With the evenings getting lighter and the worst of the winter weather gradually easing, it could be time to give your car the spring health check it needs. And happily, help is at hand. From tyres to oil, washer fluid top-ups to dashboard cleaning, Autoparts has all the tools, parts and accessories you need to give your vehicle a welcome health check for spring driving.
Avoid another 'Flat-Battery Monday', as is often seen after the festive holidays when cars sit out of action for a fortnight, and make sure your battery is charged and ready to power the car on its next journey.
Luckily, batteries aren’t too difficult to check. One thing you can do to help check battery efficiency is make sure the terminal connections are clean; this will prevent dirt and grease from building up which stop the battery from working properly.
Whatever vehicle you drive, keeping its tyres in good order is an essential requirement.
When it comes to your car, make sure your tyres have at least 1.6mm of tread – this is the legal UK minimum for roadworthy tyres – and ideally much closer to a depth of 3mm. Keep in mind that many road safety charities and breakdown recovery providers believe 1.6mm to be too shallow a legal limit.
A good test for tyre tread is the ‘20p coin test’. Lodge a 20p coin in the tyre’s main tread channel, if you can’t see any of the coin’s outer band, you have enough tread. If you can see the 20p coin’s outer band, then your tyres aren’t roadworthy and it’s time to replace the offending tyre.
From a driving performance perspective, tyres without adequate tread are at increased risk of failure or aquaplaning when driving over puddles on the road.
While keeping an eye on the tread is very important, you shouldn’t neglect the rest of the tyre. Watch out for signs of tyre wear and tear, such as ‘bald’ areas with no tread, and any bulges or protrusions from the tyre. These visible signs of damage mean the tyre is in critical condition and should be replaced immediately.
You should watch your tyre pressure. The entire weight of your car is supported by your tyre’s air pressure so the naturally lose a little bit each month. Tyre pressure can affect your vehicle’s performance in a lot of key handling and safety areas, such as you quickly you break or how you handle corners. Similarly, fuel consumption is affected as a deformed tyre can lead to your fuel working harder and costing you more.
To check the pressure, make sure you get a suitable pressure gauge that uses the same unit of measurement as the pressure guidelines given for your car. Remove the valve dust cap from tyre valve and put the pressure gauge onto the tyre valve stem. Press down the gauge evenly to get an accurate reading, and if your needs inflating, get a suitable pump for the job, adding small amounts of air at a time. If they need deflating, push on the metal pin on the valve stem to release air. Remember to check all of the four tyres on your car as they pressure can vary on each.
These are the most important top-ups for your car:
Water and screenwash: In drier weather, busy roads can get dusty and larger vehicles for public transport and construction can churn up a lot of dust and dirt onto car windscreens, so make sure you have the right mixture of water and screenwash to keep your windscreens clean. If you’re not sure about the right ratio, instructions can be found on the back of the screenwash bottle. If you’re still unsure about how to dilute your screenwash, don’t worry, pre-mixed screenwash works just as well all year round.
Engine coolant: Added to your radiator, coolant helps to keep your car’s internal combustion system working at a stable temperature. Never add coolant to an already hot radiator, as you could burn yourself or damage the vehicle. Find engine coolant that will last you through to next spring in the Autoparts’ products section.
Engine oil: Oil is a necessity for vehicles – lubricating the moving parts and helping ensure the longevity of cars, motorcycles, vans and lorries the world over. However, it's essential that you consult the owner’s handbook before adding any oil, as this will list the correct oil for your vehicle.
Blades and bulbs
Vehicle wiper blades should fit the wiper base (you will normally find wiper blades categorised according to length or manufacturer grouping) and should be kept clean so that a build-up of dirt underneath them – between wiper and windscreen – won’t scratch the glass when you use them (or cause any maddening ‘squeaks’ with every swipe).
Headlight bulbs should have the ‘E’ mark or meet the 'British Standard'. LED (light emitting diode) headlights and rear brake lighting are quite common in new cars but remember to choose white or yellow headlights – the blue headlights often seen in Europe are not allowed on UK roads!
Brake pads are vitally important in maintaining your safety, so they should always be on your radar and checked regularly. It’s important to know what the tell-tale signs are that your brakes are in need of a little love and attention, or perhaps even replacing.
Thankfully, checking your brake pads doesn’t require much technical know-how and normally can be done without removing the tyres or wheels. The main factor you are looking for when checking your pads is their thickness. If the brake pads are looking thin, with the general rule of thumb being 3mm or less, then it might be time for some new brake pads.
If you’re not sure if the pads are thick enough, there are also brake pad indicators on most modern brake pads. These are ‘holes’ or indents on the pad itself that you can use to determine the brake pads’ health: the deeper the indent, the healthier the pad. If you can barely see an indent, or perhaps can’t see one at all, it’s probably time to invest in new pads.
If you haven’t been driving much over the winter period, another good spring check is to ensure your wheels are still properly aligned. Unfortunately, you’ll have to drive the car a little way in order to check this, but unless there is something extremely wrong with your alignment, this shouldn’t be an issue.
To check your wheels are properly aligned, find a smooth flat piece of road and drive down it with a loose grip on the wheel. If you feel any pulling on either side, then it’s likely that your wheels are slightly off. You can also use this chance to listen out for any sounds of scraping or grinding, another clear sign that your wheels need to be looked at.
If you suspect there is something wrong with your wheel alignment, make sure to book your car in at your local garage, who will be able to check for you and correct anything if needs be.
As EVs become more popular, it’s important to become familiar with some of the routine checks needed for these new engines. Obviously, EVs don’t need their engine oil checked, but all our other checks, such as tyres and screenwash, are still very important. On top of these, it’s important to make sure that your cables are properly packed and still working properly, as you don’t want to be caught out with a faulty cable when you desperately need to top up your charge.
For topping up everything from washer fluid to engine oil, and for finding fresh new wiper blades for your vehicle, visit Arnold Clark Autoparts’ products section.
If you enjoyed this blog, you might also like