As we continue our WSG Guide to Summer Motoring, we share 7 of our best vehicle maintenance tips to help you avoid costly breakdowns and spiralling repair bills – along with links to several handy videos and guides so you can carry out the work with confidence.
What’s more, most of these tips are super simple to do yourself as minimal to no technical knowledge is needed.
Remember, a little maintenance goes a long way in ensuring a smooth and stress-free adventure. So, check out our tips below then kick back and focus on making wonderful memories! 🌞
*The following article contains links that we think you may find useful. Warranty Solutions Group is not affiliated with the companies or people mentioned and we don’t receive any type of payment for recommending their content.
1) Check the battery
Ordinarily we all take our car’s battery for granted, but this essential piece of kit is the only power source that can get our vehicles started. According to The AA and RAC, flat or faulty batteries are the number one reason for breakdowns in the UK.
Batteries use a solution of sulphuric acid and distilled water, which reacts with the lead plates inside to generate electricity. Over time, the water in the solution evaporates when the temperature inside the battery rises, meaning you’ll need to top it up regularly with distilled or deionised water to keep your battery working.
Make sure you check for corrosion, acid leaks and loose connections before a long trip, too. If your battery is old or showing signs of wear, you may want to replace it before you head off.
This great video from YouTuber Chris Fix explains how to test a battery, recharge a dead battery, clean corrosion from the battery terminals, test your alternator and even safely replace a battery.
Why do car batteries go flat?
Batteries on petrol and diesel cars should last on average around 3-5 years, but this does depend on how well they’re looked after.
Effectively, batteries drain themselves in one go when we start the engine and as we drive, the battery gradually recharges. Making lots of small journeys usually means that the battery doesn’t have the chance to fully recharge and can therefore degrade faster. Factors such as outside temperature and complex electrical systems can also affect their condition.
Why would I need to replace my car battery?
There are various reasons why your battery may need to be replaced. For example, if you notice that the engine cranks over slower than usual, it can be a warning that your battery is about to die. This warning normally only happens once or twice before the battery dies, so don’t ignore it.
Hearing a clicking sound when turning the key in the engine means there isn’t enough power to crank the engine and you’ll need to jumpstart it to get moving.
Another warning sign is losing power to electrical systems like windows, seats, lights or heaters.
And not forgetting the most obvious indication of course – a battery warning light on the dashboard. This could be caused by a failing alternator. damaged cable or a loose starter terminal.
Acting sooner rather than later will reduce the risk of you being stranded and unable to start your car.
Our top tips for preserving your car’s battery life:
- Regularly remove any dirt or corrosion from the terminals and check for acid leaks and loose connections – especially when setting off on a long trip
- Coating the terminals in petroleum jelly can prevent the build-up of corrosive materials
- Reduce the number of shorter trips if you can wherever possible
- Dipping the clutch when starting the car can reduce load on the starter motor and battery
- Switch off all electrics when not using the vehicle for extended periods of time
- Carry a set of jump leads – just make sure the amp output is suitable for your make and model. Too much power can cause expensive damage to the control units!
- Replace the battery if it’s not holding charge or is showing signs of wear
2) Top up fluids
One of the most important parts of vehicle maintenance is regularly checking the fluids and topping them up when necessary. Without an adequate supply of coolants and lubricants, your vehicle could suffer disastrous – and sometimes permanent – damage that can easily result in garage bills spiralling into thousands of pounds.
Allowing the vehicle to run out of fluids can also invalidate any warranty you may have, so always make sure yours are at the right levels.
What damage can an overheating engine do?
Running low on engine oil or coolant for example, can cause the engine to overheat and even seize. If the metal gets hot enough, a piston can weld itself into the cylinder. The only way to fix this is with an engine replacement that will set you back a small fortune – like the engine replacement warranty claim (below) that we paid out last year!
How do I top up my vehicle’s fluids?
This article from Click Mechanic covers everything you need to know about topping up your vehicle’s fluids – from engine oil and coolant, to brake, power steering and washer fluid.
Or if you’d prefer to watch videos instead, we recommend these:
- How to check and top up your engine oil – Halfords
- How to check and add coolant to your car without getting burned – 2CarPros
- How to check and add transmission fluid – Jiffy Lube
- How to top up your car’s brake fluid – Haynes Manuals
- Quick and easy power steering fluid change – Chris Fix
How often should I top up my vehicle’s fluids?
