Basic First Car Maintenance for the Non-Mechanic

It's not a bad idea to get your car serviced periodically to ensure that it remains roadworthy and safe to drive. However often you get your car serviced is up to you, though the manufacturers manual that accompanies your car should provide you with recommendations on how frequently you should visit a garage. If you're new to driving and this is your first vehicle you may not know how to keep your car ticking over between these periods. Unless you're a qualified mechanic or have been shown the basics of changing a tyre, then it's probably best to leave it to the professionals. However, there are a couple of things you can do that require minimal time and no skill that will reduce your chances of an accident.

Tyre Check

Ensuring that the tread on your tyres conforms to the absolute minimum standard of 1.5mm is essential. The tread is formed by the ridges on the tyre of your car and provides grip for the road surface, and allows water to pass by the tyre without causing aquaplaning. If this tread has worn down it will make braking far more difficult, increasing your braking distance and potentially increasing the chances of skidding and losing control of the car. 

Realistically 1.5mm is still far too worn to really be considered safe, and according to Dexel, a 1.6mm tyre tread will cause your car to require an extra 40% braking distance on wet roads, compared to if it had a tread depth of 3mm. Thankfully there's a simple way to measure your tread depth and it takes no longer than a minute and is free to do. Take a 20c coin and place it into the groove of the tyre. If you can see the entire 20c impression, then you need to go to a garage and replace the tyre.

Windscreen Washer

Especially in cold snowy climates or hot dusty ones, the importance of a clean windscreen cannot be underestimated. Improved vision is essential for reducing the likelihood of accidents caused by reflected sun glare. According to the AA, dirt, grease and chips in your windscreen can increase its glare, which contributes to an increase in road accidents during months when the sun is lower in the sky. To keep your windscreen clean, frequently top-up your windscreen wash system with a dedicated wash that contains a de-greaser and an anti-freeze, if you live in a colder climate. Keeping it topped up with also help to keep the pump clean and in working order. If you find that you have run out of screen wash then a newspaper can be used instead as a temporary measure, both inside and outside of the car. Just be sure to use a vinegar based window spray inside whenever possible to remove grease that can form inside, especially if you eat hot food in the car.