5 CAR CARE ESSENTIALS FOR NEW DRIVERS

There’s more to good car care than just taking your vehicle in for a 6-monthly service. How you look after your car in between services will make a big difference for your daily enjoyment of driving, your car’s long terms health, and how much you need to pay when service time rolls around.

Here are five essential ways to treat your car right, from everyday conscientiousness to DIY maintenance jobs.

1. Petrol Station Multi-Tasking

Putting petrol in your car is unavoidable, so utilise this time to carry out some car care. Here is the ABC of multitasking at a petrol station.

a. Clean Your Windshields

A dirty windscreen looks nasty and it also interferes with visibility while driving. The spray and wipe function of your windscreen wipers can only do so much to help, especially after a long drive. So, if you’re filling up and you notice your front or rear windshield is particularly dirty, give it a proper clean. Almost all petrol stations will have squeegees and cleaning fluid you can use for free.

First, soak the whole windshield in the cleaning fluid with the spongy part of the squeegee. Then, use the other side to clean the glass from the centre out to each edge and then from top to bottom. Don’t forget to give your headlights some love if they’re looking dirty.

b. Check Your Tyre Pressure

Underinflated or overinflated tyres are problematic. Either way, your car won’t handle or stops as well and your tread will wear unevenly. Underinflated tyres, in particular, also increase your risk of a blow-out, as the extra friction can overheat your tyres.

Every time you fill your tank (or every other time, at least) you should check your tyre pressure and add air if needed. Whether you check the tyre pressure at home or at the petrol station will depend on how far you need to drive to get there. Driving around will affect tyre pressure, so an accurate pressure reading requires that your tyres be ‘cold’ or close to it.

If there is a petrol station within a 1.5-kilometre radius of your home, use their equipment. If it’s further, check your tyre pressure before you go and fill up. If you’ve been driving around and want to check your pressure, let the tyres rest for four hours before you do. Once you’re ready, here’s what you do:

  • Make sure you know the recommended PSI for your tyres. You can find this out from your driver’s manual or from the handy panel on the inside of your driver’s side door.
  • If you’re at home, you’ll need a tyre pressure gauge and an air pump with pressure reading. At the servo, these will be one unit.
  • Check the tyre pressure before you put any air in to avoid accidentally overinflating.
  • If the pressure is too low, just fill it to the right level. Most petrol stations have digital systems that allow you to input the pressure you want, but some places (and most portable air pumps) have analogue meters that require a little more care.

c. Check and Top up Oil Level

Oil is as important to your car as sap is to trees, water is to fish, or beer is to Fridays. Without enough oil, the moving parts in your car’s engine won’t be lubricated properly. If oil levels get too low, your car will simply stop working. Make filling up your oil the last thing you do at the petrol station as your car needs 5-10 minutes to cool down before you can get an accurate oil level measurement. Once your car has cooled down, all you need to do is:

  • Open the hood and find your engine’s dipstick. It’s usually located within easy reaching distance and features a picture of an oil can or simply the word ‘oil’.
  • Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with paper towel or a rag.
  • Push the dipstick all the way back down then remove it again, being careful to keep it vertical so the oil doesn’t run up toward the handle.
  • The oil level should sit somewhere in between the two lines representing ‘empty’ and ‘full’ on the dipstick. If it is on or below the bottom line, top the oil up.
  • Never put in too much oil, just under a litre at most; too much oil isn’t good either.

It’s normal for a little bit of oil to be lost as you drive your car, but it shouldn’t be too much. You should only need to top up your oil every 1,600 kilometres or so. If you’re doing it more regularly, you probably have a leak and should get your engine checked by a professional.

