On average, UK car owners spend £800 on car repairs annually. While maintenance costs cannot be ignored there are certain things you can do to keep the car repair bills to a minimum.
From neglecting regular oil changes to ignoring strange noises and smells, we’ll cover it all in this article so that you can keep your car running smoothly and your wallet happy.
Ignoring warning lights
Most modern cars have a sophisticated system powered by the onboard computer to warn the driver of any issues or components malfunctioning by illuminating a warning light on the dashboard. These warning lights are triggered by various sensors around critical parts of the car. While these warning lights do not always mean you should come to a halt, it’s important to understand what they mean and what you should do next to avoid further problems with your car.
Some of the common dashboard warning lights that you should not ignore include:
Battery warning light
When this warning light is illuminated, it could point towards a weak battery, a faulty alternator, loose battery connections or some kind of damage to the electrical system. A qualified technician should be able to carry out a thorough diagnostic to pinpoint the exact issue. Ignoring this warning light could even lead to a breakdown when you least expect it so it’s best to get it checked and rectified as soon as possible.
Tyre pressure warning light
The most common issue that can result in the tyre pressure warning light to illuminate is simply low tyre pressure through underinflation of a tyre. The easiest way to fix this is to make sure the tyres are inflated to the recommended pressure. Take note that the warning light may not go away immediately and may require you to drive a few miles before it resets.
The other reason why it could illuminate is a faulty tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) which occurs when the sensor is falsely reporting that the tyres are underinflated even if it isn’t. A diagnostic inspection by a mechanic should be able to verify the issue.
Brake system warning light
The brake warning light could indicate a number of problems such as low brake fluid level, worn out brake pads or other issues with the braking system. If the vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS) then normally a separate warning light will illuminate on the dashboard. Any warning light that indicates an issue with the braking system should not be taken lightly as it’s a safety-critical component that could lead to a dangerous situation for both the driver and road users.
Check engine light
This warning light generally indicates that there is an issue with the engine or the emissions system. Some issues that can trigger this light include a faulty fuel filler cap, EGR valve issues, a malfunctioning catalytic converter or even a faulty oxygen sensor. An illuminated check engine light may not always light up due to a severe issue but it’s imperative that the root cause is checked and addressed to avoid bigger problems or risk of irreparable engine damage.
The Complete Guide To The Check Engine Light
Procrastinating tyre change
Worn-out tyres can severely impact the safety of a vehicle such as reduced vehicle handling and longer stopping distances. Furthermore, they can also reduce overall fuel economy – which means burning more fuel than necessary! Delaying a tyre change when the tread is below the legal limit or the rubber is cracked or otherwise dangerous not only means you’re driving illegally but it can also cause other parts of your vehicle to wear down faster, such as your suspension or alignment. This can lead to increased maintenance costs in the long run.
Not changing engine oil
One of the most important aspects of maintaining a combustion-engined vehicle is checking and topping up the engine oil as recommended by the manufacturer. If the engine oil is not refilled as needed it can lead to various problems with the engine. These include overheating, engine wear and tear, reduced fuel efficiency and even harmful emissions.
You can (or have someone help you) check and top up engine oil yourself by following a few simple steps: DIY: How to Check Your Engine Oil Level
Ignoring strange smells and noises
A strange or unusual noise can indicate a number of issues with the vehicle, ranging anywhere from worn-out brake pads to a malfunctioning catalytic converter.
For example, a grinding sound can mean a problem with the gears while a squealing noise could be a result of faulty brake calipers or a worn clutch. A rattling noise can also indicate an issue with the catalytic converter or a problem with the suspension system depending on where it’s coming from. Ignoring these signs can further damage the vehicle so get it addressed as soon as you can and you may be able to prevent an expensive repair!
If you can sense unusual smells in the car, they could be a cause for concern. These articles may help guide you through what they could mean and what to do next:
- Why Does My Car Smell Of Petrol?
- Why Does My Car Smell Of Burning Rubber?
- Why Does My Car Smell Like Rotten Eggs
Driving with low pressure tyres
It is recommended that tyre pressures are checked at least once a month. Where necessary tyres should then be inflated. Driving with underinflated tyres can result in reduced handling, low fuel efficiency and an increase in braking distance. On the other hand, overinflated tyres can reduce traction and increase the chances of a blowout.
Also, ensure you fill-up the tyre pressure to the recommended levels as per the manufacturer. Anything less or more can impact fuel efficiency, handling and have other long-term effects on the overall condition of the vehicle. Typically, the recommended tyre pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or inside of the driver or passenger side door.
Skipping annual service
Besides the safety concerns of skipping an annual service, there are several issues that can crop up if the service intervals are not adhered to in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. For example:
- Increased risk of breakdowns: this is because annual servicing can help identify any potential issues and address them accordingly.
- Clogged up components: A lack of regular servicing also means that air filters and fuel injectors can get clogged up which can lead to increased fuel consumption.
- Depreciation: Carrying out an annual service also contributes greatly to the resale value of the car as potential buyers may be wary of investing in a poorly maintained vehicle.
- Invalidation of warranty: If the service is skipped during the manufacturer’s warranty period this can result in the warranty being voided which means you can end up being liable for expensive repairs.
Not cleaning the exterior regularly
Along with cleaning the inside of the car, it’s important to keep the exterior clean and well-maintained. Some issues that are a result of skipping a car wash include:
- Corrosion: A car’s exterior can be damaged by road salt, bird droppings, and other contaminants, resulting in rust and other issues (including overtime structural damage).
- Damage to paint: As dust, dirt, and other debris accumulate on your car, the paint can be scratched and damaged, resulting in a dull and damaged appearance.
- Resale value: A well-looked-after car that has not been cleaned on a regular basis can still be perceived as a poorly maintained car, which can impact the resale value of the vehicle.
- Visibility issues: The windscreen and windows of a car are prone to build-up of dirt and grime especially in the wetter months of the year. If not cleaned, this can lead to windscreen damage over time and subsequently impair the visibility of the driver.
Here’s a helpful guide on how to wash your car properly: How to Properly Wash Your Car
Although the above tips may not always guarantee that you will have no problems with your car, they can help identify issues at the earliest possible time which can potentially help save you hundreds of pounds in running and maintenance costs.
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