As you might have gathered from my recent articles, I am very meticulous when it comes to looking after my car. Over the years of reading CAR magazine I have picked up on some great tips for general car care which are extremely useful. I hope that articles like these have spared some cars the pain they might have otherwise endured had their owners been none the wiser, so here are my top tips for keeping your car happy.
- Never Rev a Cold Engine: This goes without saying, a cold engine is usually not completely coated with protective oil and encounters most of its wear during its warm-up cycle. Although the wear is minimal over time this adds up. Revving a cold engine will only exacerbate this wear and puts a lot of strain on moving parts which are grinding against each other. No matter how smooth a piece of metal is under the microscope it is pitted with grooves and dents that, when rubbed past one another, will cause degradation. A cold engine should be given 10-15 seconds to idle and should then ‘gently’ be driven until it has reached a suitable temperature. Keep the revolutions below 3500 r/min to minimise wear and tear.
- Warming up: Reverting back to my previous article “Bells and Whistles” a temperature gauge that never moves or only moves in traffic is a sure sign that your thermostat is not functioning properly. An engine that runs too cold will wear quicker and use a lot more fuel thus it is imperative that your cooling-system is in working order. On the same note an engine that runs too hot is just as dangerous thus ensuring your car stays within its designed operating temperature is imperative to keeping your car happy.
- Tyres & Oil: So many people neglect their tyres, which usually results in blowouts, or premature wear, which can easily be avoided. Tyre pressure should be regularly checked and kept within the manufacturers specification, these figures can usually be found in the owners manual or on a sticker on the inside of the drivers door. Over or under-inflated tyres cause un-even wear resulting in bald spots and/or a loss of traction. Tyres should be rotated at least once during their life cycle i.e. back tyres to front and vice versa. Have your wheel alignment and balancing checked at least twice a year. If you have hit a curb or a pothole, it is recommended that you have the wheel alignment and balancing checked as soon as possible. Badly aligned wheels can shorten tyre life.
- General Revving: Modern engines are designed to be extremely resilient to abuse but regularly pushing the boundaries can be harmful. Regularly over-revving a car causes excessive wear and tear and puts immense pressure on internal moving parts of an engine. Use your tachometer to select the correct gear change intervals. A power burst now and again is not harmful provided you change gears and do not continuously keep the car at its rev limit; most cars are fitted with a governor which will retard ignition timing to prevent damage. This does not mean you can hit it all the time…
- Clutch Care: For those of us who drive manual cars, the clutch is a vital part of your car’s assembly and is essentially the link between your engine and the gearbox thus without it you won’t be going anywhere. Clutches are designed to take the wear of daily use but, as with anything, abuse takes its toll. Do not ride the clutch or use it to hold your car on a hill, this will wear down the clutch plate excessively and will be a costly repair later on. When sitting at a traffic light, put the car in neutral and release the clutch, use your handbrake if necessary and avoid letting the clutch slip when moving off again. Regularly depressing the clutch pedal for extended periods of time will cause thrust bearing wear. Do not lug the car, by this I mean driving in a high gear at a low speed. Not only does this put immense pressure on your clutch but it is also very bad for your engine. A general rule of thumb for most cars is to use the gears as follows 0-40 km/h max in 1st gear, 40-60 km/h max in 2nd gear, 60-90 km/h max in 3rd gear and so on. If you have to slow down on a highway you should change to 4th if you drop below 80 km/h and 3rd if you drop below 60 km/h. This is a guide and will differ in different vehicles.
- Servicing and Electronics: All cars need to be regularly serviced, the distance between services is usually 15-20 000 km’s on modern cars, or as otherwise indicated by the service indicator. Trust the electronics of your car, they have been designed and tested to be reliable. Service indicators are very sophisticated and rarely wrong. In the case of a car without sophisticated computers follow the manufacturers guide. Good clean oil and filters will go a long way in keeping your engine in good shape and preventing costly break-downs. Cars fitted with modern ECU controllers are very sensitive and thus fiddling with them by fitting performance chips will only be to your detriment later. Avoid jump starting new cars a a small surge of milliamp proportion is all it takes to fry a R20 000 piece of equipment. Rather have the battery charged outside of the vehicle or call roadside assist. However ridiculous it may sound it could be the difference between you and a massive repair bill.
This sums up my general day-to-day tips, any further tips or suggestions are most welcome.
Tags: car care tips, car diy
PLEASE NOTE: The opinion expressed in this article is the author's own and publication does not mean it is endorsed by the CAR magazine editorial staff or RamsayMedia, publishers of CAR magazine.