26 Jan 16
Owning a car comes with many responsibilities. Regular maintenance is key to prolonging the life of your vehicle and can help keep repair costs to a minimum. The following checks should be done at least once a month to ensure your car is in the best condition possible.
1. Make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct PSI
Tyre pressure, if maintained regularly, has many long-term benefits for you and your car. Keeping your tyres at the recommended PSI (found either in the car manual or on the side of the driver's door) ensures a smoother driving experience and will wear out your tyres evenly, which in turn will be more fuel efficient - good for the environment and also for your wallet.
Most petrol stations offer a free air pump service. Set the PSI on the machine and attach the hose to your tyre valve, then wait for the machine to do its magic. The process should take a few minutes maximum per tyre, but if unsure, the staff should be able to help.
While at it, you could also take an extra minute to inspect your tyre tread. Some wear is expected, but should the treads look shallow, get it checked out by a professional. As stated in a Western Australian government media statement, faulty tyres were the most common reason for vehicles failing roadworthy tests in 2013/14.1
Pro-tip: inflate your tyres at the start of your drive when they are cold. Hot tyres expand and will give a false PSI reading when checking pressure.
2. Check your engine oil level
Oil is crucial for your car's engine as it provides necessary lubrication for engine parts, so check this monthly to avoid frying your engine.
The best time to check is a few minutes after driving, when the oil has settled and the car is slightly warm. Ensure that your car is parked on even ground for an accurate reading of your oil level.
This process is simple and should take only a few minutes. The only thing you'll need is a paper towel or an old rag to wipe away excess oil. To check your oil level, pop your hood and pull the dipstick out. Wipe the end of the blade free of any oil and stick it back in gently.
When you pull the dipstick out again, you should be able to see the oil level. The preferred level sits between the two markers. Check both sides of the dipstick to avoid false readings.
Pro-tip: keep a bottle of engine oil in your boot for emergency situations.
3. Check your brake fluid
Like engine oil, brake fluid is another crucial thing to check, necessary for healthy engine performance. The New South Wales Centre for Road Safety attributes brakes as "the most important crash avoidance system" of a vehicle.2
Checking the level of your brake fluid is simple - just open the fluid reservoir and look inside. You may need a light to help you check if the level is between the minimum and maximum indicators. Avoid opening it up unnecessarily, and definitely don't do it in the rain, as brake fluid will absorb moisture over time, and in turn, reduce the effectiveness of your car's brakes.
In a healthy engine, you only need to top up brake fluid occasionally. If brake fluid levels drop constantly, you should definitely get it checked out as there could be a leak, which is highly dangerous considering your brakes, and consequently your safety, may be at stake.
Pro-tip: check your brake fluid every time you check your oil. Since you've already popped your hood, take a few minutes to make sure you have sufficient brake fluid.
Do your research
Not everyone maintains their car regularly. Older cars are more likely to have leaks, so if you consider buying an older car, get a CarHistory report so you can make an informed buying decision based on its history.
1Government of Western Australia, Department of Transport, Statistics reveal top reasons for vehicle examination failure. Accessed November, 2015.2Transport for New South Wales, Centre for Road Safety, Safer vehicles. Accessed November, 2015.