Whether you have just bought a new or used car, it is important that you do regular maintenance checks on your car. Not only does this let you spot any minor problems before they become a big one, it is also ultimately for your own safety. The following are some car safety tips which you can use to ensure that your car remains in tip-top condition for a long time.
Check the engine oil regularly
- Change your engine oil every 3,000-5,000 miles or about 3-5 months, depending on how often you use your car. The engine oil helps to lubricate your car engine and other parts, preventing them from succumbing to wear and tear. It also prevents your car engine from overheating. The oil also helps to carry debris to the filter, which otherwise can damage the exposed parts of the engine.
- The oil level should be checked once a fortnight or at least once a month. To do so, lift up the car hood and find the dipstick. Pull it out and wipe the bottom of the dipstick with a rag before putting it back into its slot. After that, pull out the dipstick again and check the oil level at the bottom of the stick.
- Ideally, it should be near the “full” level. If the engine oil appears dirty or black, either change the engine oil yourself or take it to the mechanic to get it done.
- If the oil is clear but is far below the “full” level, you can put in more engine oil. It could also be a sign of a leak, which you can get it checked at the mechanic.
Check your transmission fluid
- The transmission fluid helps to transfer engine power to run the wheels, shift gears and lubricate the moving parts.
- Refer to your car manual on the procedure to check the transmission fluid as different cars have different methods of doing so.
- Besides checking the transmission fluid level, note the fluid condition. It should be clean and transparent. (A dirty-looking fluid with a strong burnt smell could be a sign of transmission problems.)
- If the transmission fluid level is too low, you can top it up to the appropriate level. But make sure that you do not overfill it and that you only use the specified transmission fluid as stated in the car manual.
Check your car coolant
- The coolant is a mixture of antifreeze and water used to maintain the temperature, via the radiator, of the engine. To check the coolant level, wait for your car to cool down first or else the pressure release will scald you. Ensure that your car is parked on a flat surface.
- The coolant is usually kept in a reservoir at the right side of the engine. Check that the coolant is at the appropriate level as marked on the reservoir, and that it is clear and not cloudy or dirty.
- It is advisable that you change your coolant and flush your radiator every two years.
Check your tire pressure and thread depth
- Check your tire pressure every week or fortnight either by yourself with a pressure tester or at the service station. When inflating your tires, ensure that they are neither over-inflated nor under-inflated as either of them will affect fuel efficiency, tire wear and ultimately your own safety. An incorrect tire pressure can affect your car’s ability to negotiate corners, brake and remain stable.
- Remember to check and inflate your spare tire too.
- With constant wear and tear, the tires’ thread depth might become too low. (Most tires have tread wear indicators built into them. If you look around the tire tread carefully, you can see the thread wear indicator - a bar of rubber which goes across the tread and is not part of the regular pattern.) When this happens, it is time to replace the four tires.
Listen to your brakes
- If your car brakes start making whining or screeching sounds whenever you press the brake pedal, it might be time to get the mechanic to take a look at them.
- Besides examining the brake system, the mechanic would also be able to check your brake fluid level and the condition of your brake hoses.
- If you spot the brake problems early, you might be able to get them repaired before you reach the stage of requiring an expensive overhaul of the entire brake system.
Clean your car batteries
- Car batteries usually last about three and a half years.
- Before you clean the car batteries, disconnect them first.
- Remove the terminal caps and clean each contact point with a wire brush to get a clean metal contact surface. This is to ensure that the electrical current is able to pass smoothly around the electrical system.
- If you find cracks or bulges in the batteries, it is likely that you might need to replace them.
Keep an emergency safety kit in your car
- Most people do not think that they would ever be stranded with a non-working car in a desolate location. However, it is better to be safe than sorry.
- It is advisable that your safety kit should contain the following items.
- A jack
- Jumper cables
- Engine Oil
- An Electrical torch
- A First Aid Kit
- A Swiss knife
- A bottle of water
- A tow chain or rope
The above are just some basic DIY car safety tips. The condition of a car often varies according to many factors such as the distance travelled daily, the weather conditions, the road conditions and the load carried. For your own safety, it is recommended that your car is inspected by a mechanic at least once a year. Besides a visual inspection of various car parts, the mechanic can also conduct more detailed tests to ensure that your car is in a good condition.