Car Care: Keep up those regular services

By Jack Biddle

As a car ages, servicing it fully can seem like a bit of a chore

Work on what's under the bonnet is best left to the experts. When changing oil, you must dispose of the old oil properly. Photo / Thinkstock
Work on what's under the bonnet is best left to the experts. When changing oil, you must dispose of the old oil properly. Photo / Thinkstock

With vehicle servicing and Warrant of Fitness (WoF) inspection intervals being stretched out a lot further for a high percentage of vehicles on our roads these days, there is a lot more expectation on owners to take personal responsibility to ensure their vehicles are reliable and safe.

Servicing costs money and it's often very inconvenient, so it's easy for owners to assume the least you see of your preferred service provider the better. While it's true every dollar saved by not servicing the car can provide a great night out or buy you the latest in electronic gadgetry, longer spells between servicing can also lead owners into a false sense of security.

Twelve month intervals between WoF checks, especially for those clocking up high kms, can also mean potentially a lot more unsafe cars on our roads. A good example is where a vehicle passes its WoF but the owner is warned that while the tread depth is within legal limits, it is on the limit of acceptability. Ignore the warning and do nothing for a further twelve months, can ultimately mean the vehicle soon becomes a danger to the driver and other road users especially during the wet winter months.

On the service side, leaving a recommended cambelt replacement or cooling system issue too long can eventually lead to a major and expensive engine failure.

For vehicles within or just out of new car warranty the rules around service intervals are pretty much set in concrete and should be followed but as vehicles age, things change and routine servicing often needs to be juggled to fit in with other commitments and financial pressures. The end result is often recommended service intervals being stretched out a lot further than intended or desirable. In the meantime, tyre pressures drop, brake pads wear, fluid levels fall, windscreen washer bottles empty and the potential for the cooling system to spring a leak grows larger.

So what's the answer? Well checking tyre pressures as discussed in a recent Carcare article is easy. It's free at most gas stations, so no excuses there, plus making eye contact with the tyres occasionally can very quickly identify a premature deflation or wear issue. Vehicle servicing is not just about changing the engine oil, it's doing the simple things such as checking the lights and wiper rubber condition -- which is another task most owners are quite capable of doing themselves. Under the bonnet is where potentially the amateurs can become unstuck, so unless you are up with the play technically it's a job best left to the workshop.

One of the best ways to try and avoid unwanted vehicle dramas and keep your vehicle safe and servicing on track, is to have a trusted service provider, almost a personal car coach, somebody who has the communications skills to match their technical ability. Making sure the important jobs are taken care of and the car is safe should be the first priority for both parties. Often some recommended work can go on hold until finances improve or checked again at the next scheduled service without compromising a vehicle's reliability or safety. If warnings are given on safety or maintenance items, then listen to your service provider as to when it's best to return the vehicle for either a recheck or to get the work carried out.

Not changing the engine oil for long periods can result in thick and unwelcome sludge forming with the end result being total engine failure. If that happens, you can often wave goodbye to the engine and sometimes the entire car if its value is less than the cost of the repairs.

If you carry out vehicle servicing at home yourself, then make sure you discard the used oil and filter in an environmentally friendly way, plus take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of yourself and others who may be around the vehicle.

The use of axle stands is a must as is jacking the vehicle from the designated body points to avoid structural damage. And don't forget to replace the sealing washer when refitting the sump plug. There is nothing worse than an annoying oil leak after a service.

And don't forget to cast a good eye around the entire vehicle and do all those safety checks.

- NZ Herald

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