Expert comment: our New Year’s resolutions will help prevent breakdowns

New Year's resolutions

Do you keep to your New Year’s resolutions? Or do you forget them as soon as you’ve made them? No matter how quickly you give up going to the gym three times a week, I hope you’ll stick to the five resolutions here. Not only might they save you a heap of money before the year’s out; they could also prevent you having to sit at the roadside in a conked-out car.

Some recent research found that millions of drivers don’t even perform the most rudimentary maintenance to prepare their motor for winter. Here’s a handful of checks that will keep your car motoring long after memories of New Year’s parties have faded.

New Year’s resolution 1: check the oil

Our cars generally lead quite a hard life. Just spending a few minutes every week performing some routine maintenance can make sure they stay in tip-top shape. First, see whether your car needs any oil. It’s frequently called the lifeblood of an engine but you’d be surprised how many cars we see that don’t have enough oil in them. We explain exactly how to check your oil here.

A few months of doing this weekly will give you an idea of whether your car uses any oil and to what degree. If you never have to top it up, and you think you can remember, switch to performing this task on a monthly basis.

New Year’s resolution 2: keep your cool

New Year's resolutions

This is what the coolant reservoir will probably look like (Picture iStock/Nikkytok)

It’s often even easier to check your car’s coolant. It’ll be in a clear bottle that should be easily visible as soon as you open the bonnet. If you’re in any doubt, check your car’s user manual to find out where it is.

The bottle will have minimum and maximum markers on it. The level of fluid should be between these. Every car has different coolant fluid requirements. Some cars use concentrated coolant – more commonly known as anti-freeze. Others have a 50-50 water to anti-freeze mix. It’s vital that you get the concentration right. Fail to use enough anti-freeze and your engine could ice up. Again, your car’s user manual should tell you what kind of coolant your car needs.

As with oil, start off by checking this once a week. Coolant systems are sealed so your car shouldn’t use any. Once you get a feel for how much your car gets through, if any, switch to checking it monthly.

New Year’s resolution 3: love your battery

Most of the breakdowns we attend are cars that won’t start because the battery is flat. My colleague recently gave advice here on how to buy a new battery. The easiest way to find out if your car needs a battery is by its age. Most car batteries are guaranteed for five years. If it’s older than that, it will probably be coming to the end of its life. You can also take your car to the garage and have them test the battery using specialist equipment. Some will carry this out for free.

New Year’s resolution 4: tend to tyres

New Year's resolutions

You don’t have to wear a suit to check tyres. In fact it’s probably best not to (Picture iStock/Lisafx)

Our experience at the roadside suggests many drivers wait until a tyre gives up the ghost or prompts an MOT failure before doing anything about their rubber. Tyres are a vital road safety feature and need to be properly maintained to ensure your car performs at its best. Having a tread depth that’s 3mm rather than the legal minimum of 1.6mm means your car will take about two car lengths less to stop from 55mph. And if tyres are properly inflated, they’ll last longer and help your car to use less fuel.

It only takes moments to inspect your tyres and it’s something you can do whenever you stop for fuel, or at least on a weekly basis.

New Year’s resolution 5: use your eyes and ears

It’s no bad thing to resolve to be more vigilant. Cars will often tell us when something’s not right. Whether that’s through a dashboard warning light, a puddle of fluid on the ground beneath, or a grinding noise when you start the engine, it’s saying something. Don’t ignore these warnings. Noises are unlikely to get any better until the parts grinding together have worn away to nothing. And leaks won’t stop until there’s no more fluid to drip out – by which time your car may have suffered sufficient damage to necessitate a really expensive repair.

Slow down, move overDamon Jowett is head of Service Delivery – Rescue for Green Flag

13 comments on “Expert comment: our New Year’s resolutions will help prevent breakdowns

  1. David Shears 06/02/2019 9:22 PM

    well done. excellent information. I look forward to the next issue

  2. Barry Tennyson 07/02/2019 11:09 AM

    Some usefull tips

  3. Graham 07/02/2019 12:21 PM

    Great advise for those who don’t know too much about car maintenance.

  4. Arthur Roche 07/02/2019 8:09 PM

    Thanks for your information it all helps to make sure you take on theese tasks

  5. Mr. A. Elders 07/02/2019 8:29 PM

    I welcome your news letters especially as they are filled with useful information and help that some of us take for granted. I know a lot of us are aware of the need to check oil levels, tyre pressures/tread depths, coolant levels etc but how many of us actually do these checks on a regular basis. Nice to be prompted into doing so and be reminded of the importance of it, after all it’s as your motto says “it common sense” .

  6. Geoff Goodridge. 07/02/2019 9:50 PM

    Very good advice and very helpful.

  7. Joyce Palmer 07/02/2019 10:23 PM

    Thank you for all your advice. I found it extremely helpful.

  8. Bob Gelder 07/02/2019 10:42 PM

    Eminently sensible – would suggest a note on the calendar/mobile/dashboard, such as “it’s Check-Up Day”

  9. DY8 2AU 08/02/2019 3:52 PM

    All very good advice………Evan for the most experienced driver.

  10. T A Dickinsonj 10/02/2019 11:35 AM

    Good advise as ever . love reading your news letter

  11. Matjorie Kelly 12/02/2019 12:03 PM

    Thank you, for that good advice.

  12. Josephine Bunt 17/03/2019 7:08 AM

    Your comments are really good but as a 70 year old lady who has no one to help me with this what would you suggest

    • Eileen Skinner 12/10/2020 9:52 PM

      to Josephine Bunt Only in your seventies ? the answer is simple . Get learning Most are checks you should have been doing all your driving career . The instructions and tips given here are well written and easy to understand . i’m in my eighties and can do it , so can you

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