Maintaining your car
If you regularly check, service and look after your car, you will:
- cut down your fuel costs
- improve your safety
- keep your long term repair and service costs down
- help cut down your car’s pollution levels
- improve your car’s resale value.
DIY basic safety checks
Basic safety checks
You should regularly carry out safety checks on your car. Try to do a regular safety check at least once a month. Read your car’s manual for instructions and to find out which parts of your car should be checked while warm, and which while cold.
You should regularly check that:
- the engine oil, transmission fluid, windscreen washer liquid, radiator coolant, and brake and clutch fluid are at the right levels (top them up if necessary)
- the tyres (including the spare) are in good condition and at the right pressure (fill them up if necessary)
- all of the gauges and warning lights work when you start the car
- the lights on the outside of the car work well
- all of the glass is free from chips, cracks and scratches
- the windscreen wipers and washers work properly
- the handbrake holds the car still on steep hills
- the horn works.
If you come across anything broken, have it looked at by a mechanic as soon as possible.
Additional safety checks
At least once a year you should carry out a more complex safety check on your car. Read your car’s manual for instructions on when safety checks should be done and which parts of your car should be checked while warm, and which while cold.
You should check:
- that your seat belts and child seats are in good condition
- that your fan belt has good tension and is not cracked or frayed
- your radiator hose to make sure it is not brittle, cracked, torn or frayed
- that your battery is clean and secure and your battery fluid is at a good level
- that the air conditioning and windscreen demister are operating correctly
If you come across anything broken or defective, have it looked at by a mechanic immediately.
Services give your mechanic a chance to find minor problems before they become more costly major problems. Having regular services helps to keep your long term repair costs down. To correctly maintain your car, you should follow your manufacturer’s service schedule.
Car makers often like you to take your car to 1 of their dealers for your services. However, you do not have to do this. You can take your car to any independent servicer, which is often cheaper.
If you choose to use an independent servicer, check to make sure:
- they use genuine factory parts (not generic parts which may affect the reliability of your car)
- they are able to service your car according to your car manufacturer’s guidelines
- you won’t void your new car warranty by using them.
Read RACQ’s information on dealer and non-dealer servicing.
It is a good idea to have your wheel alignment checked by a mechanic at least once a year.
Signs of bad alignment are:
- your steering pulling your car to 1 side
- your car shuddering at high speeds
- excessive wear on the edges of your tyres.
If you think your wheels might be out of alignment, ask your mechanic to realign them as part of your next service.
To help keep your car in good condition, you should:
- remove heavy items from your boot or roof racks as soon as you have transported them—don’t drive around with them when you don’t need to
- only ever fill your fuel tank to the first click—any fuel you put in after that goes into the overflow, gets wasted, and can cause damage.