Is your car ready to get back on the road?
If your car’s been out of action throughout the pandemic, now’s the time to get it road ready again as restrictions start to ease. To ensure you stay safe behind the wheel, here’s what to consider and how to keep your car in tiptop condition.
How to check your tyre tread
Tyres should be free from cuts or damage and the tread depth must be within the legal requirement — for cars, this is 1.6mm.
A quick and easy way to check your tyre tread is by doing the 20p test. Simply take a 20p piece and slot it into the main channel that runs all the way around the tyre. If you can’t see the outer edge of the 20p, the tread is worn and your tyres will need replacing. For a more accurate measurement, you can buy tread depth gauges which are fairly inexpensive.
As well as the tread, you should check that your tyres have the right amount of air in them. Underinflated and overinflated tyres can affect your driving. Your car’s handbook should give you the optimum pressure for your tyres (measured in PSI or Bar). Bear in mind that there may be different pressures for front and back tyres.
How to check engine oil
Oil is often overlooked but it ensures your car’s parts run smoothly and stops friction which can end up seriously damaging your car.
If your car has an oil gauge on the dashboard (which almost all do) then it should light up when it needs refilling. You can also check oil levels by looking at the oil dipstick — again, your car’s handbook should tell you where to find this and what type of oil you should use.
When you find the oil, take the dipstick out, wipe it clean, put it back and take it out again. The oil should be between the marks for the minimum and maximum oil level. If it needs topping up, it’s best to put the oil in slowly, checking the level each time you add some.
How to check windscreen and washer fluid
Your windscreen and mirrors should be clean and damage free. If you notice chips in your windscreen, these should be fixed as they can lead to bigger and more serious cracks over time.
It’s also important to keep your washer fluid reservoir topped up — your car handbook will tell you how much fluid the tank can hold and where to find it. You can buy pre-mixed washer fluid which is quick and easy to add or you can buy it as a concentrate to mix with water. Either way, it’s important to make sure you’ve got enough in order to keep your windscreen clean when you’re on the move.
How to check your lights
It’s easiest to check your lights if you’ve got someone to help you as they’ll be able to tell you immediately if something’s not working.
If you don’t have anyone who can help, you’ll need to test the lights out when it’s slightly darker outside so you can see if any need replacing. If you’ve got a window that you can see your lights reflected in, this can also highlight if anything’s wrong.
How to check your battery
Batteries can go flat if your car hasn’t been driven for a while. If that happens, you can jump start it. If you buy a jump starter kit always make sure you follow any car battery safety tips provided. Alternatively, if you’re signed up to a breakdown service, they can start the car for you or supply a new battery if needed.
To keep your battery ticking over, it’s also worth taking the car out for a short drive just to familiarise yourself with being back in the driving seat.
How to check if your brake pads are worn
Needless to say, effective brakes are crucial. Regular servicing should mean that brake fluid is monitored and topped up but it’s important to be mindful of other tell-tale signs that your brakes need some attention, including:
- A grinding noise when you brake — if your brake pads are worn through, they’ll come into greater contact with the brake disc and can cause a grinding sound. If you hear this, it’s best to take it into a garage as soon as you can so that they can check and replace your brake pads if needed.
- Leaking brake fluid — unlike oil, this can be harder to detect as brake fluid is clear although it will have a certain smell. Leaks are usually found on the inside of the wheels and can indicate damage to the braking system. A leak can also mean it’s harder to brake, for example, you might have to push the brake pedal quite far down for anything to happen.
- Pulling to one side — when you brake, your car should stay straight. If you notice the car pulling to the left or right, it could mean that your brake pads are more worn on one side.
- Vibrating through the steering wheel or brake pedal — if the wheel or pedal shudder when you step on the brake, it could be a sign of warped brake pads.
Your car may also have a brake warning light, if this is highlighted, it’s a definite indication that something is wrong and it should be checked out by a professional as soon as possible.
How often should I carry out a car safety check?
Official advice is that you should carry out checks on essentials before you hit the road and these basic checks shouldn’t be too tricky to carry out at home by yourself. Plus, don’t forget, your car’s handbook will usually include detailed instructions about what to do. Road safety campaigners THINK! have also prepared a set of handy videos you can refer to.
Of course, if you’re not comfortable carrying out your own car safety check, it might be worth booking your car in with a local garage. A qualified mechanic will be able to quickly assess it and if it’s not in good working order, they’ll be able to resolve any problems.
Remember, it’s not just the mechanics of your car that need looking after. Now that cleanliness is at the forefront of our minds, now is a good opportunity to keep the inside of our cars neat, tidy and germ free.
Whether you carry out a car safety check yourself or ask your local garage, it’s your responsibility as a car owner to ensure your vehicle is safe to drive. If you’re caught driving a car that’s considered dangerous, you could be fined up to £2,500, given three penalty points or even be banned from driving.
Not only is car maintenance your responsibility, it’s up to you to make sure you’ve got an up to date MOT certificate and car insurance too.
To help you stay on the right side of the law, you can search for car insurance quotes right here at mustard.co.uk. You can compare policies from a range of leading UK insurers online or alternatively, you can speak to an expert member of the team on 0330 022 8814.
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