Buying a car and paying for fuel, insurance, tax and all the other things that keep you on the road is always a fairly expensive exercise. However add things like new tyres, oil changes, engine checks, repairs and maintenance costs into the equation and it can seem like the list of motoring related bills is never-ending.
As a motorist, you are always going to have some maintenance costs but there are a number of things that you can do to keep your car roadworthy and keep the mechanics at bay, and these include taking care of your tyres, your lights and your car's general maintenance.
All cars can suffer in the cold, wet, winter weather. By carrying out the following checks you can ensure that your car has the best chance of getting through the winter months without any expensive problems.
Most of us don't bother checking our tyres unless we think there's a problem or it's time for the MOT, but over a quarter of tyres on the UK's roads are unroadworthy. Having damaged tyres can be really dangerous so it's important that yours are in tip top condition - and there is plenty that you can do to make sure that your tyres stay in good shape.
Checking your tyre pressure will make sure that your tyres are performing as best they can. Check your owner's book or a Haynes manual to find out what the right pressure should be and check them once a week at least - make sure the tyres are cold when you check them. Also look for any scratches, bumps or foreign objects such as nails as these can cause slow punctures or be evidence of structural problems.
Most tyres have tread wear indicator bars built-in which are small bumps at the minimum legal tread that you are allowed to have. If you can see the little bumps then you need to change your tyres and they have probably already reached an illegal state. The legal limit is 1.6mm of tread but it's always a good idea to get your tyres checked with a garage if they've got to 3mm or less as driving is likely to be unpredictable with less than 3mm, especially in bad weather.
Look over your car and check your brake lights, headlamps, fog lamps and parking lights. All of these should be working and correctly aligned. The front headlamps should always point to the left (in the UK, but right if driving in Europe) and slightly downwards - this is so that they don't dazzle any drivers heading towards you.
If any of the lamps aren't working, you'll need to get spares because a car without working lights is considered unroadworthy and could get you a fine if you are stopped by a police officer. When buying replacement bulbs it's worth considering buying a second set to keep in your car in case of emergencies. If several bulbs go at once you might have an electrical problem, so get it checked out by a garage.
Batteries will usually last for around 3 years, but you shouldn't rely on this. Watch out for flickering warning lights, low beams and make sure that your battery is fully charged. If you think it is underperforming at all, then replace it. It's not worth taking the risk of ending up stranded somewhere.
In the winter, you need to keep your car topped up with anti-freeze. Check the levels at least once a week and before any long journeys to make sure you aren't about to run out.
Dark mornings and evenings can reduce visibility by quite a surprising amount. Make sure your windows and mirrors are kept clean and smear-free. De-mist your windows and clear off any snow or ice that has built up while you've been away from your car. Don't wait until you drive off then find a huge pile of snow and ice falling off the roof, covering your windscreen while you're trying to drive - it could prove disastrous.
Windscreen wipers can cause problems with visibility if the blades are old and create smears. Check them regularly and change them if they look worn or straggly.
It's worth remembering that although you can't stop your car from needing repairs now and again, keeping it in a good, roadworthy condition can help keep your bills down and keep you on the right side of the law. Taking a few minutes each week to ensure your car is in tip-top condition is well worth it in the long run.
Disclaimer: The information in the article is for general purpose information only and should not be constituted as legal advice. This article has been produced by a third party and Jardine Motors does not take any responsibility for the completeness, accuracy, or reliability with respect to the website or the information provided. Article last updated March 2016.