Even if you’re not an enthusiast, it pays to have an inkling about car maintenance when you go to a garage. And once you gain that basic understanding, you’ll start to realize just how much you can actually do yourself! Haynes is here to help you take control of your car maintenance, so read on to find out if you need to shape-up your skills.
Remember that old joke about the guy who can’t get his VW Beetle started so he lifts the hood and is alarmed to discover there’s no engine? Just a tiny bit of car maintenance knowledge would have prevented him from looking a total chump when he called the Police, but how do you know if you’re bad at car maintenance and need to brush-up on your knowledge? If you answer yes to any of the following questions, reach for your Haynes manual.
1. You get a flat tire and your first thought is to call the AA
Let’s face it, changing a wheel is a pain where you don’t need it, but it’s one of the most fundamental skills every driver should have. If it’s been a while since you did it or you’ve recently bought a new car, you should check the location and condition of the spare, track down the jack and make sure you know where your car’s jack-points are. It’s also worth carrying a decent wheel nut spanner, something a bit longer than the average one supplied with a car, to make it easier to undo and tighten the nuts.
2. Oil is something you’ve only ever poured into your car
It’s essential that you keep your car’s oil level topped up to the correct level, but it’s just as important to change the oil and oil filter on a regular basis. If you currently pay a mechanic to do the work for you, you can save a fair amount of money by doing the job yourself. You just need to know the location of the sump plug, have a spanner that fits it and have a container that’s large enough to collect the old oil. When you’re buying the fresh oil and filter, don’t forget to buy a new sump plug washer - it’ll only cost a few pence. Reusing an old washer is a recipe for leaks.
3. You have no idea what work has just been done on your car
Some mechanics like to use lots of technical jargon to sound impressive, but most are willing to explain what work needs to be done to your car and why in layman’s terms. If they can’t or won’t explain it then it’s probably time to visit a more helpful mechanic - they could be trying to pull the wool over your eyes. You’re paying for the work to be done you have a right to know why it’s needed.
4. You’ve got jumper cables in your boot but don’t know how to use them
Having jump leads and knowing how to use them is about as close as you can get to being a modern-day hero in a supermarket parking lot when an elderly couple discover that their car battery is flat. The basic process is simple:
• Park your car close to the one with the flat battery.
• Connect the red lead to the positive terminal of your car battery and the opposite end the positive terminal of the flat battery.
• Connect the black lead to the working battery’s negative terminal and the other end to an earth point such as a metal bracket.
• Check the leads are clear of moving engine parts and start the car with the working battery.
• After a couple of minutes start the car with the flat battery and await the medal ceremony.
5. Your car fails an MOT test on something stupid
There are some very simple faults that can lead to your car failing its MOT. Performing a quick check of the basics like tire tread and lamp operation can save you time and money. Ideally you should take your car to any inspection knowing that it will pass.