7 easy ways to maintain your car without taking it to the garage

Owning a car is one of the most expensive financial investments you’ll make in your life, so it makes sense to take care of it as much as possible. There are a number of ways in which you can maintain your car without taking it to the garage and spending a fortune. Here are 7 easy ways to do it yourself.

1. Replace the air filter

Depending on driving conditions and the type of car you own, the air filter should be replaced after every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. By not keeping on top of this, you risk causing severe damage to the engine by starving it of air. Most people are able to replace the air filter, which is a straightforward task:

  • Find the air filter, which is a black box with metal clips on each side. You should be able to see it as soon as you lift the bonnet.
  • Take off the outer casing and take note of how the air filter sits inside so you can remember which way round the new one slots in.
  • Remove the old filter and place in the new one so it fits perfectly before replacing the case and clamping the clips.

You can also use special compressed air to clear away debris in the filter at any time, which will instantly improve the efficiency of the engine.

2. Check the oil level

One of the most important elements of any car is the oil that keeps it moving along. Checking your oil level only takes about 15 minutes – a short amount of time to sacrifice to ensure you remain safe whilst driving.

Once the engine is cold, you can check the oil level to see if it needs topping up. For most cars, simply pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean with an old cloth, then reinsert the dipstick. Take it out once more and look for two scored marks on the dipstick. If the oil level is more than halfway up between these two marks, you don’t need to add any more oil.

Picture of tyre tread

3. Examine your tyre tread depth

Regular drivers will know tyres have the tendency to wear down quickly so need to be checked regularly. But like engine oil, it only takes a short amount of time to examime your tyres and make sure they’re road-worthy.

The legal tyre tread depth is at least 1.6mm. You can use a gauge to check each of your tyres has the correct tread depth. We recommend doing this weekly.

4. Check the brake fluid

A lot of stress is put onto the brakes every time you drive, so it makes sense to give them extra attention to ensure they remain in good condition. When the vehicle is taken in for servicing, this is one of the main areas that will be checked, as brake systems are highly susceptible to wear and tear. The more efficient your brake system is, the longer your car will last without needed repair work.

Make sure to always check your brake fluid regularly. This is located in the brake fluid reservoir. There are four simple steps to follow:

  • Clean the top of the reservoir to ensure no dirt falls into the fluid. If any dirt gets inside, it could lead to both the master cylinder and the internal seals failing, eventually ruining the brakes.
  • Open the top or cap, being sure not to leave it uncovered for too long, as brake fluid soaks up moisture. Even a small period of 15 minutes could lead to it becoming ruined.
  • Refer to your car manual to find out which brake fluid to use. Fill it up so there is about half an inch between the fluid and the cap.
  • If the fluid is a darker colour, have it replaced by a professional mechanic, as this indicates rubber has mixed into the fluid.

It’s worth remembering that the surface of your brakes must be road-worthy too. A professional will be able to confirm if your brakes have worn down and are unsafe.

5. Use your home garage

Even though many people own garages, we tend to use them as storage areas or extensions to the home, meaning the car either sits on the driveway or on the road.

While modern cars are far less likely to suffer from corrosion by being left outside, you may want to consider using the garage more often. Not only will you keep it dry and protected from the changing elements throughout the year, but keeping the car in the garage reduces the chances of theft, vandalism and any type of accidental damage. When leasing the car, this is something to take into consideration, as it means the car will be protected from experiencing any unnecessary wear and tear.

6. Clean the car

Most drivers like to keep their car looking clean and pristine, but it offers more benefits than just adding a shine to the exterior, as it can also add years to the lifespan of the vehicle.

As you will know from cleaning around the home, dust, dirt and grime can spread into any crevice if left untouched. The same applies to the moving parts of a car and its chassis, which can eventually lead to corrosion and expensive repair work.

If you have driven through road salt during the winter, you should wash away any residue as it can prove to be corrosive. Even bird droppings can affect the quality of paintwork.

While automated car washes seem thorough, they can miss bits and leave scratches behind. The best option is to either hand wash the car yourself or take it to a new nearby hand car wash provider. Always use a wash and wax car shampoo rather than washing up liquid, as this contains degreasers and detergents that can change the paintwork and dull the shine.

In addition, it is important to polish and wax your car at least once a year to refine and protect the paintwork. Don’t forget to clean the inside of the car either to prevent dirt and grime building up.

Yellow Sponge Washing Car

7. Watch the weight

Every vehicle has a payload limit and placing too much weight onto it can affect its efficiency. The tyres, brakes and suspension will also start to feel the strain, wearing them down faster, which will mean having to pay out for replacements sooner than needed.

This applies when the car is both moving and stationary. Sometimes you may load up a lot of items intended for storage, but for one reason or another, they start to find a long-term home in the boot. Adding this kind of weight for an extended period of time is bound to create problems, so always try to keep the boot clear wherever possible.

Broadly speaking, try to keep any unnecessary items out of all areas of the car. Check the glovebox and door pockets, and also make sure nothing is stuffed underneath the seats. Avoid dumping things in the boot, as you should have more than enough space in your garage or home to store them.

And remember, if you have a contract hire car with Leasing Options, you have the option to take up our maintenance package which provides comprehensive cover on the more difficult jobs that cannot be performed at home.