Image of a Vehicle Dashboard Indicating an Engine Fault

Essential vehicle checks

FUEL

Keep a check on your vehicle’s fuel gauge. In colder weather, it is more likely that you will be faced with frequent stopping and starting, which can drain the tank. If you aren’t confident that your fuel indicator gauge is telling you the truth, you can also keep track of your mileage to give you an idea of when you need to fill up. It is not advisable to continuously ignore your vehicle’s fuel warning light, as consistently running your vehicle with a near empty tank can cause costly damage to the fuel system.

SCREENWASH

Be sure to get a screenwash that can handle the temperature that the car may face, preferably one that can handle temperatures of at least -10°C in winter time. Screenwash has antifreeze in it. It is not recommended to use just water or household washing up liquid, as both can freeze. Household cleaners also contain harsh chemicals which can damage paintwork. They also produce a lot of foam, which can lead to reduced visibility.

OIL

Always be sure that your car’s oil levels are topped up. Not doing so may lead to engine damage or a breakdown. It is worth regularly checking for oil spots underneath your vehicle on the road, as this can be a firm indicator of a fluid leak. Also be sure to check your power steering fluid level, if applicable. One way to check for fluid leaks, to be sure it’s coming from your vehicle and nobody else’s, is to slide some cardboard underneath the vehicle while it’s parked up so it can capture the drips.

TYRES

Ensure you carry out the basic damage, tread and pressure checks on your tyres on a regular basis. This will ensure that a vehicle breakdown is less likely to occur. Current UK law requires tyres to have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm.

For tyre pressure, you may consider investing in a foot or air pump. The pressure gauge reading should tell you if you need to add or relieve air in your tyres. The correct tyre pressure reading will depend on the type of vehicle you have. Most newer vehicles come with a sticker somewhere on the bodywork that sets out the correct tyre pressure for the vehicle. If you have an older vehicle, or you can’t find a sticker, then refer to the owner handbook for this information.

LIGHTS

Winter months can mean significantly reduced visibility due to snow and/or rain showers. It is therefore very important to see and be seen by other drivers. Make sure that all your headlights and indicators are working properly. If you are getting in a car after heavy snow fall, make sure that no frozen snow is covering your car’s headlights.

COOLANT

Always ensure that you have enough anti-freeze in your engine’s coolant to avoid causing damage to your engine. Always ensure that the engine has cooled down before opening the reservoir.

Not to be confused with the antifreeze in screenwash – both should be treated separately.