Service a car efficiently and safely
Regular maintenance is essential to ensure that your vehicle remains in safe condition and Rob Marshall explains the fundamentals of car servicing and what should feature on your service checklist.
YOUR SERVICE CHECKLIST
A service checklist will allow you to assess what your car needs.
A service checklist is often provided within the vehicle’s servicing and guarantee documents. Use it as a guide but be prepared to make your own version, should you decide to service your car at home. Maintenance is required either after a certain mileage or time period has elapsed, whichever occurs first.
Certain maintenance procedures in the official service checklist, such as engine oil changes, can be carried out more regularly and can be beneficial to the car. Many motor engineers recommend that earlier servicing intervals can be more appropriate.
On top of the regular safety inspections, which all motorists should carry out to items such as lamps, tyres and windscreen-wipers, most carmakers stipulate that the following operations be carried out during a routine service:
- Engine oil and oil filter replacement
- Air conditioning pollen filter replacement
- Engine coolant strength check
- Brake fluid check
- Visual inspection of the braking system
- Visual inspection of the suspension components, including wheels
- Check for the condition and tension of driving belts (except timing belt)
- Check battery fluid level (in the case of non-sealed batteries)
Certain engine driving belts will need changing periodically, although not at every service
Add the following items to your service checklist, too.
They may not require annual attention but they will need either inspection or replacement during the car’s life.
Timing/cam belts require routine replacement, including their tensioners and, possibly, the water pump. Some car makers were over-ambitious about the replacement intervals and may have revised their schedules.
Brake Fluid absorbs water, which can reduce braking efficiency. Unless synthetic brake fluid is used, it should be renewed every two years.
Antifreeze / Coolant’s anti-corrosion properties diminish with time, necessitating replacement every two years. Some long-life coolants (which should, generally, not be used on pre-1985 cars) extend this period to five years.
Fuel Filters often need replacing at least once a year, although many manufacturers recommend a much longer interval.
Spark Plugs Use good-quality long-life replacements and inspect the condition of the ignition coil(s) and leads (if fitted).
Sensors, such as engine electrical sensors, air-mass sensors or oxygen/Lambda sensors, are not considered to be service items but they do degrade with time and often need replacing after 5-10 years.
PREPARING TO SERVICE YOUR CAR
Servicing operations and intervals vary greatly between makes and model of car, so you are advised to consult the manufacturer’s service checklist carefully. For advice on specific procedures, invest in a good-quality workshop manual.
Always buy good quality filters for your car.
Should you elect to DIY service your car, take the following precautions:
Drain engine oil, when it is warm. Obtain a new filter and seal, plus a new washer for the sump plug. Wear latex gloves, when handling engine oil, and dispose of it at an approved household waste site.
Animals and children are attracted by antifreeze’s sweet aroma and accidental ingestion can cause rapid kidney failure, so store it safely.
Should you service your car at home and venture beneath it, ensure that it is supported with axle stands.
Brake fluid is an effective paint-stripper, so keep it away from your car’s bodywork.
BUYING SPARE PARTS
Should you decide to service your car, buy good quality spare parts; to do otherwise is false economy. Stick to the viscosity and quality of oil that is recommended in the service checklist. The technical jargon on the rear of an oil can is more important than any fancy labelling. Click here for more information on oil specifications. Never presume that the most modern oil is better for an elderly vehicle; it could cause expensive harm.
Compile your own service checklist now and be prepared to service your car when it needs it.