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What you can do to help keep your car in tip-top shape

Owning a car can be expensive not only to buy but also to maintain, so it’s important you do all you can to help it run smoothly. Here are some handy tips and advice from our Which? Trusted traders to help maintain your car.

'I always recommend customers check their car prior to any long journeys,' says Brian Cartwright at Wolf Garage Ltd. 'These checks should be carried out when the car is cold, the vehicle is on level ground and the hand/park brake is on. Keep your keys in your pocket (certainly not the ignition!) and if you don’t like to get your hands dirty, get some latex gloves on.

Reading your vehicle manual/handbook is also important so you can thoroughly understand the dashboard warning lights, the tyre pressure, under bonnet levels and top up points. Clean your light lenses, and number plates, especially in winter and ensure your coolant, screenwash and oil levels are topped up.

It is also important to remember that an MOT is a basic safety check, so ensure that you have your vehicle thoroughly serviced annually.'

'Cars have a way to communicate to you', says Jane Russell from Garage Express based in North London. 'It might be a noise, a stutter or a light on your dashboard. You can ignore unusual noises, turn the radio up so you don’t hear it, and ignore the warning light that appears every time you switch your engine on - but it is not advisable!

Check your manual for what the signs means. If in doubt, always get any issues checked by a garage. You may think the metallic noise you are hearing is nothing but it could be your worn brake pads scraping against the brake discs - not good if you need to do an emergency stop!'

Steve Air at Garage Services (Nottingham) Ltd T/A Need An MOT finds that during the MOT test the most common issues relate to tyres, lights and wipers. Here’s his advice to address those issues:

'The only contact with the road is your tyres, obvious but easily one of the most neglected items on a car. Incorrect tyre pressures will accelerate wear, sometimes to the point of MOT fail just because pressures not checked for weeks on end. Too low a pressure can also cause split sidewalls, and high pressures will increase centre tread wear. Car handling and safety are greatly affected by tyre pressures and wear.  A check once a month will ensure your safety and can save you a lot of money and hassle.

Next up is the maintenance of windscreen wiper blades. A simple and often forgotten item, but they help maintain a clear view of the road. When did you last check them for splits or clearing effectively? It is good practice to replace the wipers each year as the rubber deteriorates and hardens becoming less effective.

Did you know a light not working can result in a fine from the police? Often £60! Far cheaper and safer to check often. Check once a week at least. Check your brake lights are working, looking for them reflecting on the car behind in traffic or on a wall or your window at home if reversing on to a drive. How often do you see headlamps not working? This is a quick check taking seconds. Replacing lamp bulbs can be an awkward affair on modern cars and it is recommended to seek professional help from your Which? trusted trader.'

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