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A useful guide to keeping you safe on the road
Vehicle Safety Guide
In between MOTs and routine servicing, there’s some basic maintenance you can perform yourself to help keep your vehicle in good running order. Of course, if you have any serious faults or concerns please get in touch with us on 0370 600 4499 or alternatively take a look at our Customer Support section for further information.
If your vehicle isn’t going to be driven for a while, it’s good practice to start the engine once a week for around 10 minutes to allow it to reach running temperature. You don’t need to drive anywhere, just doing this while the vehicle is parked will help to keep the engine ticking over.
Oil is the most critical component for your engine and we recommend that you check your oil once a week. You can check your oil by following the below steps:
- The vehicle should be parked on a level surface and the oil should be checked when the engine is cold, a good time is after the vehicle has been stood overnight.
- Lift the bonnet and locate the dipstick, some vehicles will not have a dipstick and will have an electronic display inside the vehicle, if unsure please refer to the owner’s manual. If you have located the dipstick, the next step is to remove it and wipe it clean.
- Once you have wiped the dipstick you will see two marks - one for the minimum level and one for the maximum. Reinsert the dipstick and then remove it again to see where the oil sits between the two marks.
- The oil level should always be kept above the minimum mark, but it is equally as important that the oil is never overfilled above the maximum mark as this can also damage your engine. Oil should be topped up to just below the maximum mark.
- If the oil is low this can be topped up via the oil filler cap at the top of the engine. When topping up it is vital that you use the correct grade of oil that will be available from dealerships and fuel stations. Please ensure that you replace the oil dipstick before driving the vehicle
To ensure that your vehicle operates at the correct temperature it is important to keep the coolant at the correct level. To check your coolant please follow the below steps:
1) Open the bonnet and locate the coolant reservoir, on this you will see two marks indicating the minimum and maximum levels. If your vehicle doesn’t have a coolant reservoir it will have a removable cap on the radiator and on the side of the radiator you will see minimum and maximum marks. If unsure please refer to the owner’s manual.
2) If the coolant level is low it will need topping up with water and ant i-freeze. Some coolants are pre mixed so you simply pour straight in and others require diluting with water. If dilution is required a 50/50 mix is recommended. Coolant is available from dealerships or fuel stations and the label will advise if it requires dilution.
3) To top up simply remove the cap on the top of the coolant tank (NEVER do this when the engine is hot as it is pressurised with boiling water and could result in injury, if the engine is cold this is completely safe as it is no longer pressurised).
4) If you do have to top up the coolant it is recommended to top up to just below the maximum mark. Please ensure that the coolant cap is replaced before driving the vehicle.
Screen wash should always be checked and topped up to ensure that your windscreen washers operate, it is a legal requirement that windscreen washers must work and if a vehicle was presented for an MOT test without them working it would fail. To check the level please follow the below steps:
- Open the bonnet and locate the windscreen washer reservoir. In a lot of cases the reservoir itself can be hidden under covers or be fitted under the body panels, if this is the case you should still be able to see a filler neck and cap such as the example below:
- To top up simply remove the cap and top up with screen wash, some screen wash comes pre mixed and some has to be diluted depending on which type you purchase, please refer to the label for instructions. Some manufacturers recommend using their own screen wash, however screen wash is available to purchase from dealerships or fuel stations and there is no set grade. There is not always a maximum fill level visible and if this is the case fill to near the top just below the cap, no damage can occur by over filling. Always replace the cap after topping up.
Tyres should be checked on a regular basis, the first check being the tyre pressures as they play an important role in the handling of the vehicle. By keeping your tyres at the correct pressures, there can also be fuel economy benefits although these will be minimal.
Some vehicles will be fitted with a tyre pressure monitoring system known as TPMS, this will inform you if the tyre pressures are low and in some cases can actually tell you what pressure is in each tyre. Other vehicles without this feature require a manual check with a tyre pressure gauge or inflation device.
To find your tyres pressures you can either look in the owner’s manual, or there will be an indication on the vehicle usually on the B post. This can be on either side of the vehicle as per the below example:
You will see from the example that you will need to know the tyre size, this is visible on the sidewall of the tyre. Some inflation devices measure in Bar and others in PSI. As an example if the above vehicle was fitted with 215/55/R16 tyres and was a 2.0 Engine the front tyre pressure would be either 2.2 Bar or 32 PSI carrying 1 – 3 passengers and the same for the rear.
Another important check is the tyre tread depth, this should be above the legal limit of 1.6mm. An easy way to check this is to locate the marker bars that are on all tyres as they measure 1.6mm and are across the central parts of the tread, for more information on tyre safety please see our guide: Advice for drivers: A guide to tyre safety
Did you know?
If your tyre tread is worn down to the marker wear bars then your tyres will need to be replaced at the earliest convenience, low tyres tread can impact on braking efficiency and overall handling of the vehicle if not replaced and can lead to a fine and penalty points if they are illegal and below 1.6mm.
Lights should be checked every time you drive as a bulb can fail at any time. Some vehicles have a warning indicator that informs the driver that a bulb is out and some even advise which bulb that is, not all vehicles are this sophisticated so some require a physical check. When checking the brake lights it is a good idea to ask somebody to stand behind the vehicle, as you press the brake pedal they can then check the brake lights in both rear lamp clusters, and the central brake light that most vehicles have fitted either on the rear spoiler or at the top of the rear screen.
To the right is one example of a bulb warning light you might see in your vehicle
Brake fluid should not require topping up between services and only tends to drop slightly as the brakes wear low as the fluid has further to travel, this is due to the travel on the brake caliper pistons. You can check this if you wish by checking the brake fluid reservoir as it has a minimum and maximum mark, below is an example of what a brake fluid reservoir looks like:
You will notice that the cap has a caution sign, this is due to brake fluid being corrosive and harmful. If your brake fluid requires topping up it is recommended that a garage does this as it’s imperative to your safety, they can also check your brake components at the same time for wear and replace if required.
If the fluid is low you should see a warning lamp inside the vehicle, if this is illuminated in red the vehicle should NOT be driven, if it is amber it must be topped up at the earliest possible opportunity with the correct grade fluid. Below are two examples of a brake fluid warning light:
Brake fluid actually has a service interval and most manufacturers recommend that this is changed every two years, some recommend that the first change is at 3 years and then every two years after that.
Brake fluid has hygroscopic properties meaning that it absorbs moisture during its life in your car through the pipes, hoses and joints that it lubricates. As the water content in the brake fluid increases, the temperature the liquid boils at decreases. This is the reason why manufacturers recommend that brake fluid is changed to ensure optimum braking performance at all times.
Power Steering fluid
Power steering fluid should never require topping up as the system is sealed, this is checked as part of a manufacturers service schedule at varying intervals. The only time this will drop is if there is a fault or a leak in which case the below warning lamps will appear in your vehicle:
If you notice this symbol the vehicle should NOT be driven and you should contact your breakdown provider immediately.
Guide to warning lights
Below is a useful guide to help identify what some of the warning lights indicate, further information should be in your owner’s manual and advice can be obtained from any dealership or your breakdown provider.