The Automobile Association (AA), the UK’s version of our AAA, has some advice for you: to maintain your car, remember the word flower. Each of the six letters of this word and mnemonic device corresponds to a key area of car maintenance to keep in mind as a sort of running checklist: fuel, lights, oil, water, electrics, and rubber.
Why not think “flower” every few weeks or so, going over each “letter,” to make sure all is well with your car? Catching a problem while it is small is the way to prevent a large (and potentially expensive) problem, before it, er, blossoms.
Some like to live dangerously, and never top up that tank until the fuel light comes on. Don’t be that person. If you know you’re running low on fuel, and you see a gas station, fill ‘er up.
Lights can’t do their thing if the bulbs are blown or if they are dirty or cracked. Clean your exterior lights once every three weeks, and check for cracked lenses and blown bulbs for good measure.
Some cars are very thirsty, going through as much as a quart of oil every 1,000 miles or so. That’s why it pays to check the level of your oil on a regular basis. You don’t want to wait for the red oil pressure warning light to come on. That’s a sign your engine might already be damaged.
Overheating is responsible for many a car breakdown, especially in hot weather. But it’s a good idea to check the level of coolant every two weeks or so. Does the level always seem a bit low? Have it checked for leaks. And while you’re worrying about coolant, you might as well check to make sure your windshield washer fluid is topped up, too.
Most breakdowns are due to battery issues, irrespective of the time of year. The AA recommends that you replace your car battery before it dies. So if your battery is no spring chicken, get a new one, before it gets you. Also check out your radiator’s cooling fan: does it start running when the engine gets hot? You can check on this by running the engine while the car is parked.
Another frequent cause of breakdowns is damage to tires and wheels. Which is why you want to check the pressure in your tires. If your tires aren’t properly inflated, you’re just asking for trouble. Also, improperly inflated tires wear out faster and cause your car to waste fuel. If you always drive heavy, with the maximum number of riders and stuff, you’ll need to increase your tire pressure.