Monthly Maintenance #2: 3 more things to check on your car every month

13 Jan 16

In this first instalment, we looked at three important aspects to check on your car at least once a month. Regularly keeping an eye on tyre pressure, engine oil and brake fluid will benefit your vehicle's life and your wallet in the long run.

While checking these features seems like common sense, they, along with a few other things on your car, are easy to overlook and can compromise your safety on the roads this summer.

During the last 12 months ending at October 2015, there were just over 1,200 deaths on Australian roads, according to Australian government statistics. In the month of October itself, there were 122 deaths, 15.7 per cent higher than the average of Octobers from the previous five years.1

Don't let laziness cause you, or your passengers, to become another statistic this summer. Take a few minutes once a month to ensure your car's best health by checking three more things on your car.

1. Transmission fluid

Transmission fluid is crucial for changing the gears of your car. Not enough fluid can be indicated by noisy, rough transmission or no gear engagement.

Regularly changing this fluid will keep your gearbox happy and is much cheaper than having to replace the entire transmission system. For automatic cars, change it every two to three years. According to Exxon Mobil, "nothing prolongs vehicle life more than regular fluid changes".2

Checking the level of your transmission fluid is similar to checking your engine oil levels. Keep your engine running so that the fluid is warm, but make sure the shift is in neutral and handbrake is on.

Pull the dipstick out and wipe it clean. Slowly insert it in and out again to check where the fluid reaches. It should sit just under the full indicator. If not, then top up incrementally with the appropriate transmission fluid. Make sure you don't overfill!

Pro-tip: rub some transmission fluid between your forefinger and thumb. Clean fluid should be clear, slightly tinted pink and not include particles or smell burnt.

2. Lights

Lights are the main form of communication between drivers on the road. If your brake lights are faulty, you're putting yourself and others at risk, even if you drive safely.

Lights are one of the components that are checked in the roadworthiness vehicle safety inspection. Once your car has been deemed roadworthy, you can get it registered, which is a requirement for insurance.

There are multiple lights to check. The main ones are headlights and brake lights. Leave your handbrake on, then do a once-over to ensure all lights are bright enough for other cars to see from a distance. If you drive in misty conditions, check your fog lights too.

Your indicator lights also need to be checked. Make sure that they aren't too dim in sunlight.

Pro-tip: clean hazy lights with whitening toothpaste. It's quick and cheap!

3. Windshield and wipers

Look after your windows and wipers to avoid dirt buildup and poor vision. Your windshield should be clear of smears and debris.

Using an alcohol-based glass cleaner will ensure that you remove all oils from the surface. Having an oil-free windshield will prevent the sun from glaring in your eyes, especially during times of the day when you are at most risk of sun-strike. If you have a window tint on your car, make sure that the cleaner you use is suitable. Use a microfibre cloth for drying afterwards so you don't leave streaks or water marks.

Keep some water in your car for when your window washer reservoir is low. You can purchase washer fluid to add to the tank for best cleaning results. Looking after your wiper blades will prolong the life of the rubber parts and provides optimum visibility when driving in the rain.

Pro-tip: keep some wet wipes in your car for when you're out and have a dirty windshield.

Research before repair

These are also things you should check before buying a used car. You can get a CarHistory report for a more in-depth history of your desired car. Keep up these maintenance tips after purchasing a second-hand vehicle to prevent easily avoidable repairs and expenses.  

1Australian Government, Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, Road Deaths Australia. Accessed November, 2015.
2Exxon Mobil, How to change automatic transmission fluid and filter. Accessed November, 2015.