One doesn’t need to be a mechanic or a mechanical engineer in order to keep their vehicle in tip-top running condition. According to the Ford Motor Company every car owner needs to understand the car basics as this could save you a lot of stress.
Learn how to check the engine. Many modern car engines are obscured by plastic covers which prevent you from tampering with technical components, so popping the car bonnet for a quick look will not tell you much. This does not mean that the exercise is completely useless as you can check the two most important items which are the oil and water levels as the car engine simply cannot survive without these two liquids. You can also check the levels of windscreen washer fluid as well as the brake and power steering fluid while at it. This can be done in the following steps;
• To check the oil levels, you first need to park your car on a level surface. Start the engine, let it run for a short while and then turn it off. While the engine is still warm, remove the dipstick, and wipe it clean with a lint-free rag (the dipstick is normally pretty east to find. It is that long, flexible rod normally near the front of the engine compartment, and it often has an orange hoop at the top). Carefully reinsert the dipstick fully; otherwise you will get a false reading. Remove the dipstick again and check oil levels. If the reading is low, top up your oil using the correct grade as recommended by manufacturer. You should not run your engine if no oil shows on the dipstick.
• Check the radiator coolant level in the plastic reservoir – it should be between the high and low marks. Never ever check your coolant level when the radiator is hot as this could lead to nasty burns.
Those bits of black rubber on both sides of your car are critical items for safety. Always stick to the correct tyre pressures and, once again, this will be stipulated in the owner’s manual and/or the inside of the door.
Look for uneven tyre wear and nails in the thread. Inspect the sidewall for cuts and bubbles. In the tyre tread you will find places where there is a small rubber bridge – this is called a tyre thread indicator. When this segment of rubber is the same depth as the thread you should replace your tyre. It is extremely important to have enough thread on your tyres as tyres can’t do their jobs without enough thread count – refer to your owner manual for more information on thread count. When checking the tyres remember to do the same with the spare tyre.
Ensure that all your lights are working properly. Get a friend to stand outside your car and help you check your park lights, high and low beams, indicators, brake lights and fog lights. Unless you have some mechanical ability, do not attempt to replace faulty globes or bulbs as it is a tricky job and you could end up damaging the expensive plastic clips that form part of the lights.
Windscreens and Wiper Blades
If your windscreen is chipped – do not ignore it. Fix it. It is very important that you have maximum visibility on the road. Clean your wiper blades with a rag dipped in household detergent regularly. It is not vitally important to use fancy windshield washer fluid – a few drops of dishwasher detergent mixed with water will do the job perfectly. If, in wet weather, your wiper blades leave lines and don’t clean the windscreen properly, this means it is to change them. Wiper blades are readily available from spare parts shops.
The brakes are seriously important components! That’s because they can keep you from becoming another road statistic. So, if you suspect you may have a problem with your brakes, attend to this immediately.
There are many things that impact on good braking, and firstly, you need to understand what is wrong. Is the brake pedal spongy (this means the brake pedal is not solid when depressed, but bounces softly)? Does the car tend to pull on one side under braking? Can you hear an unusual grinding sound? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, go to the dealer or an approved brake fitment centre. And ask them to sort the out quickly.
These niffy devices which you cannot see unless you look under the wheel arch are part of the suspension. They work in conjunction with the wheel spring. They are responsible for the road holding and handling characteristics of your car so they’re also pretty important to both your car and your well being.
You cannot replace or repair the shocks by yourself; this must be done by the dealer mechanic. However, you can certainly check if they are functioning optimally. The best way of doing this is by getting a strong person to push down independently on each corner of the car and then suddenly release the downward pressure. The car should lift to its normal ride height position at a uniform rate – if it bobs up and own a few times, chance are good that your shocks are faulty.
As a vehicle owner, always remember to have your car serviced regularly. Your car is a big investment and it makes sense for you to treat it with tender loving care. It is also much cheaper in the long run to maintain a car properly rather than to wait for it to break down in order to fix it. Refer to the owner’s manual if unsure how often you need to service your car.
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Information courtesy of the Ford Motor Company. Interact with Ford Kenya on Facebook or twitter. You can also interact with them on Instagram.