So it is winter, and it is a time that maintenance issues come to a head when it comes to our most important form of transportation- the car. If tyre tread is wearing thin and batteries used for the last 2 or 3 years are not charging like they used to, then it is guaranteed that when you are in the midst of a busy day something will stop you dead in your tracks. To make matters worse, it could be in the middle of a busy intersection in peak hour. Just for fun, here are the lyrics for Greased Lightening, we all want to sing that one in the car …
Properly inflated tires with good tread-a must for good road holding and safety.
Note; please read about battery and electrical safety in your car manual before checking your battery. If in doubt about anything, seek advice from your car manufacturers service agent or a good mechanic.
1. Tyres will last between roughly between 50 to 100 thousand kilometres, depending on type, driving habits and maintenance. Check the tread depth is more than a few millimetres deep, so you do not skid off the road in the wet. Keep them inflated at the correct pressure; it will increase tyre life and save a lot of fuel. Make sure they are balanced properly and steering wheel wobbles are checked quickly. When you fill up, look at the tyres as you walk back to the car; an under-inflated tyre will bulge and can be easily spotted. For a great tyre supplier with good service try Bob Jane T-marts in Chirnside Park. If you are local, you will appreciate their service, diligence and pricing.
The battery terminals are in the fore-ground, the red capped positive terminal and the negative is along the edge of the bonnet. The battery is located in the back of the Holden Omega wagon, on the left-hand side.
2. Modern cars can have batteries that drop dead quickly with little warning. If you are 'tech' saavy, buy a digital multi-meter from Jaycar or Dick Smith's and make sure the battery reads between 12.7 to 13.2 with motor running and above 12 with the motor off. The difference is due to the charging circuit from the alternator while the car runs.
3. Keep you service report sheets in a folder in the pocket behind a seat. Read them coming into winter and think when they were last serviced relative to the current odometer reading. If you have a car that has not had brake shoes or pads in over '60K', then have them checked. Imagine a wet road with brake pads and tyres near worn out, and save disastrous circumstance. It pays to keep records and have checks done at regular intervals.
4. Don't turn up the radio to hide unusual noises. Find out when they happen and report to your car service agent for advice. An examples is humming from the front or back, even when rolling in neutral over 60 kilometres per hour, with the engine off. A possibility could be a wheel bearing failure. Note the test described covers a number of conditions, to eliminating the gear box or auto transmission and engine -knowing a failing wheel bearing hums at higher speeds.
Monitoring fluid levels in a car may prevent major issues if leaks are detected.
5. Who actually gets out of their car and checks their lights? It is cold and maybe raining, or even worse hailing? Be smart, get in the car, start the engine at night and test all the lights without moving from your seat. Brake lights, indicators, headlights and taillights can all be seen without standing in the cold.
6. Read the manual and learn where things are, and use the index at the start or end of the manual and find the maintenance section. You will never be lost when it comes to import fluid level checks. Checking the oil and water, particularly for older cars, will save you the expense of major parts failing and again, the seconds spent will save hours you endure during a breakdown.
7. Other important fluid levels are the brake fluid, auto transmission or gear box and differential fluid levels. After reading the manual, you might find the brake fluid in a small plastic filler bottle, with level indicators, toward the back of the engine bay (assuming you are standing in front, looking into the engine). The radiator will be at the front normally, and it will have a filler bottle to one side, again with level indicators.
Check hoses for leaks while checking fluid levels, finding a radiator leak may prevent a breakdown miles from anywhere.
8. To check the engine oil, find a thin tube and a colored ring to pull the 'dip stick' out. Which is a thin strip of metal and makes a good rapier for messy swords fights. It will have a full and low indicator, which may just be lines and perhaps will have a 'F' or 'L' marks too. It is important to wipe them clean with a rag, reinsert them, then read the level. This is because fluid splash around when the engine runs and can give a false reading.
9. Check the wipers; you will soon see on a rainy day if they clear the windscreen properly. Other incidentals include the heating and air-conditioner for clearing a misty windscreen in seconds. Most modern cars run the air conditioner on the demist setting. Coupled with the heater being on too, it will give a clear vision fast. If you have an older car and never knew about it, try it and see. For spare parts, oils and accessories of any kind, you can save money by going to some of the after market suppliers, such as Autobarn, or Bursons, Repco.
Stretch your dollar by maintaining your car properly, it really will help you save time and money.
10. Other useful information; Read fluid levels when the car has been idle on flat ground for maybe 15 or 20 minutes, or you will get false readings. Differential levels need work to check, have you mechanic do it unless you like to do all maintenance yourself. Batteries can be located under the bonnet, the drivers seat, and in the back of wagons under a cover. Some car models have had the engine in the boot, such as Volkswagons and Mini Coopers. Do not think it has been stolen if you look under the bonnet and it is not there.
Regular servicing is important, as spark plugs, oil and air filters, and engine oil need changing regularly. Your car will simply not run if these items are neglected. There are other items to consider too. The next article can be a little more comprehensive, with tips on more involved maintenance you may wish to try. You can stretch your dollar and save so much if you find problems before they cause a breakdown! Imagine the fun and time you can have with the money and time saved.
Being such a functional yet complicated machine that it is, having the need to replace a part or component of your car is simply inevitable. Whether it may be because of wear, a road accident, or natural occurrence, no matter how painstakingly and religiously you maintain your beloved ride, there will still come a time when you will have to go and have some car parts replaced.