Road Safety requires not only driver fitness but vehicle fitness. A well maintained vehicle not only speaks volumes about the owner, but will protect the owner on the road. Many accidents caused by vehicle failure can be prevented and many stranded motorists face the preventable risk of criminals next to the road. It is important that we address the importance of vehicle maintenance for road safety and create awareness of preventative steps in properly maintaining our vehicles.
Importance of effective maintenance
Effective and proper maintenance will provide many benefits to the vehicle owner, including:
- Saving fuel and money – mechanical systems of the vehicle will affect fuel efficiency
- Reducing long-term maintenance costs
- Minimize harmful exhaust emissions and protect the environment
- Increase reliability of your vehicle and limit the risk of vehicle breakdown
- Increase the resale value of your vehicle
Basic Maintenance of your Vehicle
It is best to leave the servicing of your vehicle in the hands of trained automotive professionals / mechanics. They have the knowledge and tools to diagnose and correct problems and to put you on the road to safe, fuel-efficient driving. Preventive maintenance by the driver might however also help avoid vehicle break- down. This should be thorough, regular and frequent enough to meet the manufacturer’s guidelines and common sense.
Aspects that require maintenance are:
- Air filter: Check monthly and replace it when it becomes dirty or as part of a tune -up. It is easy to reach, right under the big metal ‘lid’, in a carbureted engine; or in a rectangular box at the forward end of the air in a duct hose assembly.
- Battery: Remove the earth strap (usually the negative pole) on a battery to avoid activating the starter if you accidentally touch an open wire when repairing the starter or working in the battery area.
- Brakes / Brake Fluid: Check the brake fluid monthly. First wipe dirt from the brake master cylinder reservoir lid. Pry off the retainer clip and remove the lid or unscrew the plastic lid, depending on which type your vehicle has. If you need fluid, add the improved type and check for possible leaks throughout the system. Do not overfill.
- Engine Oil: Neglecting to replace worn-out oil results in poor engine performance, higher fuel consumption and possibly severe engine damage. To prevent engine deterioration, it is imperative that the engine maintains the amount of oil it is programmed to receive. Check the oil after every fill up. Remove the dipstick, wipe it clean. Insert it fully and remove it again. If it is low, add oil. To maintain peak performance, the oil should be changed every 3 months. When doing general maintenance or repairs never over fill the sump with oil as this will prematurely damage the oil seals and result in engine oil leaks. When fitting a new oil filter, a light smear of engine oil on the oil filter rubber seal will ensure the vital sealing surface requirement when hand tightening the oil filters housing to engine mating block.
- Exhaust & Silencer Exhaust: Have the exhaust system checked if it sounds noisy or rattles. Look underneath for loose or broken exhaust clamps and supports. Check for holes in muffler or pipes. Replace the rusted or damaged parts.
- Fan & Belt: Inspect belts and hoses smoothly. Replace glazed, worn or frayed belts. Replace bulging, rotten or brittle hoses and tighten clamps. If a hose looks bad, or feels too soft or too hard, it should be replaced. When replacing a missing or perished fan belt ensure that the tension setting at the longest run between the engines pulleys is about 10 to 12mm (Free tension play)
- Front Wheel CV Joints/ Wheel bearing kits: When undertaking repairs to wheel bearing kits use only one sachet of grease for both wheel applications keep the other grease pack for future use on your vehicle – one pack is more than sufficient to pack both wheels
- Fuel Line & Fuel Pump
- Gearbox Oil
- High –Tension (HT) leads
- Ignition Coil
- Lights: Check that all lights are working and replace any broken or burned out bulbs. It is important for the lights to be properly focused, for your own and for the oncoming vehicle’s safety. Travel on low beam so that it does not obstruct your view instead of helping you along.
- Water: If your engine uses water for cooling, take care to ensure that it is regularly changed. Water can also be used for cleaning the windshield.
- Rear Wheel Drive Shaft
- Shock Absorbers: Shock absorbers should always be replaced in pairs (or all four) ensuring that both the front and/or rear shocks are in the same condition and operate on equal settings on the same axle.
- Spark Plugs: In an attempt to rectify erratic idling after replacing your vehicles spark plugs, ensure that the plug leads are secure on both ends of the plug lead and that the leads are not perished.
- Tyres- Mechanical irregularities will show up early on tyre wear patterns. It is important to have professionals check your wheel alignment and balance. (The following mechanical components can lead to irregular tyre wear – Grabbing or unequal brakes, Spread axles, bent axles, sagging axles, Twisted or cracked chassis, Worn or loose wheel bearings, damaged or worn suspension, damaged or worn wheel assembly, worn bushes or ball joints, damaged of worn steering components, etc.)
- Tyre Pressure: The required amount of air pressure needs to be strictly maintained if your car is to get the right mileage and pick-up.
- Clutch Kits: Worn individual clutch plates pressure plates and/or release bearings should not be seen as quick fix loose unit repairs. Replacing all the corresponding components, pressure plate, clutch plate and thrust bearing in kit form is highly recommended; these components operate in conjunction with each other and have equal mileage and wear evident, replacing one only loose clutch component is a risk that could prove expensive and time consuming.
- Wiper Blades: It is recommended you change your wiper blades every six months, even if they haven’t been used very often. The rubber deteriorates over time when exposed to the atmosphere.
- Seat Belts: Keep seat belts clean to prevent dirt and moisture from damaging the mechanism.
- Keep your vehicle clean, inside and out.
There are many ways to perform maintenance of the vehicle – You can start from simple things and allow professionals to do the more technical maintenance.