Servicing incorporates a wide range of components and ensures a vehicle is safe and pleasant to drive. Not only does frequent servicing add to the life of your vehicle, but a full service history will also increase the value of your vehicle when you get round to selling.
The battery helps start the engine and typically lasts at least 5 years. If the engine cranks/spins more than usual before starting, the battery might be towards the end of its life. This, of course, assumes that there are no other contributing factors such as low ambient temperature. A multimeter provides an insight into a battery's health and costs from £20. A strong battery should read about 12.6 volts with the engine off and not fall below about 10 as it starts. Check every 6 months, or monthly if it is starting to fade. Whatever a battery's age and condition, maximise performance by removing any corrosion from the positive and negative terminals.
Power Steering Fluid
Power steering fluid is part of the system that makes turning the front wheels easier. It should be changed in accordance with manufacturer recommendations which is likely to be infrequently – very infrequently. It is, however, important to check the level on a monthly basis in case of leaks. Locate the reservoir - via the vehicle manual if necessary - and inspect the high and low markings. Heavy steering or a creaking noise can indicate low fluid.
A fuel filter prevents unwanted material entering the engine's combustion chamber. It becomes less effective over time as it becomes dirty and partially blocked. This puts more strain on the fuel pump that has to force fuel through the grit. A major service – which is typically recommended every 1 year/10,000 miles or 2 years/20,000 miles depending on the car – often includes a new filter.
The air filter prevents unwanted substances such as bugs and pollution entering the engine's combustion chamber. Over time it traps a considerable amount of material, becomes partially blocked, and has to be replaced to ensure the engine runs smoothly and at its most economical. Every year/10,000 miles is a reasonable guide.
Without brake fluid a vehicle cannot stop. Check for leaks in the system monthly via minimum and maximum markers on the reservoir. The vehicle manual confirms its location. Replacement fluid is typically required every 2 years. Furthermore, brake pads and discs wear out. How fast depends on where the car is driven – brakes take more of a pounding in town than the motorway – and the motorist's driving style. Request a professional inspection every year/10,000.
Coolant fluid is a mixture of antifreeze and water that passes through channels in the engine block to prevent overheating. A hot engine is likely to breakdown and – if damaged – cost a small fortune to repair. Check the coolant level monthly via the minimum and maximum markers on the reservoir. But be careful. Removing the cap while the engine is hot can cause a serious burn. New fluid is typically recommended every 2/3 years but be guided by the manufacturer.
Engine oil prevents components rubbing together and prematurely wearing. It is, therefore, important to check how much is present against minimum and maximum markers on the dipstick. Once a month is a reasonable schedule. Make sure the vehicle is parked on flat ground and that the engine is cool. Once the dipstick has been removed, clean it and replace. Remove it again and take a second reading. This is more accurate than the first as the oil has not been stirred-up by movement. Top-up if necessary. The required type can be confirmed via the vehicle manual. Oil becomes less effective over time so replace it, and the filter, every 10,000 miles/1 year.
A tyre influences how a vehicle handles, brakes and rides so should be inspected as regularly as practical (every 2 weeks at least). The correct pressure – which might vary from front to rear and according to how much weight a vehicle carries – can be confirmed via a sticker on the a-pillar. If not, consult the manual. Also check for punctures, splits, bulges and cracks. To be legal, a tyre must have at least 1.6mm of tread across the central 75% of its width, and around the circumference. Remember to inspect the spare too. Furthermore, front and rear tyres wear at different rates so equalise the degradation by rotating them every (say) 10,000 miles.
Belts And Hoses
The engine bay contains a variety of rubber belts and hoses. These relate to the timing bael (cam belt), alternator, air-conditioner and coolant system, etc. Many form part of critical systems. Rubber perishes – particularly when exposed to the extreme temperatures in an engine bay - so check the condition every 3 months. Look for leaks, frays and tears. If a part is worn, it is better to replace before it breaks.
Windscreen Wiper Blades
Windscreen wiper blades wear relatively slowly so it is easy to miss the degradation. Warning signs include smudges and smears on the glass that limit visibility (particularly at night). Check every 3 months for tears, cracks and excessive firmness/drying out caused by temperature changes. It is preferable to replace blades annually to ensure maximum visibility. Furthermore, a premium blade is typically far more effective than a budget blade and the more sensible buy. Remember to also check the rear and headlight blades.
Vehicle Heath Check
A Vehicle Heath Check – also known as a Visual Health Check - is a free service provided by a range of manufacturers. Its purpose is to encourage a motorist to visit the dealer, confirm the vehicle is safe, and identify any required work that can be invoiced. The inspection is not intended to replace servicing and typically relates to the tyres, brakes, headlights, wipers, and battery, etc.
Some manufacturers incorporate a traffic light system within the customer report. Red typically indicates that the component requires immediate attention. Serious brake or steering problems, for example. Amber suggests that the fault should – if not rectified immediately - be closely monitored and action taken in the near future. Green confirms that the component is satisfactory.