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Car Maintenance 101: Practical Skills

September 4, 2014

Whether you’re new to car ownership or you’ve managed to leave your maintenance to the professionals throughout your driving life, there are a couple of essential tips worth knowing to keep your vehicle in tip top shape. Our handy “how to” guides make it easy to perform essential maintenance, without having to fork out the money for a mechanic. It’s time to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in – your bank balance will thank us later!

Featured Expert: Maintenance expert, Chris Longhurst from has shared his words of wisdom when it comes to performing essential checks on your car.

“The low-hanging fruit is very low-hanging. Change your oil and check your tyre pressures. Most new cars will prompt you when an oil change is due. If not, do it twice a year – about April and October – after the summer and winter driving times are over. Check your tyres once a week with a decent tyre gauge (i.e. not one on the petrol station air-line). Again, most new cars will tell you if the pressure is low and if it is, top them up but don’t over-fill them.

Top tip: Don’t be surprised to see the tyre pressure warning light come on the first cold morning in autumn or winter. If your tyres were a bit low, the colder overnight temperatures could drop the pressure just enough to trip the warning light. Go and top them up.”

How to: Inflate your tyres

Tyre pressure should be checked and corrected regularly, as tyres naturally lose pressure over time. When your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure, your car will not only handle better, properly inflated tyres will also improve fuel economy and safety on the road. Over or under inflated tyres can present a hazard on the road, impacting the level of grip your car has on the road or potentially even bursting at high speed.

Attention: If your tyre pressure is constantly decreasing, it could be a sign of a slow puncture – you should take your car to a garage immediately and get the tyre in question repaired or replaced.

  1. Always make sure your tyres are cold when you are checking their pressure or inflating them. This means no long journeys directly beforehand, as the heat caused by the friction of driving can give you a false tyre pressure reading.
  2. Refer to your car’s manufacturer manual to identify the correct tyre pressure. Many modern cars also have this information repeated on the door sill or back of the fuel cap cover.
  3. Remove the small dust caps by unscrewing them from your wheels, setting them aside in a safe place.
  4. Use a pressure gauge (these are widely available from garages or DIY shops) to take a reading of your car’s tyre pressure by pressing and holding the nozzle against the inflation point on the tyre. Some garages also have air pumps which will tell you the pressure of your tyres, however these can give inaccurate readings. Your tyres should be at the pressure specified in your car’s manual for that particular model.
  5.  If any or all of your tyres are under inflated, you will need to correct this by inflating them to the correct pressure. You can do this by using the air pump at your local garage or by purchasing a foot pump specifically for inflating car tyres.
  6.  Holding the nozzle against the air inlet and inflate the tyres until the correct pressure is reached. Once this is done, double check it using your pressure gauge to ensure an accurate reading.
  7. Replace the dust caps on your wheels and you’re done!

How to: Check, top-up and change your oil

We recommend checking the oil level in your engine regularly. Your car requires plenty of oil to keep things running smoothly and if you let it run low, it could lead to some very costly repairs! Luckily for you, checking and topping up your oil couldn’t be easier.

  1. Park your car on a flat and level surface, ensure your engine has been switched off at least 5-10 minutes prior to checking your oil – giving it time to settle down into the reservoir.
  2. Open your bonnet and locate the oil dipstick, this should be easy to find in the engine bay. If you have difficulty finding it, check your car’s manual for a location diagram.
  3. Pull the dipstick out of its hole – it will resemble a long thin piece of metal. Use a cloth or paper towel to wipe off all of the oil coating it.
  4. Look closely at the dipstick, near the end of it you will see two markings indicating the minimum and maximum amount of oil for your engine.
  5. Gently push the clean dipstick fully back into its hole, then remove it again. Look closely at where the oil level reaches up to, the oil level will be visible as a dark liquid on the end of the dipstick.
  6. The oil level should be between the minimum and maximum markings – if it’s towards the lower end of the scale, you should top up your oil.

Topping up your oil level is easy. Refer to your car’s manufacturer manual to identify the correct type of oil for your car. Once you have purchased the correct oil, simply remove the oil filler cap under the bonnet and use a funnel to add a small amount of oil to the engine. Do not overfill your car with oil as this could lead to leaks and damage. Instead, add a small amount at a time, then repeat the steps above to re-check the oil level – ensuring you allow 5 minutes for fresh oil to settle into the reservoir.

Depending on how long it’s been since your last oil change, you may need to drain and completely replace your car’s oil. Different manufacturers recommend an oil change at varying intervals, depending on your annual mileage and the type of car you drive – check your car’s manual for further information. Although changing your oil is a slightly more complex process, it’s still well within the boundaries of money-saving home maintenance for most – check out this handy step-by-step guide to give it a go!

What if I can’t fix the problem myself?

Some repairs are beyond the help of “how to” guides, however that doesn’t mean you should take your car to the first garage you come across. Unfortunately, some garages have developed poor reputations, taking advantage of people’s lack of car knowledge and charging over the odds for repairs. Our featured expert below shares some useful advice for finding the best mechanic.

Featured Expert: Ian Griffiths of has shared some sound advice when it comes to hiring a professional.

“Unfortunately, as a car ages, repairs are inevitable – be it replacing tyres, removing minor dents and scrapes or bigger jobs such as clutch or gearbox replacements. It’s tough enough to know where to get the car serviced, never mind bigger issues such as replacing the clutch. The same questions always arise: How do I know I’m not getting ripped off? Will the work be of a high quality? Will the garage use good quality parts? That’s where a service such as proves invaluable. Simply post a job online and let the garages come back to you, comparing prices, convenience and importantly reviews from real customers. You wouldn’t buy your car insurance without comparing quotes so make sure you compare your maintenance quotes!”


If you’re looking to finance a new ride, the Car Loan Warehouse can help. Our competitive car finance deals could mean your dream car is more affordable than you think. Try out our quick and easy online car loan calculator for an instant quote, or apply now for a quick no-obligation decision.





About The Author

Jon Le Roux is co-founder and company director of The Car Loan Warehouse. Being a mad engineering and motorsport enthusiast, I spend more hours than is healthy, watching, reading or talking about cars, boats, motorbikes…..basically anything with an engine.