June 6, 2020

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Essential car maintenance tips and checklist

With a little bit of maintenance, you can keep your car in tip-top condition. There...

With a little bit of maintenance, you can keep your car in tip-top condition.

There are 6 key areas to keep on top of:

  • Fuel
  • Lights
  • Oil
  • Water
  • Electrics
  • Rubber

When it comes to remembering them, just think: FLOWER.

Find out how to avoid a breakdown with these tips.

Basic checks

There are 2 ways to reduce your chances of breaking down.

The first – and most important – is to stick to the manufacturer’s advice on servicing. Your car’s service record, usually found with the handbook, will tell you when a service is due and exactly what’s needed. Make sure you book your car into the garage whenever it’s time for a service and you’ll help to keep your car healthy.

The second is to do your own simple car maintenance checks. Here’s our top 10:

1. Tyres

Damaged tyres and wheels are one of the top 10 breakdown causes. So every 2 weeks, check your tyre pressures and the condition of your tyres (including the spare, if you have one).

Look out for cuts or wear and make sure your tread is within legal limits. If your tyres aren’t inflated properly, you could be putting yourself at serious risk. They’ll also wear out faster and lower your fuel economy.

Follow these steps to keep your tyres in good nick:

  • If you’ve got a full load you’ll need to increase your tyre pressures – your handbook will tell you the right levels.
  • Punctures are more likely when your tyres are worn, so replace them when the tread gets low.
  • Drive around, not over, corners and kerbs. The sides of your tyres (where there isn’t any tread) are easy to damage.
  • Have your wheels checked for alignment or ‘tracking’ which makes sure your vehicle drives in a straight line. Otherwise the tyres wear unevenly and this can even affect the handling.

If you do get a flat, replacing it with the spare is normally straightforward. But you’ll need to know how to use the jack, plus the tyre itself can be quite heavy and dirty. Read our step-by-step guide on how to safely change a flat tyre.

Whether you’re a Member or not, our breakdown mechanics will be happy to help if you’re unlucky enough to get a flat.

2. Toolkit

If your car has a spare wheel, then at the very least you need to carry a jack and wheel-removing tools (plus a locking wheel nut key if appropriate).

Other useful items to carry in your car include:

  • Jump leads
  • Empty fuel can
  • Tyre pressure guage
  • Tyre tread guage
  • Warning triangle
  • Hi-vis jacket
  • Torch

3. Engine oil

Manufacturers warn that some cars can get through as much as a litre of oil every 1,000 miles, so it’s a good idea to check the level regularly.

You can follow our simple steps to check your oil. Just don’t wait for the red oil pressure warning light to come on – your engine might already be damaged by then. Make sure you use the right type of oil too.

Check your oil levels every couple of weeks – and before any long journey – and top up if needed. Pop your car into the garage for a check if it seems like you’re topping up more than usual.

4. Water

Overheating causes thousands of breakdowns per year in the UK, especially during hotter weather. Every week, while your engine’s cold, check your coolant level is between the MIN and MAX marks.

If the level always seems low, check for leaks. It’s a good idea to check your anti-freeze level before cold weather kicks in too.

You should also make sure that your radiator’s electric cooling fan starts running when the engine gets hot. You can check your cooling fan by running the engine with the car stationary, or ask your garage to have a look for you.

5. Battery

Battery problems are the number 1 cause of breakdowns at any time of year.

Most car batteries have a guarantee of 3 to 5 years, so if your battery’s getting a bit old and tired, replace it with a new car battery before it lets you down. 

Flat batteries are most often caused by leaving the lights on for a long time after the engine’s been switched off. So don’t forget to turn everything off as you leave the car. Most modern cars have a ‘lights on’ warning sound as you open the car door.

It’s a good idea to have a pair of jump leads in your car, just in case. You could then recharge your battery from another vehicle.

If you’re not sure how to use jump leads or the jump start isn’t working, just give us a call.

With Battery Assist, we’ll charge or replace your battery even if you’re not a Member. Call us on

0800 316 4314

6. Windscreen and wipers

Keep an eye on your windscreen for stone damage. If you spot any chips, get them repaired as soon as possible because they can grow and crack if left alone.

If the damage can’t be repaired, or it’s in a place where it could distract you, your windscreen may need to be replaced.

Replace your windscreen wipers once a year to prevent smearing.

7. Screenwash

By law, your screenwash system must work. Keep it regularly topped up with a good screenwash additive that prevents it from freezing and clears oily grime.

This is especially important in winter so make sure you add it to your winter checklist.

8. Lights

Check all your lights – including indicators, reverse lights, brake lights and fog lights – once a week.

Make sure you check for blown bulbs and cracks in the lenses while you’re at it and give them all a thorough clean every few weeks.

9. Power steering

Make sure your garage fills your hydraulic fluid reservoir when they service your car. Then all you have to do, once a month, is check its levels. If necessary, you can top up with a recommended fluid.

10. Bodywork

Give your car panels an occasional once-over for any damage or signs of rust. A bit of car care to fix chips and scratches can help your car keep it’s value and prevent bigger problems due to damage.

Other tips

Give your car a thorough check every few weeks and it’ll help you spot any problems early.

There are 6 key areas to keep on top of: fuel, lights, oil, water, electrics and rubber. When it comes to remembering them, just think: FLOWER.

These maintenance checks are all fairly straightforward. But if you’d rather not do them yourself, pop into your local garage.


Published: 30 March 2016 | Updated: 3 September 2019 | Author: The AA

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