2. Car Maintenance You Can Do at Home

A lot of maintenance tasks and repairs now require specialised tools and training. But, there are certain car fundamentals that haven’t changed and that means there is still value in caring for your vehicle yourself. Here are three things that every driver should try for themselves.

a. Fresh Oil for Your Car

Oil is the lifeblood of your car and, over time, it gets dirty and needs to be changed. Consult your user manual to find out how often you’ll need to change your oil. Most cars can travel about 8,000 kilometres between changes, but some don’t need fresh oil until after almost 20,000 kilometres! You may need to get this job done by a mechanic to meet warranty conditions, but if not you can do it at home. Here’s how:

  • Drain the oil – first, run your car for 2-3 minutes to warm the oil. Then kill the engine and find your oil drain plug (you’ll probably need to jack your car up). Wearing rubber gloves, use a socket wrench to loosen the drain plug and then unscrew it by hand and let the oil drain into a pan. Bear in mind you’ll need a way to dispose of or store this oil.
  • Next, change the oil filter. Simply unscrew the old one, lubricate the rim of the new filter, and screw it in place.
  • Once the oil has finished draining, you’ll be ready to refill your car with new oil. Give the area around the drain hole a wipe and replace the plug, tightening it with your socket wrench. Now use a funnel to slowly pour fresh oil into the engine. You’ll need to do a little research to make sure you have the right oil type and know how much to put in. Once you’re done, run the engine for 30-60 seconds, let it cool off, and then check the level. Add more oil if necessary and repeat this process until the dipstick shows ‘full’. Drive around the block a few times, let the engine cool off, and then check a final time. If the oil level is still right, you’re all done!

b. Let Your Car Breathe

Changing your car’s air filter regularly will increase fuel efficiency, lengthen your engine’s lifespan, and reduce your car’s emission of pollutants. Your car needs to breathe to function and the cleaner the air it gets the better it works. You should change your air filter once a year or every 20,000 kilometres, whichever one comes first. Here’s what you do:

  • Open your car’s hood and find the black air filter box – if you can’t locate it, check your owner’s manual.
  • Unclip the metal clasps holding the box down, open it, and pull out the old air filter.
  • Place your new air filter in the box, making sure it fits snugly and clasp the box shut again. That’s it – just make sure you have the right air filter for your car’s make and model.

c. Keep Your Wheels Rotated

Playing musical chairs with your tyres will equalise their wear patterns, making for longer lasting, safer, and more fuel-efficient tyres. This is a job you can do yourself with a few tools. So, check the ideal rotation schedule for your car in your owner’s manual and then get started:

  • With your car in park and the handbrake on, loosen the lug nuts on your wheels about a quarter turn.
  • Jack the car up, either one wheel at a time or using four jack stands to lift the whole vehicle.
  • Remove the tyres and rotate them, partially tightening the lugs as you go; exactly how this works will depend on a few factors:
    • For tyres with directional tread, simply switch the front left wheel for the rear left wheel, and do the same for the right.
    • For non-directional tyres and front-wheel drive, switch the front right tyre for the back right tyre, and the front left tyre for the back left tyre. Then move the rear wheels straight forward. For rear-wheel drive, move the rear tyres forward diagonally and the front wheels straight back.
  • Lower your car, tighten up the lugs fully and evenly, and you’re done.

3. Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

Most cars spend a lot of their lives outside. That means they are incessantly bombarded by UV radiation, dirty city rain, pollution, dead bugs, leaf litter, salinity, and bird poop. All these factors and more have a corrosive effect on your car’s paint and if they get through that they will affect the metal underneath.

Regularly washing your car won’t just make it look better when you’re cruising down the main, it will also help to keep your car in better condition. Over time, cleaning will save you money on repainting and repairs and help your car retain more of its resale value.

How Often Should You Clean?

The time between cleans will depend largely on where you live and what the climate is like. If you live near the coast – especially if it’s an urban area with air pollution – the high salinity levels mean you should wash your car two or three times a month. The same goes for busy urban centres where pollution, grime, and general city-borne pollution will accumulate on your car. If you live inland in low-pollution areas, cleaning once a month should do the trick.

