5 Vital Car Checks to do yourself during lockdown

Author Name – Wendy Riach

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All vehicles need regular maintenance, including car servicing to help keep your vehicle in the best condition, but you can help too, so we have put together a list of 5 vital car checks you can do yourself at home.

It doesn’t matter how often you use your vehicle and that has probably been a lot less during the lockdown, you still need to make sure your vehicle is ready for the road.

Tyre Tread Depths

Tyres are arguably one of the most important safety features on your vehicle, the legal tread depth limit in the UK is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of your tyre’s tread and around the full circumference of your tyre.

Tyre tread depths are very simple to check at home using a 20p coin. At several points around the tyre’s circumference insert the 20p coin into the tread grooves, if you can’t see the outer band of the 20p coin your tread depth is above the 1.6mm legal limit. If the can see the outer band of the 20p coin your tyre is probably below the legal limit and the tyre will need to be changed.

We strongly recommend checking all your tyre treads a least once a month to help keep everyone safe on our roads.

Tyre Condition

As well as tread depths, the general condition of your tyres should be checked regularly, this can easily be done at home.

Remove any stones or embedded items from your tyres as these can damage your tyres if driven on. Check for cracks in the tyre treads and sidewalls, around the full tyre circumference.

Tyres can crack if they are getting old or this can also be caused by under-inflated tyres. Check for bulges and lumps as this can be a sign of internal damage, which is often caused by striking kerbs and hitting potholes.

Tyres that are cracked and have bulges or lumps will need to be changed asap.

Example of internal damage and tyre bulge below:

tyre condition

If you are worried about the safety of your tyres, book a FREE tyre inspection online or call your local National Tyres and Autocare branch.

Tyre Pressures

Every car has recommended tyre pressures, which can usually be found inside the driver’s door sill, your vehicle’s handbook and can sometimes be found inside your fuel cap. You can also check your recommended tyres pressures with our easy tyre pressures lookup system online. Please note there are different tyre pressure settings when your vehicle is fully laden.

You can check your tyre pressures easily at home using a tyre air pump, most vehicles without a spare wheel come with an electric tyre air pump or you can buy these at motoring supply shops or online.

To check your pressures with a tyre air pump, simply remove your valve cap and attach the valve adaptor to the tyre valve and lock in place, the gauge will display the current pressure. If you need to add more air, plug the compressor into a charging point in the vehicle and switch on your engine (it doesn’t have to be running), then switch on your pump and add desired pressure.

Please don’t over-inflate your tyres, as this can cause the tread and sidewalls to become harder, reducing traction as only the centre of the tyre will be making contact with the road.

Under-inflated tyres wear out your tyres more quickly on the edges and over-inflated tyres wear out tyres more quickly in the centre. Correct tyre pressures will increase the life span of your tyres, improve safety and saves you money on fuel.

If your vehicle has a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS), tyre sensors alert the driver to changes in tyre pressures.  Vehicles with faulty TPMS will fail an MOT, so if you not sure if it is working properly please get this checked at your local National Tyres and Autocare branch.

Engine Oil

People often describe oil as the lifeblood of your engine, it lubricates and cleans moving parts to help your vehicle run smoothly. You must check your oil levels regularly to prevent damage to components and reduce your risk of breaking down.

Checking oil levels is simple to do, firstly park your vehicle on a flat level and safely secure your bonnet open, make sure you have some kitchen roll or a dry cloth to hand. Locate your oil dipstick, which usually has an orange or yellow pull ring at the top, pull the dipstick fully out and wipe the oil away with the kitchen roll, then put the dipstick back in and remove again.

There is a level indicator at the bottom of the dipstick, if the oil is close to the bottom indicator you would be advised to top up the oil. Please make sure you top up with the correct oil for your vehicle.

The oil level should not exceed the top indicator. If the oil level is below the lower-level indicator you need to urgently top up the oil, this could also indicate that you have an oil leak, check for oil stains under your vehicle.

Our branches can change your engine oil and filter, and help you select the right type of oil for your vehicle. Get a quote for an oil and filter change by clicking the related article below.

Related: Book an oil change

Coolant and washer fluid

Engine Coolant

You need to check your coolant level when the engine is cold. Low engine coolant can cause your vehicle to overheat. You can check this easily at home, simply secure your bonnet open, the coolant tank can be found in your engine compartment, but is not in the same place in all vehicles, but will look similar to the part below with the pink liquid at the bottom.

engine coolant

There will be a level indicator on the coolant tank, which is usually just below the sealed joint. When replacing coolant please make sure to add the correct coolant up to the maximum level, but not above. Coolant usually includes antifreeze, which prevents the liquid from freezing in cold temperatures. Coolant can be purchased at motoring supply shops or petrol stations.

Washer fluid

This can sometimes be difficult to find under the bonnet and is often hidden in a corner, in the image above it is at the front of the vehicle. Please check your washer fluid regularly, as you will need this to keep your windscreen clean. You can buy ready mixed washer fluid which includes antifreeze or concentrated washer fluid, which needs diluting with water at your local petrol station or supermarket.

As well as washer fluid you will need to make sure your windscreen wipers are working correctly and are not smearing the windscreen. We now offer a windscreen wiper/ wiper blades replacement service.

Hope this information is helpful, but if you are worried about the safety of your vehicle or find the checks difficult to do all our branches offer FREE Safety Checks and advice. Book a Safety Check online or contact your local National Tyres and Autocare branch.

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