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Car Maintenance for Dummies

February 13, 2014

How well do you know your car? Would you know if there was a problem? Do you – like so many of us – ignore the warning lights on the dashboard? If you answered yes to any of the above questions – don’t worry, there’s hope for you yet. Sink your teeth into these very handy tips for keeping on top of your car maintenance.

First things first: before each journey, you should always use this handy pneumonic: FLOWERY.

F – Fuel: Check you have enough fuel for your journey, or at least enough to get to a petrol station.

L – Lights: Check headlights, indicators and brake lights to make sure they all work correctly.

O – Oil: Check engine oil is above minimum level, and top it up if not.

W – Water: Check wiper fluid and coolant levels – antifreeze in the winter.

E – Electrics: Perform a visual check on the battery for loose connections or damage.  Make sure wipers and horn function correctly.

R – Rubber: Check tyres for tread wear as well as pressure, and ensure wiper rubber isn’t worn down.

Y – Yourself: Ensure you’re safe to drive – not overly tired, and make sure you aren’t drowsy or intoxicated be it from alcohol, drugs or even over-the-counter medicines.


As for the warning lights on your dashboard, it’s easy to pretend they’re not there – but there are some that you need to watch out for in order to avoid damaging to your car or even harm to yourself.

Engine warning light:

The Car Loan Warehouse|Car Maintenance for DummiesOr, alternatively, the Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL). This light appears when you turn the engine on and should turn off once it’s started. If it stays on, there’s a problem with the engine. And if the engine warning light begins to flash, seek assistance.

Oil pressure warning light:

The Car Loan Warehouse|Car Maintenance for Dummies
As above, this one will appear when you start the car and disappear once the engine has started. It it remains lit up or comes on while driving, stop the car and turn the engine off as soon as possible.

Battery charge warning light:

The Car Loan Warehouse|Car Maintenance for Dummies
Same again – it lights up when you start the car and stops when the engine is running. If this light does not turn on when starting the car or stays on/lights up while driving, the battery is not charging.

Brake system warning light:

The Car Loan Warehouse|Car Maintenance for Dummies
This light will appear when the handbrake is pulled and should disappear when the handbrake is released. If it remains on, you should check the brake fluid levels and, if fine, seek assistance immediately.

ABS warning light:

The Car Loan Warehouse|Car Maintenance for Dummies
The Anti-Lock Braking System (or ABS) light will light up while driving if this is ever a problem with the ABS. The light will briefly switch on when the car is started to confirm the the system’s working. When the light is on, the brakes will still work – just without the ABS.

Engine overheating symbol:

The Car Loan Warehouse|Car Maintenance for Dummies
This indicates that your engine has becomedangerously hot. If this light illuminates while you’re driving, pull over and turn the engine off ASAP. Wait for the engine to cool before approaching to check the coolant. If in doubt, call for assistance.

Power steering warning light:

The Car Loan Warehouse|Car Maintenance for Dummies
This light will show if your fluid levels are low, or if a fault has occurred within the system. Steering is possible without – but can be difficult, especially at slow speeds. If the light remains after replenishing fluid levels, contact your nearest mechanic.


If you recognise these lights as frequent visitors to your dashboard, or seem to spend more time at the garage than on the road, perhaps it’s time for a new ride. The Car Loan Warehouse offers affordable loans suited to your budget, getting you back on the road in a car you’ll love. To find your rate, visit the loan calculator.

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.