If you decide to skip the car wash and clean yourself, here are a few tips:

  • Clean your car in the shade, inside the garage, or on a cool day. The sun’s heat may evaporate soapy water too quickly, leaving spots.
  • Take a little extra time to get tricky areas spotless after you’ve finished your general clean.
  • Choose your cleaning products carefully.
  • Help your car to shine and give it extra protection by using a good quality car wax.

4. Your Car Is Not a Bin, Don’t Treat It Like One

Too many people use their car like a rubbish bin, leading to mountains of fast food wrappers, fountains of old receipts, and a general build-up of dirt, mud and other debris.

This isn’t just embarrassing; it’s also not good for your mental health and concentration. Studies have shown that excessive clutter and mess can reduce attention span and concentration, make switching between tasks more difficult. Clutter can also impair your information processing ability and make you feel unhappy in general.

Try to get out of bad habits like eating and drinking in your car or leaving things on the floor. To complement these efforts, you should also put aside a time each week to clean the inside of your car, because it’s inevitable your good habits will falter now and then. Clear out rubbish, vacuum the floors, and wipe down your dash and other areas.

5. Find a Trusted Expert for Your Car

You should also take the time to choose a good mechanic or service centre to take care of your car’s repairs and regular servicing. Don’t just go with whoever is closest or cheapest; instead look for true car professionals with these qualities:

  • Great customer service skills – look at their online reviews, testimonials, and service guarantees.
  • Straightforward communication skills – mechanics who communicate exclusively in jargon are bad news.
  • Good diagnostic skills.
  • A great work ethic.
  • Up-to-date technology in-house and a policy of ongoing professional development for their team.
  • Reputable certifications, affiliations, and industry endorsements are always a good sign.

It’s also a good idea to learn more about how your car works and educate yourself on the average cost of various services and parts. This will empower you to choose a fair and honest mechanic or team to take care of your car.

10 WARNING SIGNS YOUR CAR TYRES NEED REPLACING

 

You can make a pretty good argument that tyres are the most important part
of a car. Of course, the engine is essential to actually drive the car
and your brakes are the most important safety feature. But
your tyres are the only part of the car that actually touches the road. Without them,
there’s really no car at all and if they’re in bad shape they
will negatively affect the performance of every other system in your vehicle.

Brakes, handling and steering are just some things that are affected by bald tyres or misaligned wheels. Fuel efficiency will also be affected and tyres that are in poor condition are also more likely to fail at high speeds.

So, it is very important not only to look after your tyres but to know when they need to be replaced or at least assessed by a professional. Here are 10 warning signs that your tyres need attention or replacement from AME Automotive’s expert team of mechanics in Canning Vale, Perth.

1. Tread Carefully with Worn Tread

If someone offered you a free pair of gorgeous leather shoes with comfortable inner soles but with no grip at all, you’d probably turn them down. Because even though all those other things are great, the shoes aren’t much good if you’ll slip over all the time.

Tyre tread is much the same. It doesn’t matter if your tyres are top of the line and your car is luxurious. If the tyres don’t have enough tread, the car won’t be safe, especially in wet conditions. Tyre tread creates space for water to be funnelled away, thereby increasing the wheels’ effective contact patch. This increases traction, reduces stopping time and lowers the risk of aquaplaning. In fact, in Australia, there is a legal requirement that your tyres have at least 1.5mm of tread and penalties apply if your fail to comply.

Why ‘Just Enough’ Is Not Enough

In fact, you should consider new tyres before that 1.5mm minimum, because by the time your tyres are that worn your stopping distance in wet conditions will have increased by almost 20 metres. A study measuring the Volkswagen Golf V’s stopping time travelling at 80 km/h in wet conditions with premium Bridgestone tyres found that:

  • With 8mm of tread, it took 53.6 metres to stop
  • At 5mm that increased to 55.2 metres
  • With 3mm tread, 59.6 metres were required to stop
  • Once the tread got to 1.6mm stopping distance shot up to 70 metres

Check Your Tread Regularly

Most modern tyres feature built-in tread wear indicators that allow you to do a quick visual inspection of your tyres. There will be tread wear indicator bars running perpendicular to the direction of the tread. These are hidden at first but start to appear as the tread gets low. If you can see one or more of these starting to appear, use a tread depth indicator to double check. If the tread is 1.5mm or lower you need new tyres. If you drive regularly in wet conditions, it’s a good idea to make the cut-off point 2 or 3mm instead.

