If you’re a new driver, chances are that you’ll already know there’s a fair bit more to running a car than the basic ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ when it comes to keeping a vehicle. There’s the general expense of it, for a starter.
Fortunately there are several simple things you can do on a regular basis to improve fuel consumption, and reduce the number of garage visits needed. Here are a few maintenance tips for beginners.
Check your tyres regularly
Get into the habit of quickly looking at your tyres before you set off on a car journey. Spotting a damaged area could prevent an accident, and so could finding signs of general wear. In addition to the safety issue, you can receive a hefty fine for signs of wear and tear, so it’s not worth taking the risk. There’s a handy guide to this on the AA website.
If your tyres look fine, move on to the tyre pressure. It’s amazing how much money you can waste by driving with under-inflated tyres – they can reduce fuel efficiency by about five per cent – and the recent rises in petrol prices have made this even more important to avoid. Under-inflation also increases the wear on the outer edges of your tyres. Check the manufacturer’s recommended tyre pressure in your car’s manual, and stick to that.
Keep it clean
Keeping the interior of your car tidy is not just for clean freaks. Make sure that you aren’t weighing your car down with things that you don’t need to be carrying, otherwise the engine will have to work harder and you’ll burn too much expensive fuel. For example, a very overloaded boot in an average car could mean you get five miles less per gallon of petrol.
Likewise, don’t keep a roof rack attached to your car if you aren’t using it. They’re simple and straightforward to remove, and that way you’ll have less load and less drag while you’re driving.
Interior clutter and mess, and dirty windows and mirrors may also cause accidents if they limit the driver’s movement or visibility. A quick whip round inside and outside your car at the weekend should only take a few minutes, and you really don’t need to pay for mechanical car washes or expensive valeting services.
Check your windscreen wipers regularly, give them a quick wipe once a week, and keep your screenwash liquid topped up. If your wipers are damaged, it is usually simple enough to buy the correct parts recommended in your car manual and replace them yourself.
Under the bonnet, and more
It is pretty straightforward to perform regular checks on your engine oil, engine coolant, brake fluid, and lights and electrics. It is also relatively easy to top up levels of oil, coolant and brake fluid, and change light bulbs. One word of warning though, take your time and be careful when handling oil, coolant and brake fluid as they may be flammable or corrosive.
There’s a handy guide to checking under the bonnet on the Autotrader website, complete with a slideshow.
One step further?
A poorly tuned engine can decrease your fuel efficiency by as much as 50%, and can cause other mechanical problems. While fixing this may seem like a scary, complicated process, it’s actually made up of a number of simple steps that most people can master.
Many local councils run cheap or subsidised evening or weekend classes where complete beginners can learn the basics of car maintenance. In terms of the money this could potentially save you over a lifetime of driving, they are a very worthwhile investment, and they’re often a great confidence booster and sociable too.
Do you have any other advice on car maintenance for beginners? Please share your tips.