Thursday, 26 January 2012 9:57 AM
Cars are complex machines and keeping them in good condition can seem an equally intricate affair. However, by following our top five tips, you can make sure that your vehicle stays as smooth-running as possible.
Check your tyre pressures regularly
Perhaps one of the most important items on your checklist, regular monitoring of your tyre pressures is essential.
Tyre pressures affect vehicles in multiple ways. First of all, they influence your tyres' lifespan. For example, if yours are running at 80 per cent of their pressure, your wheels' longevity could be sliced by a huge 75 per cent due to increased tread wear.
Under-inflation of tyres can also impact on fuel efficiency, as more of the tyre comes into contact with the road, adding to friction and thereby necessitating the use of more power to move the car along the road.
Finally, it also affects safety. Under-inflation can lead to heat rising within the tyre, which can then result in blow-outs while driving.
So, check your pressures a minimum of once a month – more in the summer, when pressures fall more quickly – with a reliable gauge. You will be able to find the correct levels for your car in the manufacturer's handbook inside your fuel cap or stamped inside the driver's door.
Failing that, use an online tool to locate it. These work by looking at your registration number, giving you the correct pressure for your make and model – don't be tempted to guess or use general guidelines.
Check speed ratings
Checking the speed rating of your car is also important, particularly if you are planning to buy new discount tyres.
Always select either the same or a higher speed rating; as a rule of thumb, the greater the speed rating, the higher quality the tyres you fit will be.
Look out for punctures and damage
It is essential to keep an eye out for damage to any part of your vehicle. Tyres require particular care – look for signs of punctures, cuts or tread wear regularly.
Should you spot a puncture, make sure this is repaired in conjunction with safety guidelines. If the inner fabric of the tyre has been damaged, it will need to be replaced, rather than patched up. Similarly, if your vehicle uses Run Flat tyres, any puncture will result in a replacement rather than a repair.
Don't overload your car
Linked to your tyre pressure, your car's load is another important factor to watch. While this may not change regularly, holidays and other outings can see vehicles piled high with luggage, which can mean your motor is carrying excess weight.
If that is the case, you should check your tyre manufacturer's guidelines and increase the pressure in accordance with their specifications. Otherwise, you risk tyre damage and other problems.
Consider the season
While all motorists know they need to exercise more caution on the roads in the winter months, you may not be aware of the effects the seasons can have on your car – particularly when it comes to safety.
Indeed, standard tyres can struggle to cope with harsh conditions, so it is recommended that when the thermometer dips below seven degrees C, the summer tyres are removed and replaced with winter versions.
This can help to improve braking distances in typically wintery conditions, and such tyres resist the hardening that is common in standard tyres during cold weather.