2. Cracked Sidewalls

Tyre tread is a major concern, but cracks in the sidewall of your tyres are no less of a problem. Over time, exposure to UV breaks down the oils and chemicals that keep the rubber in your tyre strong and flexible, leading to a tyre that is brittle like an old rubber band.

One of the first signs that this is happening will be the appearance of cracks in the tyres’ sidewalls – everything from hairline cracks to distinct valleys in the rubber. These cracks can lead to leaks but they can also result in sidewall collapse or the tread separating from the rest of the wheel. Both of these outcomes are catastrophically bad news for you as a driver, especially if they happen on the highway, in heavy traffic or both.

3. Bulges and Blisters Are Bad Business

Another bad sign for your tyres is blister-like bulges appearing on the surface. These are usually caused in one of two ways:

  • Uneven weakening of a tyre’s outer surface can lead to bulges because the pressure inside the tyre pushes out the weakened area. This is similar to an aneurysm in a blood vessel – an aneurysm can blow out an artery and one of these could blow out your tyre.
  • The rigid internal frame of the tyre may have been damaged, allowing air pressure to reach the more flexible outer layers of the tyre. This damage is usually caused by driving mistakes such as hitting potholes, mounting kerbs, or driving with low tyre pressure.

These bulges will significantly reduce a tyre’s structural integrity and each additional bulge only makes the problem worse. Even if your tyres look fine otherwise and have plenty of tread, you need to get them replaced. Continuing to drive on bulging tyres is a recipe for a gradual flat tyre at best and sudden tyre failure at worst.

4. Bad Vibrations

It’s inevitable that you will feel some vibration when you drive, simply due to the engine doing its work and the friction of your car against the road. But if your notice more than usual, you probably have a problem. Excessive vibration usually comes down to one of four causes:

  • One or more of the wheels could be bent or damaged, causing them to spin in an imperfect circle.
  • The tyre may have suffered internal damage leading to irregular spinning, despite the wheel being okay.
  • Poor wheel alignment will lead to vibrations and cause tyres to wear unevenly.
  • A variety of suspension problems can also lead to a lot of vibration.

If your tyres or wheels are damaged, you will most likely need to get them replaced. If the cause is alignment issues or problems with suspension, those problems will need to be fixed.

5. What’s That Noise?

You can gather valuable clues about the health of your vehicle’s engine, brakes, tyres and more from the sounds your car makes. When tyres produce strange noises such as whining, squeaking, or thumping, think of it like a pet trying to tell you they’re ill. It’s not easy to know exactly what the problem is, so you’ll need to get a professional involved, but strange sounds from your tyres always indicate a problem.

It could be that the tyre or wheel has become damaged from a bump or simply through the stresses of daily driving. The wheels could also be out of alignment, leading to strange sounds when braking or cornering. Squeaking or thumping sounds could also be early indications that the tread on your tyre has worn down too low.

6. You Can’t Teach an Old Tyre New Tricks

Tyres have an age limit after which they should be retired. The maximum service life for car tyres is generally agreed to be around a decade, but that’s an absolute maximum – you generally don’t want to leave tyres on your car for 10 years.

Most manufacturers and suppliers only provide a maximum of five years’ warranty. After that time, the rubber’s natural deterioration – caused by UV radiation, friction, heat, and oxidisation – make problems increasingly more likely. As such, it’s usually recommended that you replace your tyres every five to six years, even if they look okay in other ways. If you insist on keeping older tyres, make 10 years your absolute cut-off point; after that, you’re asking for trouble.

