Nothing increases your car’s reliability like having it serviced on time by a reputable garage. However, with increased service intervals of up to 20,000 miles or two years, there are some jobs that you simply must do yourself to keep your car in the best of health.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that it isn’t difficult and can be done in twenty minutes or so once a week.
No, not Jeremy Clarkson’s catchphrase, POWER is an acronym you can use to remember what you need to check.
P – Petrol or fuel
O – Oil levels
W – Water
E – Electrics, including lights
R – Rubber or tyres and windscreen wipers.
Let’s look at each in turn.
You should check your fuel levels before any long journey: Do you have enough to complete the trip without topping up or will you need to stop? If you are unsure, check maps or the internet for petrol stations along the route - it could save you an uncomfortable walk to a petrol station or a dangerous wait on the hard shoulder of a motorway.
Read our guide to driving after you turn 70.
Your oil level should be kept topped up to the maximum mark on the dipstick.
Keeping a litre of the manufacturer’s recommended oil in your boot will help prevent engine damage because some new cars use a litre of oil every 5,000 miles or more. If you aren’t checking your oil regularly you’re risking catastrophic engine damage between services.
The same goes for the antifreeze mix in your car’s radiator. The correct level will be marked on the coolant tank; just make sure you only top up with a proper antifreeze mix, although plain water will do in an emergency.
Are you up to speed with the car tax rules?
Checking all the lights work can be a lifesaver and keeping a set of spare bulbs and fuses in your car is an essential part of your emergency kit. But remember: it’s better to practice replacing them in the warmth of your garage or drive before you have to do it in anger at the side of a busy road in the dark while being lashed with rain...
Incorrectly inflated car tyres can cost you up to £4 per tank of fuel. They’ll also wear out more quickly and won’t hold the road as well, so you’ve got three reasons to check the pressure every week.
You should also check the tread depth. The legal limit is 1.6mm across three-quarters of the tyre’s width, but a prudent driver replaces them at 3mm. You can check this using a tyre tread depth gauge something that is often sold as a kit with the pressure gauge. It’s also worth looking for any cuts or bulges in the tyre too, seeking professional advice if you find anything that doesn’t look right.
Driving a long distance? Read our tips to make the journey safe and pleasant.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your car will let you down. This is where good breakdown cover comes into its own, getting you back on the road with the minimum of fuss. Saga Breakdown Assistance offers cover from as little as £38 per year and we fix nine out of ten breakdowns at the roadside.
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