Prevention is better than cure. This definitely applies in the case of cars, where just simple weekly checks can help diagnose problems early and extend the life of your car, as well as give you a safer, hassle-free drive.
CarToq lists 10 checks that take under 15 minutes in all that you can perform on your car every week to ensure all is well.
The first sign of any major engine trouble will usually show up in the engine oil. Every week, open the bonnet of the car, pull out the oil dipstick and check the engine oil level. It should be at the maximum marking or slightly below (oil is thicker when the engine is cold). Check the color of the oil. It should not look dirty or burned. Take two drops on your finger tips and feel its consistency. It should not feel too sticky or gooey, but should be fluid and thin. Replace engine oil as per the manufacturers’ recommendations or sooner. If a car is not used for a long time, even then it’s prudent to replace engine oil at least once a year. Also read: A guide to car engine oils.
Check the coolant level in your car by opening the top of the reservoir bottle. When the engine is cold, the reservoir bottle should be between the minimum and maximum levels in the bottle. If there’s any leakage in the coolant, you will need to check the rest of cooling system (follow the hoses) to look for wet patches around the joints or on the engine, indicative of a leak. If the coolant level is low, top it up with distilled water or pre-mixed coolant if you have it in stock.
Windscreen wash fluid
Especially in the rainy season, check the level of water in the windscreen washer reservoir. Top it up with clean water as needed. You can also add a commercially available “windscreen wash fluid concentrate” that costs about Rs. 90 to Rs. 150 a bottle to this, which will clean the windscreen better and remove dirt and grime. Or you could also add a drop of dish-wash liquid to the container, but keep in mind that some dish-wash fluids are corrosive, and can affect the washer motor as well as remove polish from the car’s paint when the water flows on to it.
Check the condition of the rubber on the windscreen wipers. If it’s frayed or cut, it is time to replace the wipers. Replacing the wipers in time can save expensive replacement costs to the windscreen, because damaged wiper blades can scratch the windscreen. Clean the wiper rubber with a damp soft cloth or sponge to make sure it’s grit free. Also see: How to change your wiper blades
Tyres need the most attention. Individually inspect each tyre for signs of wear, any new cuts or tears and embedded foreign objects. Remove pebbles that are stuck in the tyre tread. It would be handy to keep a tyre pressure gauge and/or a portable air compressor with you. Check the tyre pressure and ensure it’s at its optimum. The best time to check pressure is when the tyres are cold as this will give you accurate pressure readings. Fill air if needed. Also read: What kind of tyres to choose for your car
Check all the lights of the car, especially headlights and brake lights to ensure they are working. Have a helper press the brake pedal (with ignition on in some cars) to see if the brake lights work. With the ignition on (but engine not started), shift the gear into reverse and check if the reverse lamps work. Switch on the hazard lights and check if all indicators are functioning. Replace any bulbs that have fused as soon as possible. Also read: How to replace a headlamp bulb
Check the battery terminals for signs of corrosion or residue. Clean this with warm water and a cloth, but don’t touch it with your bare hands, as it is acidic and can harm your skin. Once a month, you can also open up each of the cell caps on the battery and check the level of electrolyte inside the battery. It should be just above the plates in the battery. Top up with distilled water as needed. In some batteries you can see the level indication on the outside through the translucent casing.
If you have a multi-meter handy, you can also check the charging voltage and standing voltage of the battery. It should read about 12.9 volts when nothing is switched on, and should not exceed 14.1 volts when the engine is just started, settling at about 13.6-13.9 volts. Also read: Five steps to ensure a healthy car battery
Especially with a diesel vehicle you can perform visual exhaust checks. Start the vehicle and let it idle. Observe any smoke emissions from the exhaust. White smoke or black smoke from the exhaust could mean signs of trouble, and it’s better to get the car checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.
Check the cars bodywork and paintwork for any scratches or dents that may have appeared during the week. Especially look around bumpers and toward the floor of the car. Look at corners of the fenders for any signs of rusting. If there’s rust, get it attended to immediately. Small scratches in the paint can be polished out, while larger ones may need touching up. Also read: 10 essential tools and spares to carry in your car.
Check that all the seat belts in the car function properly and are easy to attach and remove. Check the sliding mechanism on each of the seats to ensure it locks in properly, as these can be fatal in an accident. Check all the door locks and ensure they lock and open smoothly without jamming. If you car has power windows, roll each window down and up fully a couple of times to ensure they are working fine and there is no obstruction in the window channels.
If you perform these 10 weekly checks, taking out 15 minutes on a Sunday morning perhaps, your vehicle will continue to serve you well for years without any major issue, as long as you attend to any problem you see as soon as possible. Share any other weekly checks you do with the CarToq community.