Find Your Tyre’s Birthday

It’s actually quite easy to work out the age of your tyres. On the sidewall of every tyre is a 10-11 digit Tyre Identification Number (TIN). This tells you a lot of information about the tyre including its week and year of manufacture. For tyres from the 1990s, the last three digits give this information, and for post-2000 tyres, it’s the last four digits. So, for example:

  • If the last three digits of your tyre are ‘278’ (with a triangular indentation next to them), then your tyre was manufactured in the 27th week of the year 1998. That means it celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2008. Replace it as soon as possible.
  • If the last four digits read 1315, then your tyre was manufactured in week 13 of 2015. They won’t need to be replaced until 2020-21 and will be officially past their used by date in 2025.
  • If your tyres have a three digit code at the end of their NIT, but there is no triangular indentation next to it, then your tyres come from the 1980s. Frankly, it’s a miracle they haven’t exploded or split in half – replace them today.

What about the Spare?

While spare tyres are under less stress and strain in your boot, the rubber will still deteriorate. Spare tyres that are older than six years should only be used in an emergency and spares ten years or older should be replaced.

7. Uneven Tread Wear

If the tread on your tyres is wearing down unevenly, this could mean a lot of things. If the wear is severe enough you’ll need new tyres even if the rest of the tread is fine – all it takes is one or two bald patches to cause problems in wet weather or during a sudden stop. There are a few reasons why your tyres might be wearing unevenly:

  • If the tyres are more worn on the outer or inner edge, the problem is probably misaligned wheels. If your wheels are angled in at the front, there will be more wear on the outer edges; if they point outwards there will be more wear on the inner edge.
  • Tyres that show a lot of wear straight down the centre are a sign that you’ve been overinflating your tyre.
  • If your tyres are worn at the edges, but not in the centre, you have been under inflating them. Get out of this habit right now – underinflated tyres don’t absorb bumps properly. They also result in more friction with the road, increasing the heat in your tyres and the chance of a blowout.

8. Tyre Landscapes

If your tyres have a ‘hill and valley’ pattern of wear – known as ‘cupping’ – they may need to be replaced. Your suspension will also need a check-up. Worn or damaged suspension can cause tyres to bounce as you’re driving, coming down harder on some parts of the tyre than others.

9. Feathering and Heel Toe-ing

Feathered Tyres

Sometimes an incorrect toe setting on your car’s wheels can cause your tyres to spin in odd ways, creating an effect called ‘feathering’. This can also be caused by suspension problems.

Feathering is when your tread blocks end up shaped like ramps running sideways across your tyres. You’ll need to organise an alignment, suspension and have your tyres checked. If the wear is significant enough, you will also need new tyres.

Heel Toe Tyres

Heel-toe wear in tyres looks very similar to feathering, but it runs front to back along the tyres, not across them. If you find this wear profile on your tyres, get your car checked out – it could be the result of insufficient wheel rotations, misaligned wheels, damaged or worn suspension bushings, ball joints, or wheel bearings.

10. Dry Rot Is as Bad as It Sounds

Pervasive dry rot is a sign your tyres are no longer useable. If you’ve been checking for sidewall cracks and bulges, your tyres shouldn’t ever get to this stage, but if you’ve been negligent in examining your tyres, check them right now. If you find the following symptoms, drive very carefully and slowly to your nearest tyre service centre and get your tyres replaced.

  • Do you have pervasive cracks in both the sidewall and the tread?
  • Has the rubber turned from black to a dull grey?
  • Can you see fabric or metal through the cracks in your tyres?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably have dry rot. Your tyres are in a state of advanced decay. The rubber has lost most of its structural integrity and your tyres have become brittle and weak. Your tyres are now likely to fall apart, burst, or tear away from their steel belt any day now.

Contact AME Automotive mechanics in Canning Vale, Perth to get your car tyres checked if you’re experiencing any of these problems or before a long drive.

Call Us Now (08) 9455 3225 We will beat any quoted price by 10%