Engine oil and coolant should be checked once a week depending on how often you use the vehicle – whereas brake, clutch and power steering fluid can be checked once a month. However, it’s always worth checking all of them before setting off on a long drive – and especially in hot weather, when fluids can evaporate quicker.
How much will an engine replacement cost?
Below are just some of the engine replacement warranty claims WSG have paid out for over the last 12 months:
- Vauxhall Corsa – £4,007.04
- Vauxhall Vivaro – £5,272.45
- Ford Focus – £6,099.89
- Mini Countryman – £8,236.88
- Jaguar XE – £8,241.02
- Mercedes ML – £16,848.00
- Audi SQ5 – £19,200
Note: Neither we nor any other warranty company can pay out for any claims relating to lack of fluid. Always make sure your fluid levels are sufficient.
Why does my engine need coolant?
Half of the energy our vehicles produce are converted into heat. Engine coolant absorbs much of this heat and expels it through the exhaust, thus preventing the engine from overheating. Without coolant, your engine would reach temperatures beyond its tolerance levels that can result in extreme damage and spiralling repair bills.
Our top tips for checking your car’s fluids
- If your engine warning light(s) appears, stop driving immediately as you could make the problem worse
- Before you top up your vehicle’s fluids, make sure it is parked on a flat surface, switch the engine off, put it in neutral gear and wait until the engine is cold
- Doublecheck the type of oil your vehicle takes – if you’re not sure, Halfords have a handy vehicle registration number lookup which only shows the results suitable for your make and model
- Check the quality of the engine oil before you top up – if it’s changed colour from amber to milky white or contains any deposits, it could be contaminated and will probably need replacing
- When topping up power steering fluid, if the vehicle hasn’t been driven for at least 8 hours, use the cold reading, otherwise use the ‘hot’ reading
- Avoid using washing up liquid in your windscreen washer bottle as it could clog up the washer jets
3) Inspect the tyres
Hot weather increases the air pressure in your tyres, putting more strain on any weak areas and upping the risk of a puncture. Overinflated tyres are likely to wear more quickly and are also more prone to blowouts, whereas underinflated tyres increase friction and lead to premature wear.
If you’re unsure how to check your car’s tyre pressures, Kwik Fit have a really helpful guide.
Don’t forget to inspect the spare tyre as well and ensure you have all the necessary tools to change a tyre if needed.
4) Examine the brakes
Always ensure your brakes are in good working order, as they play a critical role in your safety. Look for signs of wear, such as squeaking or grinding noises, and have the brake pads and callipers inspected if necessary.
Properly functioning brakes will give you peace of mind and improve your stopping power during your long journey.
5) Inspect lights and wipers
Ensure all exterior lights, including headlights, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals are working correctly and replace any burnt-out bulbs. Additionally, check the condition of your windshield wipers and replace them if they are worn or not providing clear visibility. Sudden rain showers and thunderstorms are common during summer, and good visibility is essential for safe driving.
Check the condition of your car’s wipers to ensure they’ll clear the screens without leaving smeary marks if you need to use them. They should also be replaced once a year as poorly maintained wipers can result in an MOT failure.
In warmer weather, the rubber on your wiper blades could perish faster than in colder months. If you are not to sure on how to inspect and replace your wiper blades, check out this helpful ‘How to Guide’ by Halfords.
6) Clean your car
Give your vehicle a thorough cleaning inside and out – regular washing and waxing will protect the paint from the sun’s damaging rays, as well as blemishes caused by bird droppings and insects. Vacuum the interior and remove any clutter too for a comfortable journey.
Remove dust and dead insects from your car’s windscreen to improve visibility, especially when the sun is close to the horizon as dirt will diffuse the light.
7) Air conditioning
Whilst air-con may not seem vital when you’re whizzing along the motorway, without it, you’ll soon notice the heat once you hit the city.
Manufacturers recommend that air conditioning is regassed every two years to keep the system functioning. Don’t forget to use the air-con regularly and throughout the year as the fluid in the system lubricates the washers and seals. Infrequent us can cause the gas to leak.
A functional air conditioning system is crucial for your comfort during hot summer drives. Have your A/C system checked for leaks, ensure proper refrigerant levels, and clean or replace the air filter if necessary. If your air conditioning isn’t providing adequate cooling, get it repaired before hitting the road.
Taking the time to perform essential summer car maintenance tasks before embarking on a long journey can help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. By following these maintenance tips, you can minimise the risk of breakdowns, stay comfortable, and make lasting memories on your summer road trip. Have a fantastic adventure!