Motoring: Six car maintenance checks to make this New Year

It’s always nice to have a fresh start when a new year rolls around – and a great way to make sure you’re on an even footing when it comes to motoring in 2022 is by making some simple and easy checks. This way, you can make sure everything is as it should be, and pick up any issues before they get worse.

But what should you be focusing on? Here’s six simple steps for giving your car a new year check…

1. Interior

OK, a clean interior isn’t critical to the roadworthiness of your car, but it’s a great place to start things off when it comes to checks. Plus, a tidy cabin will be far less distracting, while a lack of loose objects will ensure nothing interferes with the major controls.

So remove any items such as bottles or packets, and wipe down areas such as the buttons and heating controls, to ensure they’re bright and clean. A quick vacuum in the footwells can really help too.

2. Tyres

Tyres are absolutely crucial. After all, they’re the only point of contact between your vehicle and the road, so it’s paramount they’re in good condition. First off, give the walls of the tyres an inspection: are there any cracks or cuts? If so, they might need replacing.

When it comes to tread, the legal minimum in the UK is 1.6mm. To check this, you could use an accurate tyre gauge – available to purchase from most motor factors and retailers – or a 20p piece. This latter method requires you to put a 20p coin into one of the tyre’s grooves and if the outer rim of the coin is obscured, then the tyres are within the limit. If you can see the rim of the coin, then you’ll need to have them properly inspected and potentially replaced.

You also need to check the pressure of the tyres. You’ll find the correct pressures for your vehicle either on the door sills or behind the fuel filler cap. Find this and simply inflate your tyres to the right pressure using a compressor, which are found at most petrol stations.

3. Lights

Lights are critical at this time of year. Not only are they needed to light up the road ahead, but they’re also required to make sure you’re visible to other road users. This is why it’s a good idea to give them a check.

You can test your headlights – both dipped and full-beam – by operating them when parked close to a shiny surface, such as a garage door. When it comes to your rear lights, ask a friend to watch as you test them – or you can, again, reverse near to a reflective surface and operate them while looking in the rear-view mirror. Make sure you test your indicators too – a blink that moves too quickly might mean that a bulb has blown and needs replacing.

4. Washer fluid

You might have noticed there’s a lot of dirt and grime on the roads at the moment, and a great deal of this tends to end up on your windscreen. Because of this, it’s best to make sure you’ve got plenty of washer fluid in your car, so you can quickly and effectively clear your windscreen when needed.

On most cars, you’ll find the washer bottle under the bonnet, signified by a blue cap. Top it up to the correct level and make sure you’re using washer fluid – water on its own can freeze and cause damage to your car’s washer system. While you’re here, make sure your wipers are working effectively too – if they’re making a rubbing noise or are smearing the windscreen, they’ll need replacing.

5. Oil

While we’re under the bonnet, it’s a good idea to check your oil levels. This is easy to do too. Simply remove the dipstick (usually highlighted with a yellow handle) and clean it off with a rag or paper towel. Then re-insert it back into its holder remove it again just after.

Now, you’ll be able to read your car’s oil levels using the guide on the dipstick. If it’s too low, top it up via the oil filler using the correct oil for your car – you can find this in your vehicle’s handbook. Remember, only fill up in small increments and check your dipstick after each time. This helps to avoid overfilling.

6. Windscreen

Your car’s windscreen takes a real beating at this time of year, which is why there’s a greater chance of cracks or chips appearing. Take this opportunity to give your car’s windscreen an inspection, to make sure that there’s nothing out of the ordinary.

If you notice a small chip, then it’s a good idea to get it professionally repaired rather than leaving it to develop into a crack. This preventative repair is far cheaper than the cost of replacing an entire windscreen, after all. Remember, driving with a cracked windscreen can be deemed a motoring offence as well if it’s obscuring your view. If you’re stopped by police with a heavily cracked windscreen, it could lead to penalty points and a fine.

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