know about battery care here.
If you’re going on holiday, particularly if you’re driving to somewhere hot, it makes sense to have your air-con serviced before you head off. To work at its most efficient, your car’s air-conditioning needs servicing every two to three years. This will usually entail having it pressure tested and re-gassed. You need to do this because the gas used in air-con systems gradually leaks out over time.