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10 Things every car owner should know

Car Owner Reviewer - Lovecarreviews
Oct. 15, 2023, 8:37 a.m.

insurance VIN pressures battery maintenance flat tyres warning lights basic repairs fluids fuel efficiency road tax and mot

10 Things every car owner should know

Owning a car is not just about buying it, driving it for said number of years and selling it on. There are some basics that every car owner should know about their car, during the time the own it. We break down the top 10 here.  

There really are few pleasures more exciting than picking up your next car (Ok, maybe more exciting for a car enthusiast, but you get the point), bringing it home, and loving it for many happy motoring miles. But from the moment that car arrives at your house, there are a number of things that you really should learn, and know about your vehicle. So, without delay, here are 10 things (in no specific order) we think you should learn: 

1. Maintenance: Regular maintenance is key to keeping your car running smoothly. This can include anything from oil changes, to tire rotations, and brake inspections. Some cars will flag up things like oil changes (or "oil services" as they are sometimes called) on the digital dashboard, and even include a countdown to when that service is due. If you can change your own oil, you can save a ton of money (£380 for my last oil service on the Audi SQ7), but its not always as easy with modern cars. Tires and brakes are also super important, and keeping an eye on how your car is driving and any obvious issues is key to maintaining a well functioning car. If you are getting more judder from your steering wheel, steering feels off, brake pedal travels further than user or your stopping distance seems higher than usual, its worth popping into a local garage to check it all. As a minimum, I would suggest you always try and follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule, which will usually also include an annual service carried out by a garage, which you should keep a record of for when you sell the car on.

2. Fluids: Understanding the different fluids in your car is important is equally important. Your average petrol or diesel car, includes several fluids like engine oil (to keep your engine running), coolant (to keep your engine from overheating), screen wash (the stuff that squirts onto your windscreen to get the bugs off), transmission fluid (for your gearbox), and brake fluid (obviously for your brakes). There is also a liquid called Adblue, which was introduced for diesel cars to help with the reduction of harmful emissions. For most part, the average car owner will only ever need to check and top up the adblue and screen wash (both of which the car will usually indicate when they are low). It is worth checking the manual for which warning lights relate to the other fluids (see warning lights section below), and booking your car into your garage for any fluids that you can't sort out yourself.

3. Tire Pressure: I will start this one with an important warning! Do not inflate your tire to the psi number on the tire itself, those numbers are not for you! Maintaining the correct tire pressure for your car is essential for safety and also for improving your fuel efficiency. Most cars these days will include a sticker somewhere on the car (check the inside edge of the drivers door and inside the petrol flap for the pressures) with the correct tire pressures for your car, based on several factors including any variation of tire available from the manufacturer of your car, number of participants and amount of weight in luggage. If your cars steering feels heavy, clucky, or your car is pulling to one side, it will be worth heading to a petrol station and checking your tire pressure to make sure it matches the recommended level.

4. Battery: The battery is the heart of your car's electrical system. Despite this, its probably not one of the easiest things to know is low or not working optimally until its too late. Look for signs when starting your car, especially in cold whether or when the car has not been started for some time, as this will tend to drain the battery. Its also important to ensure any battery draining features on the car (exterior lights are the most common) are switched off before you lock up for the night. You can buy home battery chargers, jump cables (which allow you to connect your battery to that of another car and use their power to get your car started), and jumper packs (which work in a similar way to jump cables, but without the need for a second car), all which will help you get your battery back up and running if it does become drained. Jump starting will work with some cars, but that is becoming less of an option on later cars, which just work differently! 

5. Warning Lights: On the dashboard of your car, you will likely notice, when starting the car, that a ton of lights flash up, that you then generally never see again once your engine is running. Each one of those lights correspond to a feature or function required for the normal running of your car. Familiarize yourself with those different warning lights as early as you can. These lights indicate potential issues with your car, and ignoring them can lead to costly repairs in some cases. On some modern cars, the display may actually tell you specifically what the issue is and even the severity of the issue, with messages like "visit a workshop as soon as possible", whereas older cars, might just show the light and need you to check the manual for more information. 

6. Changing a Flat Tire: Knowing how to change a flat tire is a basic skill that every car owner should have. However, I happen to know this is generally not the case. Furthermore, I think these days, the majority of car owners may not even been aware, that for many years now, where there were once spare wheels, they will only find a bottle of foam and a pipe! Check this, and be sure you know what that bottle does and how to use it. Also worth checking whether there is a date on the bottle and keeping that in good order. Equally, where your car does still have a spare, make sure the tire is in good working order, has a legal tread and not visible damage. You can also buy small devices that allow you to check the tire tread depth, which need to within legal limits to avoid getting in trouble with the boys and girls in blue (that's the police to anyone not in the UK). The other important point, for those wondering how the hell they are going to get the damaged wheel off the car, is that your car should include a jack (to raise the car enough to remove the wheel) and a tool for undoing the wheel nuts. 

7. Basic Repairs: While major repairs should be left to professionals, knowing how to perform basic repairs like changing a headlight bulb or replacing a fuse can save you time and money. Unfortunately, with many modern cars, there isn't much that you can do yourself! Even jobs as simple as changing light bulbs, which can not be xenon, bi-xenon, or all other manner of intelligent lighting systems, can require an engineer with a bachelors degree to make the switch. Other basic repairs that the average driver should be able to do, includes changing windscreen wipers, rear view mirrors, replacing external arieals (should you still have one), etc.  

8. Fuel Efficiency: OK, I know you are going to say. Every car has a petrol gauge which shows how much petrol you have left, in addition to a counter which tells you how many miles you have done on that tank of petrol. So you can probably work out how efficient your car is. BUT, there are many factors here to take into account. Good fuel efficiency generally comes down to the type of car, weight, engine size, the types of roads you drive on and how you drive. Long motorway trips generally return more miles per gallon than short city and town hops. And if your car is always packed with stuff you don't need, that all eats away at the efficiency of your car. Get to know your car, driving style and other factors that impact your car's efficiency, and always keep an eye on the petrol gauge, to ensure that you know when its time to refill. Some people suggest refilling at a quarter tank to avoid pulling all of the bottom of petrol tank crap into your engine, but others say otherwise. Best to decide what is best from your side.  There are other things you can do to improve efficiency, including driving at a steady speed, avoiding unnecessary idling, and keeping your car properly maintained.

9. Insurance: Whilst the thought of giving someone money every year for in case I have an accident and not getting it back when I don't remains a sore point for me, insurance is something that is required by law, when driving on UK roads. Make sure you know the type of insurance you need for your car and shop around to get the best deal. Not all insurance companies are created equal and some are better than others when it comes to paying out. There are many things that you can now insurance in addition to just the car itself and you should always know what is covered on your policy to ensure you have the right insurance coverage for your car. 

10. Road Tax and MOT: Not that I really wan to reveal my age here, but when I started driving, I would receive a little round disc each year, with permission from the government to use my car on the UK roads. Since then, those discs have gone away and have been replaced with a completely digital service which means you need to go online to check your expiration date. MOTs are different and luckily we still receive paper based documents with dates and status of the MOTs. The UK Gov do have a website where you can check the status of both, giving you plenty time to get yourself booked in for an MOT and Service at the same time.

So that's it! 10 things that you should know about your car. By knowing these, you'll be better equipped to take care of it and ensure a safe and you have an enjoyable driving experience, and peaceful of mind, for many years to come.

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