5 Essential Car Checks To Do If You’ll Need To Start Using Your Car Again

As we’re sure you’ll be aware, the government has recently reviewed the Coronavirus restrictions and has made some changes.

For some people this may now mean you will start to use your car again after a longer period of being parked up or used a lot less than usual. If that is the case, you will likely find that your car may struggle to start or has other issues that will prevent it from performing optimally. Like humans, it needs a little stretch when it comes out of slumber!

However, there are a few checks you can do now to help ensure your car is safe and ready to set off again.

5 Essential Checks To Ensure Your Car Is Ready To Drive

  1. Battery & Electrics
    If your vehicle hasn’t been started periodically then the battery is likely to be flat. Firstly, insert the key into the ignition and switch to the first position, and if no lights come on, it’s very flat, if when you try to start the engine, the light flickers and you get either a slow turn of the engine or a rapid clicking, then the battery is too low on power.If you are not comfortable with or are unable to get help jump starting the battery, book an inspection with ClickMechanic for a technician to come out and help.
  2. Engine
    If you are fortunate and the engine starts, allow the vehicle to idle for 5 minutes before driving off. This will allow things to warm up gradually, belts to ease back into life and the cooling system time to circulate.
  3. Wheels & Tyres
    Whilst the engine is idling and warming up, it is a good time to check your tyre pressures as under-inflation will cause damage to the sidewall if you drive with low pressure in them, as well as being dangerous!
  4. Suspension
    During the tyre pressure check, take a quick look at the gap between the top of the tyres and the wheel arches and make sure it is even on both sides. If not, it could be a clear indication that a spring has broken whilst the vehicle has been stationary.
  5. Brakes
    Finally when you are ready to drive off, dab the brakes a few times and gently depress the clutch pedal a few times if it is a manual.If you haven’t driven your vehicle, inevitably your brake discs will gain a coating of rust. This is quite normal and in most cases once the car is moving and the brakes have been applied a few times, this will clean off. It may be a bit noisy to start with, but it’s ok!Hopefully, your handbrake will not have stuck on. However, if, as you drive off, the wheels drag or the car won’t move but instead rises up, it has stuck on! Do not under any circumstances simply try and keep driving it to release it as you can damage the brakes. Book a mechanic to come out and do it safely.One last word of advice, give your windscreen a wash as it’s likely to smear quite badly at the first few swipes so it’s best to do that before you set off!

If you are concerned that your vehicle may have become unsafe, unreliable or something has happened to it, book a FREE phone consultation with one of our experienced in-house mechanics or place a booking online for our contact-free mobile mechanic service.

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Should I Replace the Water Pump At The Same Time As The Timing Belt?

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Often customers come to us asking whether the water pump really needs to be replaced at the same time as the timing belt (also known as the cambelt). What we say is that if your water pump is driven via the timing belt (cambelt) it must be replaced at the same time, a water pump failure can be as catastrophic as a timing belt failing on these vehicles.

Save on labour cost

The main reason is that on some cars, to get to the water pump, you may have to remove the timing belt first even if it is driven via the auxiliary drive belt. If that is the case, then it is advisable to replace the water pump & auxiliary drive belt at the same time as the timing belt while the mechanic has access to all the parts. Once the timing belt is removed, it is only a matter of loosening a few more bolts and screws to change the water pump as well. That way you will kill two birds with one stone because the majority of the labour needed to replace the water pump will already have been done when replacing the timing belt.

Considering that water pumps generally do not cost a lot, it makes sense to do both at the same time. Not replacing the water pump on these vehicles during a timing belt change means if the pump does go at a later point, you will have to pay for the same labour again. It is likely the water pump will probably have worn after some years of use anyway, and will need replacing sooner than later.

If you don’t replace the water pump…

Not replacing the water pump during a timing belt change means if the pump does go at a later point, you will have to pay for the same labour again. It is likely the water pump will probably have worn after some years of use anyway, and will need replacing sooner than later.

Making sure the water pump is in tip-top condition is key to avoid overheating of the engine, and avoid potentially expensive repairs. Even the slightest leak in or around the water pump can reduce the ability of the engine to keep itself cool.

That’s why we at ClickMechanic do always recommend to get both the timing belt and water pump replaced at the same time. We even have a dedicated job available in our repairs section on the site that will give you a full quote for a timing belt and water pump.

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How do I know what option to choose?

We have a team of friendly, experienced in-house-mechanics who can assist you with this. Simply fill in the form below & one of the team will get back to you with the facts & recommendations.

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When Do I Need To Replace My Timing Belt?

How Often Do I Need To Replace My Timing Belt?

Lots of car owners come to us asking when their timing belt needs replacing. Replacement intervals will depend on the make and model of car, with some belts lasting up to 100,000 miles.

The timing belt, often also called cambelt, is one of the most important components of your engine but also one of the most fragile ones and if they snap you could face a major repair bill.

What Timing Belts Do

The timing belt links up the top and bottom parts of the engine. The belt matches the timing of the valves and ignition with the timing of the pistons inside the engine. What it does is keeping everything in check, to ensure your engine runs smoothly.

Incorrect timing of the engine can be due to many things. Often it’s not even the belt itself. It is rather pulleys that are damaged or a timing belt tensioner that has loosened up.

