Today I am helping a young friend with his first car, here are my thoughts on what maintenance he might need to know about…
Maintaining a Car
Maintaining a car generally involves Servicing, Regular Maintenance and Repairs (fixing things that break) if servicing and regular maintenance are done correctly and thoroughly breakdowns are generally only minor.
Regular Maintenance – is checking things like the oil and water levels, tyre pressures and ensuring that the lights and other components of the Car are working; these items are often performed weekly, before a trip or more often if the Car is known to use oil, a car that needs regular topping up of the coolant is a problem that should be fixed quickly… more cars breakdown due to cooling system problems than anything else, the importance of cooling system maintenance CANNOT be stressed enough.
Servicing – the car manufacturer (generally based on experience) provides a list of items that require service, and the interval at which they should be checked or changed, following this schedule SHOULD reduce the cost of ownership of the Car and ensure that items are neither over serviced which adds unnecessary expense or under-serviced which increases the risk of breakdowns. Typically every wearing component of a Car is checked at some point in its service life, brakes are checked, suspension is checked and the items that need changing, adjusting or refilling are properly covered.
Repairs – during the life of a Car some things will wear out and some things will break, if servicing is done correctly MOST of these items will be found during servicing of the Car and can be repaired BEFORE they break, causing extra cost, inconvenience and accidents.
If you have read to this point you have probably worked out that checking, servicing and repairing is a cycle that starts from when a car is new and continues throughout its life until the Car is finally retired. Maintaining a Car increases its resale value and provides many miles (kilometres) of happy driving.
Where to Start
Generally when you first purchase a car it has had some prior servicing, even new Cars have been ‘Pre-Delivered’ and checked over before the new owner drives away. When you buy a second hand car the servicing may have been done correctly, irregularly or not at all! It is important to establish a starting point that takes into consideration all of these things… the age of the Car, the number of kilometres it has travelled and the way that past servicing has been performed. If the service book is up to date and the previous owner has provided records of the ‘service life’ of the Car it should be a simple matter of just continuing on and performing the service work according to the manufacturers specification. A Car that has been poorly serviced has travelled a lot of kilometres or is ‘unknown’ in terms of its servicing will generally benefit from a thorough inspection.
When buying a second hand car is important to check to make sure that the car is in good condition and suitable for your purpose, having the Car inspected by the RACV is a great way to ensure that everything is checked and any problems with the vehicle can be found BEFORE the new owner has to spend money to fix them. A Pre-Purchase vehicle inspection costs from $165 for RACV Members and GENERALLY the selling price of the car can be negotiated down based on the results of the inspection which would generally make the inspection very worthwhile.
Where to now
Now that we have considered the various things that servicing and maintenance involve it is time to make a decision about where to start with YOUR Car.
Things we know…
- Your Car even though it is old has travelled very few kilometres.
- Your Car is quite old, however that isn’t a bad thing either
- It is going to be some time before you do lots of driving in the Car
- You are still at school and money is not plentiful (if it ever is when it comes to Cars)
So what this tells us is that things that wear out because of AGE will still be worn, rubber and plastic components will have aged exactly the same as if the Car had done many 100,000 kilometres, so we need to check hoses, belts, bushes and other perishable items thoroughly, possibly deciding to replace some of these just to be safe. The things like bearings and metal parts (unless rust has got to them) should still be in excellent condition.
So what we need is a list… to start with I want you to find out what items would need to be serviced at the next service according to the owner’s manual, you should be able to find out this information from the internet or from a Service and Lubrication guide from the library or from a workshop (if you have trouble with this let me know and I’ll help you with it)
The next thing we need is a list of the parts that we will need to perform this service. I’m going to skip ahead a bit and give you a list of the parts that we will need for the service that we are going to perform.
From the list of parts (and the Car details from the little plate we looked at under the bonnet) you will need to look up the part numbers for all of the parts, work out the prices and budget for when you will have them.
- Engine Oil (correct grade and quantity)
- Engine Oil Filter
- Spark Plugs
- Air Filter Element
- Fuel Filter