We all rely on our cars to get us from A to B so, why are some people so reluctant to shell out on maintaining their motor?
They’re hard to miss, the cars that look more Scrapheap Challenge than Top Gear. Whether it’s a wing mirror stuck on with duct tape or a rear passenger window made entirely of bin bags – there’s really no excuse for driving a car which isn’t roadworthy.
So, how do motorists allow their cars to get to that state? Well, car ownership is expensive and often other things take priority over motor maintenance with car owners often choosing the cheapest, rather than best, option.
That’s not to say doing it yourself is a bad thing as there are plenty of DIY jobs you can do to help your car pass its MOT. And it’s important to have a good understanding of your car and the jargon the mechanic will use at the garage to help you stay well informed.
How can I keep car maintenance costs down?
It’s the unexpected problems which end up costing you the most, so it’s important to get to know your vehicle. Understanding your car will make it much easier to spot if there are any problems so you can deal with them before they cause more damage.
Protecting your windscreen
You won’t get too far without a windscreen, so you should definitely do all you can to look after it.
One of our colleagues, Sarah, told us about her terrifying experience when driving along the motorway in her first car – a rusty old banger bought for £50.
“I was driving in a storm when all of a sudden my windscreen wiper came loose and started to flap about.
“I pulled on to the hard shoulder and phoned my father, who’s a mechanic, and frantically asked him for help. His advice was to use a bit of elbow grease and push it back into place.
“Luckily the storm disappeared after a few minutes and my wipers lasted the journey home.”
Of course, avoiding this terrifying scenario altogether is preferable so, how do you do that?
• Make sure you replace your windscreen wipers once a year, and clean them when you wash your car
• Ensure your screen wash is regularly topped up with an additive that prevents freezing
• If there’s a chip in your windscreen, have it looked at before it spreads and cracks in two.
Basic car maintenance tips
As the beating heart of your car it’s no surprise you need to show your engine plenty of TLC to keep it healthy.
As cars become more and more technological, with smart, self-driving cars set to become more and more widespread over the next few years, you could argue their maintenance will require fewer oily rags and more computer knowledge. They may even maintain themselves – how great would that be - or at least send you warnings about what needs doing before it gets out of hand.
For now, the easiest way to maintain your engine is to carry out some regular, simple health checks. Things like checking your oil by using a dipstick and remembering to put the oil cap back on, for example.
A member of the Admiral team learned the hard way not putting the cap on the oil tank can cause serious damage to the engine!
You should check the oil every couple of weeks and always before a long journey.
If you’re anything like us, the weekly trip to the petrol station always results in confusion over which side of the car the petrol cap is on. The good news is, most newer cars have a handy icon on the dashboard to show which side the petrol tank is.
Maintain your tyres
One of the biggest problems for car owners is keeping those tyres in good condition. We asked our deputy head of engineering at Admiral, Glyn Morgan, how to keep them up to scratch:
• The four tyres on any car which seats no more than eight passengers must have a tread depth of no less than 1.6mm in a continuous band in the centre ¾ of the tyre and around the circumference
• Tyre pressure will vary depending on the make and model, but your car instruction manual should have a note stating what pressure your tyres should be kept at
• If you have a spare tyre, you should also keep a tool kit to use if you need to put it on. It should contain a jack, wheel removal tools, and a locking wheel nut key
• All tyres have a tread depth indicator built into the tyre so this is a visual indication of when you should replace your tyres. This can be seen in between the actual tread of the tyre and is set at 1.6mm
• Keeping your tyres inflated to the correct pressure will also ensure that you are getting the best possible fuel economy.