Buying a car is likely to be one of the biggest investment you’ll make. You’re willing to spend a large amount of money on a car because of the benefits it brings you, such as the freedom to travel on your own schedule and picking your own route. To get the most out of a car, you have to be proactive about doing work on it; particularly if it’s your first one, when your funds are probably limited.
First things first
Read the manual and pay attention to the maintenance schedule. If a manual didn’t come with the car, many are available from your local auto parts shop or even the library. A good manual is an investment, as allows you to do many smaller jobs, just leaving the trickier ones for the professionals. Get some basic tools, such as a jack, a socket set, some flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers, a pressure gauge and some spanners. There will be a more exhaustive list in the manuals. You will almost certainly have been sold a lug wrench with the car but if you don’t have one, make sure you buy one as soon as possible.
There are lots of little jobs you can do from week to week. For example, you should check your tire pressure, as having the wrong pressure makes your tires less efficient when you brake and can cause them to wear out faster. Check your fluid levels; this includes oil, brake fluid, coolant and the level of solution in your windscreen wash reservoir. Obviously, you need to keep an eye on your fuel gauge, too, but you should do this constantly as an empty tank can lead to dirt in your fuel lines, as well as the danger and inconvenience of breaking down. Wash your car; keeping it clean keeps rust and small scratches at bay; this is particularly important if you live near to the coast, where the salt in the air can be very corrosive.
According to mileage
A number of jobs need to be done according to the mileage, and the exact schedule will be listed in your manual. These include things like changing the oil and air filters and replacing the oil. There are also certain milestone jobs that need to be done at certain points (eg. every 50,000 miles), like flushing the braking and cooling systems and starting fresh.
Things to watch out for
Always keep an eye on how the windscreen wipers are performing; if they are leaving streaks, try cleaning them with vinegar to remove any grease that might have built up. If that fails, or if you can see any damage on them, you must replace them. If you notice any chips in your windscreen, have them repaired immediately, before they become too large for a repair. Check the amount of wear on your brake pads regularly or, if you prefer, have them checked at a garage according to your manual’s recommended schedule, as they are too important to neglect.
When you are approaching inspection time, print a copy of the checklist and see if there is anything you can do to avoid a bad outcome. Although running a car might seem expensive at times, you can offset costs, for example by making sure that your chosen company gives young drivers insurance on a monthly basis. If you take care of your car properly, it will cost you less in the long run and you might even find that you enjoy doing it.