Expert QA

Caring for your car

Keeping your car in tip-top shape is not only safe, it's also economical.

Keeping your car in tip-top condition is not only safe, it’s also economical. Small problems, if ignored, can wreak havoc later on. Here’s a checklist to refer to at least once a month.

**Fluids

**It’s a good idea to keep a regular check on the engine oil, coolant and brake-fluid levels. These are all vital and, on a modern car, the engine oil and coolant levels shouldn’t change much, if at all. The brake fluid level will drop very slowly as the brake pads wear. Any sudden change in fluid levels is a warning sign of trouble.

**Tyre pressures

**Keep your tyres at the right pressure at all times. This is important for both safety and fuel economy. Under-inflated tyres wear out more quickly, use more fuel and have poor grip.

**Wiper blades

**Wiper blades stay in top condition for only 12 to 18 months. Replace them and you’ll really notice the difference next time it rains. You’ll usually need to replace only the rubber blade insert (around $9 to $15 for both blades) – not the metal bits.

**Vacuuming

**Regular vacuuming of the upholstery and carpet will stop dirt getting ingrained and difficult to remove. Small portable vacuum cleaners plug into the cigarette lighter socket, which can be handy if you have to park out of reach of an extension lead. But many people prefer the vacuum machines at service stations as they have a lot of suction.Spray-on/brush-off upholstery cleaners are available in aerosol cans to help keep the seats clean.

**Cleaning/waxing

**Industrial polluntants, road grime, acid rain, dead insects, bird droppings and tree sap can all degrade the paintwork of your car. Keeping it free from these will help retain the shine. Nothing under the kitchen sink is appropriate but there is a myriad of car cleaning and waxing products on the market. For cleaning, choose a car “shampoo”. For waxing, we think the polymer sealant-type polishes are easier to use than traditional waxes.

**Stone chips

**These allow moisture to penetrate under the paint film, causing rust damage much larger than the chip itself. You can buy small pots or pens of touch-up paint. The pens, much like marker pens, are especially convenient. Fill the stone chip with paint using either the paint pen or a sharpened matchstick dipped into the paint. Use several small applications rather than one big blob. You can usually find the manufacturer’s paint colour code on an identification plate under the bonnet.

Sue Chetwin CEO consumer.org.nz

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