Under the bonnet

7 ways you can cut your car maintenance costs

Are you so scared by the thought of a high mechanic’s bill that you neglect regular servicing of your car? Yep, thought so. But unfortunately, this could be doing your budget more harm than good.

Most of us would be pretty stuck without a car to get around, and regular maintenance helps keep it in tip-top shape and can prevent the need for expensive repairs. The good news is there’s several ways you can cut car costs, and help prevent expensive problems, with some simple DIY maintenance.

  1. The good oil
  • Check your engine oil weekly. This is best done when your car’s engine is warm (not hot!) and on level ground.
  • Locate and remove the oil dipstick and wipe it clean. Pop it all the way back in, then withdraw it and check the level is between the two guide marks.
  • If you need to top your oil up, do this through the oil filler cap opening, taking care to avoid over filling by only adding about 500mls at a time.
  1. On auto
  • If your car has automatic transmission, keep an eye on the fluid. Consult your car’s manual for the optimum level.
  • As with checking your oil level, use the dipstick to check the transmission fluid level, and top it up as required, taking care not to over fill.
  1. Keeping your cool
  • You should also check your radiator coolant level weekly. Be careful not to open the cooling system when the engine is hot!
  • If your car has a plastic coolant reservoir, known as an expansion tank, check that the coolant level is between halfway and maximum.
  • Also keep a regular check on the coolant level in the radiator – it should be full when the engine is cold, or about 25mm from the top if your engine doesn’t have an expansion tank.
  • If needed, you can top the level up with a mixture of clean water and the recommended coolant for your car’s engine.
  1. Keeping the power in your steering
  • Your power steering is another fluid level you can check easily.
  • The power steering oil reservoir cap often has a small dipstick attached – check the level is at or just below the ‘HOT’ mark.
  • Top it up as needed with the correct oil type – usually auto transmission fluid.
  1. Brake time
  • While brake pad maintenance and replacement is a job best left to the professionals for safety’s sake, you can easily keep an eye on your brake and clutch fluid levels.
  • On many cars you can see the brake and clutch fluid levels through their transparent plastic reservoirs. If you can’t, unscrew the cap to check the level within, which should sit between minimum and maximum.
  • Before you open the cap, wipe any dirt away from the area to avoid contaminating the fluid.
  • Only top up using new brake fluid of the correct grade.
  1. Wash your troubles away
  • Keep your windscreen sparkling – and your driver’s eye view safe – by keeping the washer fluid reservoir full of clean water and perhaps a dash of windscreen detergent.
  • And you don’t need to pay your mechanic a small fortune to change your wiper blades. A quick trip to your local auto parts shop to grab a new pair, then to replace them:
  • Lift the wipers to remove the old blades.
  • Pay attention to how the old blades connect to the metal arms.
  • On most models, you’ll see a tab on the underside of the wiper. Push the tab to remove the old blade.
  • Attach the new blades, being careful not to bend the wiper arms or scratch your windshield. Line everything up and make sure the new ones are secure and tight.
  1. Replace your own battery
  • It’s the heart of your car and you’re going nowhere without it! But don’t spend a fortune on an expensive at-home battery replacement service.
  • After consulting your owner’s manual and grabbing the right battery type for your car, you can replace it yourself using these simple steps.

And remember – when it comes to car maintenance DIY, if you’re ever unsure – err on the side of caution and consult your local mechanic. It’s better than making a big mistake, and you could save yourself a lot more cash in the long run!

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