Good car maintenance now more important than ever

With reports indicating a drop in new car sales, now is the time to ensure you keep up-to-date with regular maintenance services, believes Les Mc Master, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA).


According to recently published articles stating new car sales fell by 5.4% in May 2015 compared to May 2014, the reality is that many South Africans are feeling financially strained and buying a new car is not a priority. “If buying a new car isn’t a priority then ensuring your current vehicle is properly maintained should be,” says Mc Master.


“Regular maintenance is key to extending the life of your car, and will result in a better resale price at the end of the day. It is also a cost saver as regular servicing will help you pick up smaller repairs early enough to prevent more serious and costly faults occurring further down the line.”


He advises motorists to keep a close eye on the car’s manual and schedule maintenance accordingly. “Even better, set a recurring reminder on your phone to alert you to get your vehicle checked annually. Keeping up with your car’s recommended maintenance schedule can help avoid costly problems with your cooling system, drivetrain, suspension and other components.”


Motorists should also ensure their car is serviced by a reputable workshop that only uses quality oil, fluids and parts. “While it might sound like an attractive option to service your car as cheaply as possible, the financial implications in the long run will outweigh the apparent short term benefit. It’s never wise to scrimp on your car’s maintenance costs.”


In addition to regular maintenance there are a number of other things motorists can do to extend a car’s life. Motorists should regularly check the level of fluids in their vehicles, such as the antifreeze, oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid. “Even if your car doesn’t leak fluids, it can develop a leak quite quickly which results in a dangerously low level of fluids. It’s also important to change the oil regularly as this will improve your mileage and protect your engine. To find the recommended mileage between oil changes check your vehicle’s service manual, and if still unsure consult with an accredited MIWA workshop. It’s important to change the oil filter as well – there is no sense in putting clean oil through a dirty filter, and filters are cheap and available at any parts stores,” says Mc Master.


He also advises motorists to monitor the thickness of their vehicle’s brake pad to prevent the pads from wearing down to metal. He advises against fitting cheap, substandard brake pads as these, apart from having a poor service life, often do not fit into the brake caliper as they should and in many instances contribute to caliper damage and even brake failure.


Another tip to make the brakes last longer, is to use the hand brake where possible, he says. “Even if you are driving a car with an automatic transmission, use your hand brake regularly, especially if you’re parked on an incline. It helps keep the brakes adjusted in the rear of the car and assists the cables and moving parts to stay operative in the event of emergency use.”


Furthermore, inspect your tyres often. Ensure that the wheel geometry is always correct by regularly monitoring the wear pattern and have it attended to when an odd wear pattern is noticed, thus extending the life of the tyres. Generally, with modern tyre technology, tyres are no longer rotated. Seek expert advice from the local tyre dealer to ensure that you are kept informed regarding your particular make of tyre. “You also need to check your tyre pressure regularly. Proper tyre inflation will help the tyres handle better and last longer, and it will help you get the most out of a tank of petrol.”


But most of all, don’t ignore small problems, advises Mc Master. “Pay close attention to your vehicle’s noises and also to its warning lights and even cosmetic things, like a piece of rubber trim that’s loose. Ignoring a problem only allows it to get worse, and parts for aging vehicles are often difficult to find.”