5 Ways to Keep Your Car in Top Condition

Cars deserve all the care and regular maintenance you can afford. They should not only be free of any issues or failing components but also need to look the part. There are a few ways to keep your car running better for longer and mirroring showroom looks. The simple tips below will save you time and money, prevent smaller problems from spiralling into major issues, and help vehicles retain higher value when selling.

Car Detailing 

Keeping your car spotless, inside and out, is one way to prevent damage, avoid nasty smells, and have heads turn in admiration. How you maintain your car is ultimately a reflection of yourself. Detailing encompasses tending to all nooks and crannies, removing ingrained dirt, and dealing with all car parts. The aim is to restore vehicles to showroom condition. And this means so much more than just the odd wash. 

A full car exterior treatment consists of three distinct stages – deep cleaning to remove visible and stubborn grime, tending to any damage, and protecting the paintwork, metals, tyres and glass from external contaminants. Each stage requires several detailing products, a lot of elbow grease and the determination to revive the car’s good looks, just like the day you got it. Let’s break things down. 

Detailing the car on your own doesn’t have to be difficult or costly. This is what you’ll need:

  • Pre-wash foam and car shampoo
  • Mitts and drying towels 
  • 2 buckets
  • Wheel cleaner

These are very cheap, and good automotive products are also easy to find. The biggest expense is getting a decent pressure washer, matched with a compatible lance. Cleaning the exterior starts with the wheels to get ingrained dirt out, followed by applying a pre-foam wash concentrate to break up hardened dirt, and then shampooing the car from top to bottom. This is where buckets with clean water come in. Tend to all the paintwork with clean microfibre mitts, use brushes for hard-to-reach parts, and dry with separate drying towels. If you’re happy with the results, or too tired to continue, cleaning ends here. 

Detailing, however, also means going deeper. For the paintwork prep stage you’ll need the following: 

  • Iron fallout remover and clay bars
  • Birdlime remover
  • Bug cleaner

For cars with more mileage, and driven on bad roads, also consider tar and glue remover, Contaminants like these can be hard on the paint and metal, and cause flaking, rusting, and are just ugly to look at. This stage aims to get ingrained debris out and protect the car at the same time. Use an iron fallout cleaner to deal with rusted areas, clay bars for asphalt spray, and birdlime cleaner for bird droppings. Follow up by rinsing, and ensuring there are not forgotten watermarks. 

Next comes the polishing and waxing, dealing with the glass, and tending to specifics like tyres. Polish helps with surface damage, adding a layer of protection against scratches and scuffs, and is a requirement if you’re also using wax. This is also necessary for a gloss finish. Waxes and sealants are car exterior treatment products that add a thicker protective layer on top, shielding against UV rays, chemicals and mud, and help fill in dents or deeper scratches. Both wax and polish can be applied by hand, using matching pads, or if you’re in a hurry, by machine fitted with polishing attachments. 

Finish up by using non-stain glass cleaner for the windscreen, windows and mirrors, add general-purpose cleaner for the remaining body trim, and brighten up the tyres with tyre cleaner and dressing. Step back and observe. 

Inspect and Rotate Tyres

If your car is fitted with all-season tyres, then you can drive on UK roads year-round. Otherwise, use summer tyres in warmer months, and change to winter variants for more traction in cold snaps and snow. For tyres with safe tread levels, an easy way to get better handling and even wear is to rotate them every 6000 miles (or 10,000 km). Usually, the front and rear tyres swap position. 

The law requires at least 1.6mm of tyre tread around the complete circumference of the tyre. Anything less, and you’re up for a new set. Also, observe damage to sidewalls (for instance from kerbing), uneven wear (pointing to steering or suspension problems) and cuts, scrapes or punctures. 

Most cars now have tyre pressure gauges to alert of deflated tyres, but this is also easy to check. Low pressure can cause tyres to heat up and incur structural damage, whereas an overinflated tyre decreases traction with less rubber on the road. Both can be safety issues, especially in tyres with uneven pressure across all wheels. 

Check Oil and Coolant 

To prevent any surprises, especially on longer trips, check how much engine oil is circulating in the system, and whether the coolant is at the recommended level. 

Oil lubricates hundreds of rotating parts, ensures less wear and cools the engine. It also removes contaminants and particles that can cause serious damage or complete engine failure. To check oil levels, turn the engine off, open the bonnet, and locate the dipstick. This usually has an orange or yellow colour and an oil sign. Pull the dipstick out, and use a clean cloth to wipe any oil. Replace it and repeat the process. 

Sticks can have two pinholes, MAX and MIN, or High and Low markings. Ensure that the oil is near the middle. If too low add the required amount and redo the whole process. Usually, the dash will warn you of low oil levels, but periodic checks aren’t painful. 

Coolant is another necessary fluid involved in managing engine temperatures. Checking coolant levels is even easier, While some coolant is already in other cooling system parts, the fluid is stored in a translucent tank fitted with a pressure cap. Markings show minimum and maximum levels, and marking for recommended coolant levels. Top up missing coolant, and if your car is prone to overheating, check for leaks (usually pooling under a parked car), or issues with other cooling system components, such as failing water pumps or damaged and punctured radiators. 

Observe Regular Service Intervals

Averages of 10 or 15 thousand miles for most cars are where service intervals sit. The aim is to thoroughly check the condition of the car, diagnose any issues, and prevent them from getting out of hand. A regularly serviced car  will avoid any performance or safety issues and can net you more cash when selling. It also extends longevity, with parts less likely to fail. 

Different mileage may also mean replacing parts like spark plugs, timing belts and chains, oil, coolant and brake fluid or brake system components. Cars will also have the ECU checked or cleared for recurring issues, and any software updates added for smoother driving. Any maintenance and work will deal with minor problems, protect your car’s warranty, and help improve fuel efficiency. 

Check The Battery 

No car can start without a fully functioning battery. This delivers power to the starter motor and alternators to turn the engine over, operate different parts and systems, and store power. All batteries drain voltage over time and have a rated lifespan (between 5 and 7 years). The dash will inform you of low battery voltage, or if the car is experiencing electrical issues.

 Physically inspect the condition of the terminals, make sure there are no leaks or gassing, perform a headlight test to ensure no flickering or dimming, and do a voltage test with a simple voltmeter. Damaged or leaking batteries can spew dangerous acids that are a safety and health risk, and can damage your engine. For a carefree battery, you can invest in an inexpensive battery monitor or a simple trickle charger to prolong battery life. 

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