Ever got so busy that you skipped a meal, and thought that, “Hey it’s not too bad, I’ve saved the lunch money today”? While skipping a meal every now and then wouldn’t hurt, skipping certain routine checks and maintenance on your vehicle could potentially cost you an arm and a leg.
All machineries experience wear and tear, nothing can last forever without the need for servicing and routine maintenance and this of course, applies to your car. Although it might seem like a chore to go out of your way to ensure your vehicle is in tip-top condition, trust us, it is definitely worth to do so before things go awry.
Here are some things in your car that you should never neglect.
Tyre pressure could fluctuate due to a variety of reasons, so make it a habit to check your tyre pressure regularly1. Insufficient tyre pressure
Many drivers fail to realise the importance of tyre pressure, brushing it off as a minor detail, believing that it wouldn’t affect much apart from the bumpiness of the ride. That is, however, a completely incorrect understanding of the topic.
Insufficient tyre pressure not only affects your vehicle’s comfort and handling, it will also cause the tyres to flex more, resulting in increased friction between the tyres and the road. This causes the temperature to increase, which could result in tread separation (a dangerous situation where the tread of the tyre separates from the body of the tyre) or tyre blowouts (a rapid loss of tyre pressure which results in an explosion). Both situations could result in a severe loss of control of the vehicle, which could be deadly, especially when travelling at highway speeds.
Even if there aren’t any obvious leaks, tyre pressure could still reduce over time due to many reasons, such as temperature differences, it would be wise to make it a habit to check your car’s tyre pressure at least once a month.
It is crucial to change your car’s engine oil regularly to ensure the longevity of the engine2. Engine oil not changed regularly/low engine oil level
Arguably one of the most basic yet crucial maintenance for cars, most drivers are actually aware of the need for engine oil changes, it’s just that some may assume it is okay to put it off until a much later date, thinking that it will not have much detrimental effect.
Under the high operating temperature and harsh environment, engine oil deteriorates over time. When the engine oil’s composition breaks down, sludge which affects the flow of oil may form. The oil will not be able to sustain its viscosity, becoming thinner at high temperature and no longer lubricates the metal engine parts properly. Dirt and other particles could also contaminate the engine oil causing it to become abrasive.
Needless to say, if the engine oil level were to fall dangerously low, there will barely be any oil to lubricate the engine parts, as such the engine parts will experience much more wear.
Engine oil are recommended too be changed every 5000km or 10,000km (if the oil used is fully synthetic).
Timing belts are designed to last for 100,000km, so change them promptly to avoid a catastrophic engine failure3. Not replacing timing belt regularly
While most of the newer cars utilises metal timing chains, which are supposed to last for pretty much the entire lifespan of the engine, many cars on the road still utilise timing belts. So, what happens when your timing belt snaps? “A piece of belting wouldn’t cost much right, so why should I be concerned?” Well, hold that thought.
You see, there are generally two types of engine timing configurations – non-interference and interference. In a non-interference engine, even if the valves are to fully open when the piston is at the top, they will never cross path. Hence for such engines, there shouldn’t be any damage when the timing belt, which synchronises their movements, breaks. For the latter, however, the piston and the valves’ strokes use up the same space, if the valves were to be fully opened while the piston travels up, they will hit each other, resulting in possible damage to the valves, piston, cylinder head, camshaft or cylinder wall, all of which will be extremely costly to repair.
Unlike engine oil changes, timing belts are replaced between much longer intervals, the rule of thumb being 100,000km.
Drive belts, fan belt, or serpentine belts power various important components of your engine, such as the power steering pump4. Not replacing drive belts regularly
What? There are more belts in an engine? Well, yes, luckily these aren’t as crucial and costly as timing belts, but that does not mean that they should be neglected, as they can still cause you to end up standing by the road, waiting for assistance when they snap.
While older cars have multiple belts (commonly known as fan belts) to power the various components such as the power steering pump, alternator and air-con compressor, newer cars utilises a single serpentine belt for all the various accessories.
So what happens when these belts break? If the power steering pump stops working while you are driving, the steering will now be unassisted and requires much more force to turn, which can be dangerous on the road. If the alternator stops, your car’s battery will no longer stay charged, ultimately causing your car to stop running.
These belts have a similar lifespan to timing belts, and are often changed together, so don’t brush them off in an attempt to save a few bucks just because these don’t seem as vital as the other components.
Other fluids are just as important – ensure that the power steering and brake fluids are at the adequate level 5. Not checking the various hydraulic fluids level
Vital parts such as the brakes and power steering system in most cars utilise a hydraulic system, which require their respective fluids to be maintained at an appropriate level in order for them to work properly.
Brake fluid is the medium that connects your feet’s movement to the actual hardware that slows down and stops your vehicle. The incompressible brake fluid is displaced the moment the pedal is pushed, transferring the force to the pistons in the brake calipers, pushing the brake pad against the rotor to slow the car down. If there is insufficient brake fluid, the brakes will malfunction, and in worst cases the brakes may not work at all.
Low power steering fluid level, on the other hand, will often cause many problems, ranging from noise when turning to serious issues such as difficulty turning the steering wheel. Low fluid level can also cause damage to the power steering pump and rack, which can be costly to repair.
Check that the respective fluids are within their threshold by ensuring their level are within the ‘Min’ and ‘Max’ markings on the reservoir.
Brakes are critical to the safety of any vehicle, so always ensure that your brake pads and rotors are not too worn out6. Neglecting the brakes
The importance of brakes simply can’t be stressed enough when it comes to the safety of a vehicle. Apart from brake fluid, the various components that make up the braking system are equally important as the failure of any of them can lead to dire consequences.
The brakes on a car consists of friction materials, namely the brake discs or rotors, which the brake pads get pushed against in order to slow the car down. Needless to say, both the pads and rotor will wear out with usage. When the brake pads are totally worn, braking performance will decline greatly.
The hydraulic components of the braking system are also prone to wear and tear, and the brake hoses which are made of rubber can deteriorate and crack over time. Plus, the piston seals on the calipers may leak, which can cause the brakes to malfunction.
Never neglect your vehicle’s brakes as braking problems pose a huge safety hazard. Being unable to stop when you need to will most definitely result in an accident.
Always keep an eye on your car’s water temperature and coolant level, as overheating causes an array of issues that would be costly to repair7. Not checking coolant level
An internal combustion engine generates power through countless explosions within its cylinders, it wouldn’t take rocket science to figure out how much heat that produces, which is why the cooling system is a vital part of any engine.
Despite being a closed loop, the coolant level in a water-cooled engine can decrease due to various reasons, the most common being leaks from parts of the cooling system, such as the hoses, water pump, or radiator. Running an engine without sufficient coolant can result in overheating, which if left alone can potentially cause costly damage to your engine.
Overheating causes seals and gaskets to deteriorate prematurely and leak, which results in an array of issues and could even cause permanent damage to your engine. A ‘blown’ (severely damaged) head gasket, is one of the common problem caused by overheating, when the head gasket (a gasket which sits between the engine’s top portion, the head, and the lower portion, the block) fails, the engine loses compression (leading to less power) and the coolant and engine oil will usually mix.
This creates a mess and all sorts of issues. A blown gasket is costly to repair as it involves taking apart the engine, and in extreme cases where the head is warped due to the severe overheating, it will get even more expensive as the head may need to be replaced or machined so that the engine is able to work properly.
It only takes a couple of minutes to check the radiator and reserve tank for the coolant level, do it every now and then and enjoy a peace of mind.