Millions of people rely on their cars every day, but many people forget just how complex these machines really are. Like any machine, they need checking and, on occasions, repairing too. In fact, failing to double-check certain aspects of a car can see drivers hit with a fine of up to £2,500 or six penalty points.
Insurance comparison site Uswitch has identified some of the most-googled car maintenance questions and highlighted some of the key checks to make in order to avoid a fine and points. Let’s take a look at what they are.
Oil and fluids
Your engine needs oil to operate correctly. Fortunately, checking your oil is easy to do – and it’s something you’re going to want to do frequently in order to avoid a fine or points – failure to do so could lead to your car being deemed in a dangerous condition.
Remove the car’s dipstick under the bonnet (usually highlighted with a yellow handle) and clean it off with a clean cloth or dry paper towel. Return it to the engine once more, and then remove it again. Towards the end of the dipstick will be an indicator showing the minimum and maximum levels. If it’s showing that the engine oil is low, top it up with the recommended oil for your car. Only go in small amounts and recheck each time – you don’t want to overfill it.
With 5,760 Google searches, Uswitch found that many people were looking at how much an oil change would cost. In the UK, the price of an oil change varies from £70 to £160, while purchasing oil for a top-up can cost from £30 to £50, depending on the type and amount.
Your car’s windscreen takes a beating – particularly during winter – and since it’s your main point of visibility it’s vital that you check it over for cracks and chips. If a chip or crack obscures your line of sight, it can result in a fine of up to £2,500 and six penalty points.
If you’ve noticed that a stone has impacted your windscreen it’s a good idea to stop and check if any damage has occurred. A simple chip can be repaired easily and this costs between £50 and £70 depending on size. However, if a chip is allowed to progress it can easily turn into a crack and this will most likely mean that the windscreen has to be replaced.
Brake lights are absolutely crucial when it comes to safety. They’re how other drivers can see that you’re slowing down – particularly at night – which is why it’s so important to check them over. If your brake lights are broken or malfunctioning, you could face a £60 fine and three points on your driving licence.
If you’ve got a friend nearby, ask them to check the brake lights illuminate while you operate them. While you’re there, it’s a good idea to test your reverse and fog lights, too.
However, if you’re on your own then one of the best ways to check your brake lights is to reverse close to a shiny surface – a garage door is ideal. Then all you need to do is operate the brakes while looking in the rear-view mirror – you should be able to see the reflection of the lights in the door. If there’s no reflection, then it’s likely that a bulb has gone and this will need to be replaced, either by yourself or a trained mechanic.