By: Gov Auctions | 31 October 2019

The 5 Most Important Car Checks to Do Each Year

Just like any machine, cars need regular maintenance. Whether you have a new ride or one that’s been by your side forever, it’s important to do a DIY car check up before hitting the road. Car maintenance checks not only help to prevent accidents and breakdowns, but they also keep your car in tip-top condition.

To get more life out of your car, we recommend performing these 5 routine checks once a year - or more if you clock a lot of miles.

1. Assess the fluid levels

For your car to run properly, it needs plenty of fluids. Your mechanic will top up these fluids at your service, but it doesn’t hurt to regularly check them yourself. The locations of these fluids will vary between cars, so have your owner’s manual handy.

Work your way through this fluid checklist, and change or add fluids as needed:

Engine oil

The general rule of thumb is to do an oil change every 10,000 miles or every 5,000 miles if you drive in bad weather or adverse conditions. To complete an engine oil check, remove the dipstick, wipe it clean, and push it all the way in. Wait a minute and withdraw it. The oil should be between the two marks.

Brake and clutch fluid

In most cars, a car brake fluid check is easy: You can see it through the plastic reservoirs. If you can’t see any fluid, take off the cap and look inside. The fluid should be sitting in between the minimum and maximum marks.

Power steering fluid

Again, this fluid level should be somewhere between the minimum and maximum marks. The best time to check the power steering fluid is after you’ve driven the car as this warms it up and makes it easier to read.

Auto transmission fluid (if applicable)

If you have an automatic car with a transmission dipstick, you can check the fluid levels on your own. And if your car needs more fluid, you can pour it in the dipstick tube. This process is a little more difficult with manual cars, so leave this fluid check up to your mechanic.

Windshield wiper fluid

Set yourself up for the next rainy road trip by assessing this fluid level, located in the engine compartment. If you need to refill the windshield wiper fluid, simply fill the container with clean water and add a windscreen detergent if you wish. Just don’t use a household detergent as this can damage your glass.

Radiator coolant

When the engine is cold, the coolant levels should be at or above the minimum mark. When the engine is running, they should be between half and maximum marks. If more coolant is required, pour in a mixture of clean water and the recommended coolant.

Top Tip: If you’re running really low on any fluids, look under the car for leaks. This could be a sign that your car needs a proper service.

2. Inspect the tires

Tires can wear and tear easily, and blowing a tyre can be an expensive exercise. As part of your routine maintenance checks, inspect your tires carefully. Here’s your tire inspection checklist:

Test the tire pressure using a gauge (found at most gas stations)

Let your engine cool down a little before checking the tire pressure. The owner’s handbook will lay out the right parameters for your wheels. If your tires are inside or outside those parameters, fill or depress them as needed.

Look at the tread on your tires

It should be at least 1.6mm. You can use a ruler or ask your local gas station to measure this for you. If your tires are worn down, you’ll need to replace them.

Search for wear and tear

If you find any cuts or bulges in your tires, it could be time to switch them out. Confirm your spare tire is in good condition, too. If you spot visible damage, invest in a new one so you’re never caught out without a spare set of wheels.

Top Tip: At the same time, double-check that your windows and mirrors are free from chips, cracks and scratches.

3. Examine the battery

This might be the easiest maintenance check on the list because if your battery doesn’t work, your car won’t start! Once you’ve confirmed the battery is charged, do a car battery check and inspect the cables and posts for corrosion. If you find any cracks or acid leaks, it’s time for a new battery. Generally, car batteries last two to four years, so keep in mind that you’ll need to replace your battery at some point.

4. Switch on all the lights

Next, flip on all the lights to ensure they’re working. Enlist a friend to help you, or park your car in a garage and look for light reflections against the wall. Start with the front and rear headlights, and then press the brake pedal and wait for the warning lights to pop up on the dashboard. Finish with the indicator lights, full beam light and fog light. If your lights aren’t as clear and strong as they should be, speak to your mechanic about replacing them.

Top Tip: While you’re sitting inside the car, check the condition of the seat belts for safety. Look for any tearing or damage on the webbing, and test the buckle by tugging on the belt.

5. Check the brakes and steering

If you haven’t driven your car for a while, crank the engine and let it run for about 20 minutes to warm up. Test the horn and turn on the windshield wipers to make sure they work. Then, take your car for a slow drive and take note of any strange noises. Are the brakes quick to react? Is the steering smooth? If anything feels odd, book in for a service. It’s common for brake pads to wear and crack, and for steering to get “sticky” - especially if you’ve had the car for a while.

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