In a worst-case scenario, your timing belt may ‘jump’. This means that the belt jumps a tooth on one of the pulleys it runs around. The timing will be off and the components inside the engine will not be in the right position at the right time.

Signs That Your Timing Belt Needs Replacing

Over time the timing belt can and will wear. A squealing noise from the engine or a belt that looks frayed can indicate that your belt has worn too much. Often this is just because of normal wear, other times because of wear to parts like the pulleys or a tensioner, as a faulty pulley or tensioner can rip the timing belt.

What makes things difficult is that it’s not always clear when a replacement is needed. There may be no strange noises or visible signs of wear. If in doubt make sure to get an inspection by a mechanic who can help identify any issues.

If you think that your belt is worn it’s very important to act quickly before it wears so much that it snaps! This may be rare but it can happen if your timing belt is not replaced timely.

On some engines, incorrect timing or a snapped timing belt can lead to catastrophic engine damage. In so-called ‘interference engines’, it will mean that the pistons and valves will hit.  This might not seem critical but just remember that the parts will break if they hit at a high speed. If that happens an expensive engine rebuild will most likely be required.

On a ‘non-interference’ engine timing that is off is less of a problem. The internal components of the engine will not come into contact if the timing is not correct. Even if the belt breaks when you’re driving it is unlikely that it will cause any major damage to your engine, it is more likely that the vehicle will not start.

Simply put, there are many reasons your timing belt may need replacing. Keep in mind that many of the reasons why a periodic replacement is needed will only show when it’s too late. With timing belts, it’s therefore all about prevention. That’s why manufacturers recommend to periodically replace the timing belt. That way you can reduce the chance that your belt snaps.

 

When To Replace The Cambelt On Your Car

There is, unfortunately, no general set time at which point you need to replace your timing belt. The replacement interval will differ across car models, and their engines. Car manufacturers say when timing belts need replacing in the service schedules. Underneath you can find a table listing a number of timing belt replacement intervals on popular cars, as suggested by manufacturers (source). Manufacturers always recommend replacing the belt at a certain mileage or age interval, whichever comes first.

How Often Do I Need To Replace My Timing Belt?

Make Model Engine Year Replacement interval (mileage) Replacement interval (months)
Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI 2008 140000 48 months
Audi A4 2.0 TDI 2007 75000 60 months
Vauxhall Astra 1.4 1998-06 40000 48 months
Vauxhall Vectra 2.0 1995-02 40000 48 months
Renault Megane III 1.6 2008 72000 72 months
Nissan Qashqai / Qashqai +2 1.5 dCi 2007 75000 60 months
Ford Mondeo 1.8 1997-00 80000 60 months
Peugeot 307 1.4 HDi 2001-08 144000 120 months
Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D 2003-09 60000 120 months
Fiat 500 1.2 2007 72000 48 months

 

Make sure to always check the service schedule for your car model in the service book of your car, as the service interval for your model might be different from the intervals here. If you’re not entirely sure, ask your car’s manufacturer for the correct interval. Service intervals are a firm indicator when you need to replace your timing belt. Remember that timing belts may wear prematurely and may need replacing at an earlier time. If you think this is the case then make sure to ask for help from an expert, as it is not worth taking risks with timing belts.

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If your car needs a timing belt replacement, then we recommend having the water pump changed as well. Read more in our article about why you should change the water pump and timing belt at the same time.

When Should I Replace My Timing Chain?

When Should I Replace My Timing Chain?

Just like timing belts, sometimes it is necessary to replace your car’s timing chain. But unlike timing belts, timing chains usually will only need replacing if there is a serious problem. Normally the timing chain will be designed to last a car’s lifetime, and will not need to be replaced at a recommended service interval.

In some cases, despite not needing regular maintenance, a timing chain can wear to the point that it has to be replaced. Often this will be due to wear caused by other parts that are connected to the chain. Design faults, on the other hand, may also be a reason to replace it.

How Do I Know Whether The Timing Chain Needs Replacing?

Timing chain wear is often caused insufficient lubrication of the part. As with the other moving parts in the engine, the chain is lubricated by the engine oil. It ensures the part runs smoothly along with all the other parts. A lack of fresh oil can have an adverse effect on the condition of the chain. It will mean that it will wear quicker, and ultimately will need to be replaced.

In more extreme cases the timing chain can snap. Whilst this is not a common problem, design issues or other faulty engine parts can lead to this. The only option then is to replace the chain. On some engines, it may actually mean further internal engine repairs are required.

As noted most manufacturers design the timing chain to last the car’s lifetime. Only some car manufacturer says that timing chains need replacing after a while. Your car manufacturer will tell when this should happen in your service manual. Other than that, timing chains only need replacing if there is a problem with them.

At ClickMechanic, we advise replacing the whole timing chain kit if there is a problem. By replacing the bits around it at the same time, like tensioners and guides, wear caused by these parts to a new chain can be reduced and further expensive repairs can then be avoided.

Remember, wear to the chain over time is inevitable. But the good news is that you can reduce the likelihood of your engine needing expensive repair by sticking to the service schedule or by changing the oil and oil filter regularly.

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Happy driving!