How to avoid a breakdown
Simple vehicle maintenance can save you the frustration and expense of costly repairs. We’ve created a list of things to look out for to save you time, hassle and money.
Ensure increased fuel or oil consumption, hard starting, rough running or any unusual noises experienced while driving are promptly inspected by an automotive technician.
Your vehicle should be serviced at regular intervals, usually every 10,000km or every 12 months, which ever occurs first.
Check the radiator coolant level when your vehicle is cold. Check the operation of the expansion tank (if fitted). Coolant level should be high when your vehicle is hot and low when your vehicle is cold. Check the seal on the radiator cap and for evidence of sludge build-up on the underneath of the cap and in the neck of the radiator. Check the radiator core and tanks for leaks. Leaks are indicated by the presence of water or water staining. Check radiator and heater hoses for signs of deterioration, leakage, softening and loose clamps.
Check the engine oil level using the dipstick when the engine is cold; perform this check twice. Engine oil tends to get darker in colour as it ages. If your oil is darker than usual and you’re unsure of the mileage or when your last service was, the oil should be replaced. Sometimes, an engine flushing agent should be used to remove carbon and other build-up from the engine sump. Look for signs of oil or coolant leakage on the driveway after your vehicle has been parked. Vehicles with air conditioning occasionally drip water from the condenser drain pipe, so any apparent leakage may not necessarily be from the engine cooling system. When driving, particularly on long journeys, continuously check your oil and water indicators, and warning lights.
Check for fraying, cracks or other signs of deterioration. Check for correct belt tension. If the belt appears loose, have an automotive technician make the necessary adjustments; especially in newer cars.
Ensure the terminals are clean and securely tightened. Check the electrolyte level and top up with water if required. A battery labelled "low maintenance" or "maintenance free" could still be low on fluid. In this situation, consult a battery specialist or automotive technician.
Check tyre pressure regularly; including the spare. Usually, space saver spare tyres should be inflated to 420 kps / 60 PSI. If you have to use your space saver spare tyre, it should not be driven at speeds above 80 kph or for distances exceeding 100km. Check for abnormal tyre wear which may indicate incorrect pressure or a wheel alignment problem. Check tread depth is satisfactory. A tread depth less than a match-head is unsafe and illegal.
Check the fluid levels of the brake and clutch cylinders (if applicable); there are typically marks on the reservoirs for you to use as a guide. Ensure you top-up using the correct fluid. Check that both pedals perform properly and that they are not sinking to the floor. If you have any concerns, get them checked by an automotive technician. Do not tamper with your brakes. It could render your car dangerous unroadworthy and uninsured.