Cars are expensive beasts. Aside from potential damage on the road, we tend to ignore the warning signs that could prevent those bills from adding up. As a driver and fleet manager, keeping your vehicles safe and roadworthy is at the top of your to-do list and this checklist will help you do just that. Lifehacker, a blog packed with tips and tricks for an efficient life, notes that it’s important to regularly do certain checks. “The basics, like changing your oil, checking your tyre pressure, and getting scheduled inspections and work done are like getting regular checkups at the doctor. They keep you healthy and give you - and the experts - a chance to catch anything serious before it becomes a major problem.”
We’ve put together a list of the 5 things you're ignoring in your car and are the main culprits of rising repair costs.
1. Signs of water damage
With rain pouring down in some parts of the country, there is a very good chance that you’ll drive through water that will end up damaging your vehicle.
According to Forbes “in addition to the obvious damage done to upholstery and carpeting, flood water is a corrosive and abrasive mixture of water and dirt that works its way into every seam and crevice of a vehicle. Even if it starts up on the first try...a flooded car’s engine, transmission and fuel, brake, power steering and electrical systems are vulnerable to increased wear and premature failure.”
Never start a car that has been submerged or flooded as this could result in further damage. Always inspect, clean and dry out your vehicle before hitting the road again.
2. Forgotten fluids and filters
These are some of the fluids you can assess to ensure that your car is still running smoothly.
- Engine oil
Engine oil is the lifeblood of your engine and it needs to be checked at least every second week. The oil lubricates the engine’s moving parts and ensures that the engine is kept clean and in working condition. Here is a complete check you can do to replace/add engine oil:
- Park your car on a level ground and make sure your engine is cold before you start working.
- Open the car’s hood and locate the dipstick.
- Pull the dipstick out from the engine and wipe the excess oil from the end.
- Insert the dipstick back into the tube and push it all the way in.
- Pull it back out to see where the oil is at both ends of the dipstick.
- Every dipstick indicates the proper oil level either by the words: MIN and MAX or L or H (refer to your manual for more information).
- If the top of the oil streak is within these lines, your car does not need oil.
- Add oil if it is below these lines.
- Transmission fluid
The transmission fluid level should be checked every three months or 5 000 kilometres. Mohammed Moosa, EQSTRA Fleet Management’s National Fleet Manager, advises: “Shifting gears can be a problem without the right lubricants, but your transmission fluid should be checked and changed as per OEM (original equipment manufacturer) recommendations or every 30000 km/ 2 years. As the viscosity of the oil changes, it affects its ability to flow and lubricate the transmission components (gears). This can often lead to a gearbox failure.”
- Brake fluid
The recommended intervals for changing your brake fluid vary according to your manufacturer. A low fluid level may indicate a leak in your system and should be attended to. Cars.com states: “brake fluid lives in a sealed system and can survive for years, but moisture from the surrounding air can work its way in through hoses and other parts of the brake system. Water in the brake lines lowers the boiling point of the fluid, so stopping ability can diminish in hard stops as heat in the system increases. In addition, over time the moisture can cause internal corrosion in the brake lines, calipers, the master cylinder and other components.”
3. Unsafe tyres
Unsafe tyres are one of the main reasons of road fatalities in South Africa. Mohammed Moosa says, “Tyre pressure should be checked at least once every two weeks whilst the tyre is cold. Checking the pressure whilst the tyre is hot can give an obscured reading. It is advisable to check the condition of the tyre and change them as needed. Tyres which have been worn down to the TWI* (Tread Wear Indicator) may have some tread remaining, but are not capable of dispersing water effectively in rainy conditions. This, combined with under inflated tyres and a multitude of other conditions on the roads, can lead to fatalities.” It is extremely important to make sure that your tyres are in good working order. Check the tyre’s inflation level and tread depth and inspect possible signs of uneven wear, cracking and bulging.
* A raised section (usually about 1.6mm high) moulded into the grooves of a tyre.
4. Broken wiper blades
One of the most important requirements when driving is to have a clear view of the road in all types of weather conditions. According to the National Road Act- Regulation 203 of South Africa, “ No person shall operate on a public road a motor vehicle with a windscreen which is not fitted with at least one windscreen wiper which shall be capable of operation by other than manual means and shall, when in operation, wipe the outside of the windscreen directly in front of the driver, continuously, evenly and adequately: Provided that the provisions of this regulation shall not apply to a motorcycle, a motor tricycle or a motor quadricycle without a fixed hood.” Motoring experts advise that wiper blades need to be checked every six months and replaced at least once a year.
5. Pesky spark plugs
Spark plugs are part of the engine and need to be maintained and changed when necessary. Although they are manufactured to be durable, they will age at a certain point. Here’s a helpful video on how to change your spark plugs:
These are only a few things you will need to do to get your vehicle in tip top shape. Check your owner’s manual for things we may have overlooked and feel free to comment below.