Over-inflated tyres result in a less effective contact patch on the road, making the car feel 'skittish', reducing ride quality, limiting grip in the wet and dry and wearing the rubber in the centre. Under-inflated tyres make for 'soggy' handling, work the engine harder (using more fuel) and over-flex the tyre sidewall, potentially leading to a blowout. The appropriate tyre pressure is printed on the sidewall of the tyre; make sure yours are correctly inflated for a smooth run on the road.
Keep your cool
An overheating engine can leave you stranded with a big repair bill. The best way to prevent a hot engine is to ensure your radiator is always full of radiator fluid, which is usually green but can sometimes be yellow, and is designed to reduce the risk of freezing in cold climates and boiling in hot climates. More importantly, radiator fluid helps reduce corrosion, which is a major cause of radiator clogging and leaking. To check for the latter, run your engine for a few minutes (with the cap on) and have it repaired or replaced if it leaks. To flush your radiator if the fluid is dirty, use a garden hose to circulate water through it (never remove the cap from a hot radiator) with the drain plug removed.
Stay well oiled
You’ll need to check the oil recommended for your car, the engine’s oil capacity and the type of filter required before you start changing your oil and filter. New oil keeps the engine spinning freely, maximising its efficiency and longevity. A lack of oil and/or dirty oil increases the risk of wear and overheating, and shortens the engine's life. Not every car has an easy-to-access oil filter, so if you're unsure check with your service adviser.
New windscreen wiper blades will help keep the outside surface of your windscreen clean. Apart from cleaning your screen less effectively, old wipers trap dirt and rub it into the glass, eventually causing a fine haze effect which can scatter sunlight, blurring vision. Most wiper blades are simple to replace but can vary wildly in price.
Striking a clean balance
When it comes to wiper washer mixtures, good old fashioned plain water will do the trick. So will some household window cleaners, but they’re not formulated for car usage, so check your local auto store for the right product and mix according to the instructions on the bottle. Avoid using soapy liquids in your washer bottle; instead use a dash of methylated sprits, which we reckon is the most effective.
Shining a light on safety
Don't underestimate the importance of your indicators, which you can tell are working by the lights in the instrument panel and the regular ticking sound that accompany them. When an indicator fails, both the lights and the noise become more rapid. As with headlights, it's really easy to check your indicators are working, but brake lights are harder to check on your own. Access to globes isn’t always easy, so if they need replacing it's best to seek out your local auto electrician and/or mechanic if you're unsure. Clean your headlight lenses to maximise their effectiveness.
Keep it clean
It sounds simple but it’s essential to keep your car clean and tidy – inside and out, including the boot. That means removing all non-essential large and/or heavy items, which can become lethal weapons in the event of a collision. Give your car a good vacuum at least once a month if it's used daily. Buy some cloth or rubber mats so the carpet on the car’s floor doesn’t wear thin and become slippery. They’re easy to remove and replace, and will also protect the value of the car when you sell it – just make sure they don't foul your pedals. Clean your steering wheel from time to time with an alcoholic wipe; it'll offer more grip, feel and smell nicer, and be more hygienic.
Cloth seats generally need nothing more than a vacuum to keep clean and there’s nothing wrong with seat covers. In fact, like floor mats, seat covers will help protect the value of your car. If your seat has inbuilt airbags make sure you get a matching cover.
A good surface clean
There are different types of cleaners for different interior surfaces. Newer cars usually only require spray-and-wipe style cleaners, but makes sure you don't go overboard. For the outside, use a pressure washer instead of the car wash – it's slightly more work but it won't damage your paint.
Use your eyes and ears
Pay attention to your car. Eyeball your car closely for a few minutes every once in a while. Look for fresh spots of fluid under your car and check your fluid levels regularly. Turn down the stereo and listen to your car at start-up, at low speed, on the freeway and during braking and acceleration. When components need replacing you'll often hear and feel them. It could make your car safer and potentially prevent costly repairs.