Vital Safety Checks And Servicing Advice For A Family Car

When you buy a car, you also inherit a lot of responsibility. It is your responsibility to ensure the safety of  yourself and your family. Driving on the road is a dangerous business but you can mitigate some of the perils if your car is in good order. Many people can’t afford to send their beloved charabanc in for regular services, so they have to carry out the servicing themselves. Luckily, the internet affords us a convenient way to investigate common faults with any particular model of car, so we know some of the things that could go wrong.

Maybe you don’t have the confidence to take on repairs, but there is no reason you can’t. You don’t need an extensive toolkit, and you never interfere with any of the safety systems on the car. I will walk through a few service items that almost anybody can perform. They might prevent a breakdown on a motorway or main road that puts you all in danger and will save you a fortune.


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Tools Required

Here is a list of tools that will help you to undertake maintenance of your vehicle. You don’t need to spend a lot on top of the range items like the mechanics at the GK Group.

  • A socket set including a spark plug spanner.
  • A set of ring and open ended spanners.
  • Some screwdrivers
  • Some pliers.
  • An oil filter wrench.
  • Feeler gauge.
  • A tyre pressure gauge.
  • A Tread depth gauge.

Here are the things you can do.

Oil Change

In order to avoid breakdowns, it is vital to change the oil in your engine at least once a year. It isn’t as hard as you think; follow this procedure.

  1. Start the engine and leave it running for a few minutes until it is warm. It is easier to drain hot oil from the engine because it flows better than cold oil. It shouldn’t be hot enough to burn you.
  2. Stop the engine, apply the handbrake and engage first gear.
  3. Raise the bonnet and secure it in place.
  4. Remove the oil filler cap from the top of the engine and put it somewhere safe.
  5. Lie on the floor and look under the engine. You will see a bolt towards the bottom of the sump. That is the drain plug, and you will have to remove it to let out the old oil.
  6. Place a receptacle under the drain plug and remove it with a socket. Try not to drop the plug into the container when it comes free.
  7. Leave the oil to drain for at least thirty minutes to make sure it all drips from the engine.
  8. Buy a new washer for the drain plug from your local parts centre. They are cheap and a standard size.
  9. Unscrew the old oil filter and fit a new one.
  10. Put the new washer on the drain plug.
  11. Screw the plug back into place and tighten it with a socket.
  12. Empty the dirty oil into a suitable plastic container for correct disposal at the nearest recycling centre.
  13. Remove the dipstick from the engine and wipe it clean.
  14. Pour the right amount of new oil into the engine and leave it a few minutes to settle.
  15. Check the level is correct on the dipstick and replace the filler cap.

That wasn’t too difficult, was it?

Tyre Checks

The condition of the tyres is of paramount importance. A failure in one of them can have disastrous implications; particularly if you are moving at high-speed. Though they will come under scrutiny during the mandatory annual vehicle inspection, you should check them every week for any sign of a problem.

Inspect the outer walls first. There should be no sign of damage. If you notice cracks on there, it means that the rubber is old and past its best. There may be a slight scuff from where the tyre rubbed against a curb, but if there is a split or gouge, you must replace it immediately.

Check the depth of the tread and compare it to the legal limits in your country. In the United Kingdom, it is 1.6mm (too little in my opinion) and it must be around the entire circumference of the tyre for at least 75% of its width. To check how deep the tread is, apply depth gauge and read the measurement from the scale. If your tyre is barely legal, it is approaching danger point, and you must replace it.

Radiator Hoses

Overheating due to a burst radiator hose is a common problem but there is no need for it to happen if you inspect them occasionally. When the engine is cold, squeeze the rubber hose as hard as you can to see if it feels brittle or splits. They usually fail around the worm clip that holds them in place. It doesn’t signify a problem; they just deteriorate over time. To replace the hose, follow this procedure.

  1. Undo the drain plug at the bottom of the radiator and catch the coolant in a container.
  2. Unscrew the worm clips to loosen them.
  3. Pull the hose off the pipes to each and remove it.
  4. Put the clips on the new hose and push it into place.
  5. Slide the clips to the correct position and tighten them up.
  6. Mix the recommended quantity with water in a watering can and pour it into the top of the radiator or the filler bottle, depending on your car.
  7. Start the engine and continue to pour in the liquid until the radiator is full, or it reached the mark on the filler bottle.
  8. If there is an airlock and the engine starts to overheat, look for a drain screw somewhere on the top of the system.

There are many other maintenance tasks and safety checks you can perform. Check the lights regularly and fit new bulbs when you need to. If the windscreen isn’t clearing, install new wiper blades. The list is endless. Most people start with these small projects and move on to bigger ones as their confidence increases. Before long, you could be changing the brake pads and shoes. That is a significant repair that we will have to leave for another time. Address the things that you can and drive safely; your family is precious.

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