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These simple car maintenance checks could save you £1,000s

These simple car maintenance checks could save you £1,000s
Kelly Newlands
Written By:
Kelly Newlands
Posted:
04/07/2024
Updated:
04/07/2024

Many drivers are unaware of how to conduct simple car maintenance checks to avoid safety hazards, research from Uswitch has found.

Over two-thirds – 67% – of drivers don’t know how to check their car’s battery health, the price comparison website’s research into car maintenance checks has revealed.

And fewer than one in four – 22% – check their battery before a long drive.

Checking a car’s battery health is important, as issues with batteries are the UK’s leading cause of breakdowns.

Battery replacements can cost up to £400, so spotting the issues early can help save money at a time when a quarter of Brits are struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis.

And battery checks aren’t the only blind spot for drivers.

Almost two in five – 37% – drivers don’t know how to check their vehicle’s exterior lights are working properly and 61% don’t check them prior to undertaking a long drive.

It’s a legal requirement to have two working brake lights, and penalties can range from a verbal warning all the way to a £60 fine, three points on your driving licence or even your car being towed.

Two-fifths of drivers don’t know how to check the tyre tread depth on their cars. Having the right tread depth is essential, as it affects your car’s ability to grip the road, so if the tyres have worn down too much, this can be dangerous to you and other road users. Those who cannot meet the minimum UK tread depth of 1.6mm can be fined £2,500 and get three points on their driving licence.

Rounding up the forgotten-about car maintenance checks is taking a measure of the oil level in your car, which a quarter of drivers don’t know how to do. Having the correct oil level is essential for engine health as it prevents friction between metal engine parts, in addition to keeping the engine of the vehicle cool and clean.

Regular maintenance is essential

Driver safety, fuel efficiency, optimal performance, minimising repair costs and maintaining the car’s value are all things that conducting regular and thorough car maintenance checks can help to ensure.

Although most modern cars have warning lights that come up on the dashboard when they detect a problem, one in six cars do not have any automatic alerts, and these alerts could also be faulty, so it’s best practice to monitor your vehicle yourself.

Uswitch also found that over 40% of UK drivers take car maintenance advice from friends and family, rather than legitimate sources.

The company urged people to instead consult their car’s handbook or manufacturer, as the guidance will be for the specific make and model of their vehicle.

It found that the most popular online source is YouTube at 32%, indicating that many drivers value visual tutorials.

Leoni Moninska, Uswitch car insurance expert, shared the steps that drivers can take to ensure they’re properly caring for their vehicles:

Write a maintenance checklist: It can be useful to make a list of each car part that should be checked prior to a long drive to ensure your safety, optimal performance of the vehicle and prevent breakdowns mid-drive. The most important aspects to check are fuel level as well as tyre and battery health, but even parts like your windscreen wipers should be inspected, as they’ll be crucial if you encounter bad weather.
Prepare for professional services: On top of carrying out maintenance checks at home before a long drive, or within the time frame recommended by the manufacturer, you should also inspect your car before a professional service. UK drivers have professional services done every nine months on average. Checking your vehicle prior to the service means you’ll be aware of any necessary repairs, so you won’t be caught off-guard or be quoted for something unnecessary. It also allows you to financially prepare, comparing prices from different mechanics to find the best deal.
Know your car terminology: Car maintenance can be daunting, but being clued up on the relevant terminology can make the process clearer by helping you better understand your vehicle and follow instructions more easily. It will also help when you attend professional services, as you will understand any issues flagged and be able to engage with the mechanic. Uswitch partnered with KwikFit to create an ‘AutoLingo’ translator tool to simplify car terminology.

Related: Average car insurance policy costs £100 more than a year ago