To help you avoid a breakdown, it’s important to look after your car.
Here’s some top tips and advice, so your car is ready to go and you can get moving when you need to.
Keep your battery healthy
Battery problems are the number 1 cause of breakdowns at any time of year.
Checking your battery health
Your car may have a built-in battery monitor, Smart Breakdown or you can buy a manual monitor to check your battery’s health. You can also keep your battery topped up with a battery maintainer, which is also known as a trickle charger.
If your vehicle is equipped with stop/start, it may automatically switch the engine off while you’re trying to charge the battery. If this happens, it means the Battery Monitoring System has recognised the battery is fully charged, so you’re good to go.
Flat battery causes
The most common cause of a flat battery is leaving the lights after turning the engine off, so don’t forget to switch everything off as you leave the car. Most cars have a ‘lights on’ warning sound as you open the car door.
It’s a good idea to have a pair of jump leads in your car, just in case, so you can recharge your battery from another vehicle. If you’re not sure how to use jump leads or the jump start isn’t working, just give us a call.
Most car batteries have a guarantee of 3 to 5 years, so if yours is getting a bit old and tired, you can replace it with a new one before it lets you down.
Check tyre condition as well as pressure
While a flat tyre might be more obvious after a quick visual check, other problems could need a closer look.
We recommend you check your tyres – including the spare – every 2 weeks. Keep an eye out for cuts, uneven wear and that your tread is within legal limits. You can use the 20p test for this…
So how do you do it?
Simple: just place the coin in the main tread channels multiple times, at various points around the tyre. If you can see any part of the outer band of the coin face, it means the tyre tread is too shallow – and probably illegal.
Check the tyre pressure at the same time so you don’t put yourself at risk when you do start driving again. The correct pressure should be in your vehicle handbook or printed on a label either inside one of the door shuts or on the inside of the fuel flap.
Using a tyre pressure monitoring system
Tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) are fitted to all cars built after 1 November 2014. If this system is fitted to your car, you may find the warning light has come on if the vehicle has been parked up for a time. This isn’t unusual and doesn’t necessarily indicate a fault or a puncture.
If the TPMS light is on and the tyres look OK, it may just need resetting. Instructions on how to do this will be in the handbook. There’s usually a button somewhere inside the car with the same image as the TPMS warning light on it. Pressing and holding this button for a few seconds should reset the system.
Using a tyre pressure gauge
If you have one, you can use a tyre pressure gauge to carry out a more accurate check.
Replacing a flat tyre
If you do have a flat, you can safely change it yourself if you know how to use the jack, and are able to lift and position the spare tyre comfortably.
If you’d like some support, our mechanics will be happy to help if you’re unlucky enough to get a flat.
Look for signs of animal visitors
Car engine bays can be an attractive nesting area for small rodents at any time of year so if you haven’t driven your car for a while, it’s worth having a look around to see if you’ve had any visitors.
Check under the bonnet
Look under the bonnet for droppings, gnawed wiring or pipework and plastics, evidence of bedding or hauls of stored food. Favourite nesting sites are air filter boxes, under fuse boxes and battery trays and the area below the windscreen. But any dry, concealed space could be a target.
While you’re there, it’s also a good idea to clear out any build up of leaves and debris that may have accumulated during this period.
It’s also worth checking the wheel arches, around the suspension, for signs of life. If you do find anything, it’s important to deal with it as rodents in particular can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage, and have a particular fondness for expensive wiring looms. If you’re not comfortable or able to move the visitors on yourself, pest control firms are generally still operating, but you may have longer to wait as many are busy with essential decontamination work. If you find animals in to difficult to access areas, you may need our assistance.
Check your Diesel Particulate Filter (if you have one)
If your vehicle is a diesel produced after 2007, you’ll have a Diesel Particulate Filter (or DPF). The DPF captures soot particles produced while the engine’s running and stores them until it gets to a stage where it needs to burn them off (regen). This regen process usually happens when the vehicle is on a motorway or fast carriageway run, for about 10-15 miles, and usually goes unnoticed by the driver.
DPF warning light
DPF’s will start to fill up, especially where cars are getting 1 or 2 very short essential trips per week. When the DPF needs to regen but isn’t getting the opportunity, a DPF warning light will illuminate.
In these circumstances it is acceptable to take the vehicle for an extended drive to give the DPF a chance to regen, which will cause the warning light to switch off again.
If the light stays on, or you notice a loss of power, let us know.
Not sure what to check? Remember FLOWER
So, when it comes to general maintenance, there are 6 key areas to keep on top of:
When it comes to remembering them, just think FLOWER.