Driver ad­vice: Ve­hi­cle main­te­nance

The Oban Times - - DRIVING FORCE -

Proper ve­hi­cle main­te­nance is es­sen­tial to keep your­self and oth­ers safe on the road. In 2013, 42 peo­ple were killed in crashes caused by ve­hi­cle de­fects, with hun­dreds se­ri­ously in­jured[i]. If you drive, you are op­er­at­ing a fast-moving piece of heavy ma­chin­ery that needs to be kept in the safest pos­si­ble con­di­tion.

Good main­te­nance can save you money as well as avoid­ing break­downs or po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing crashes. Badly-in­flated tyres can mean you use more petrol, while putting off mi­nor re­pairs can make them far more costly in the long-run.

You should carry out reg­u­lar ‘ walk-round’ checks of your ve­hi­cle, once a week and be­fore any long jour­neys, which need only take a few min­utes. The main things you should look out for are:

• tyre tread wear. Look out for tread wear in­di­ca­tor bars on tyres – small bumps in the main grooves which in di­cate the min­i­mum tread. Change your tyres well be­fore your tread gets to the le­gal min­i­mum (1.6mm in the UK). Brake rec­om­mends re­plac­ing at 3mm, as tyres can be dangerous in wet con­di­tions with less than this. If you drive with tyres worn down to be­low the le­gal limit, you could face three penalty points and a £2,500 fine, or it could cause a deadly crash.

• tyre pres­sure. Buy a hand-held tyre pres­sure gauge and check the pres­sure weekly, when the tyres are cold. The cor­rect pres­sure will be writ­ten in your ve­hi­cle’s hand­book.

• gen­eral tyre con­di­tion. Check for cracks, bulges or bub­bles on the sides of your tyres. These are signs that the tyre is dam­aged and at risk of blow­ing out. If you see any of these, get the tyre checked by a pro­fes­sional, and re­placed if nec­es­sary.

• lights are work­ing. Check lights are clean and bulbs aren’t blown (re­flect against a wall, or ask a friend to help).

• oil, wa­ter and flu­ids. Check oil and wa­ter lev­els, and other flu­ids such as power steer­ing, wind­screen washer and brake fluid, are well above min­i­mum lev­els.

• wiper blades. Check they are in full work­ing or­der and re­place if worn.

• wheel fix­ings. Check wheels and wheel fix­ings for de­fects, in­clud­ing loose nuts.

If you drive a com­mer­cial or spe­cial­ist ve­hi­cle, there may be ad­di­tional checks you should make. Check with your em­ployer or con­sult your hand­book.

Set­ting off and while on your jour­ney, look out for:

• prob­lems with, or noises from, your brakes. Brakes usu­ally make a noise when worn, but if you no­tice any prob­lem with them, get them checked im­me­di­ately by a pro­fes­sional me­chanic. It’s a good idea to test brakes weekly and at the start of long jour­neys, fol­low­ing your walk-round checks, by ap­ply­ing them gen­tly while driv­ing very slowly on a flat, empty stretch;

• warning lights on your dash­board;

• ex­cess noise or smoke from the ex­haust;

• smoke from un­der the bon­net;

• fluid leak­ing from un­der the ve­hi­cle;

• smell of hot electrics, fuel, or a burn­ing smell;

• un­usual sounds from the en­gine;

• a pulling sen­sa­tion from the steer­ing.

If you have any sus­pi­cion at all there’s a prob­lem with your ve­hi­cle, take it to a garage im­me­di­ately – putting it off could cost you cash, re­sult in a break­down, or worse, lead to a se­ri­ous crash.

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