Among the routine aspects of car engine care are checking the engine oil level as well as the levels of transmission fluid. It is not only reliable road performance you need to consider but the essentials of maintaining the right oil level in the engine.
Driving around with low levels of engine oil can cause long term damage to the engine components, possibly leading to very expensive repairs.
To measure oil levels it is best to park the car in a level position, not on a slope, and to switch off the engine. After about 5 minutes lift the oil dipstick from the engine compartment and wipe it with a clean cloth or tissue. Place it back in the engine, remove again and make a note of the oil level, which should be at least halfway between the low and high mark points.
This is also a great time to consider whether your car engine needs an oil change. If the oil on the dipstick is black it suggests the oil contains sooty particles, which can affect engine performance. So this would be a good time to drain the old oil and add some fresh oil.
A clear, light brown coloured oil is about right and so you can go ahead with a top-up, if the level is too close to the minimum notch on the dipstick. When you add fresh engine oil slowly, give the oil a chance to settle and then check the level again before closing the oil compartment cap.
Another important aspect of car engine care is ensuring there is sufficient anti-freeze (engine coolant) which dissolves with added water and flows from the reservoir through the radiator panel, helping to stop the engine from overheating.
It is best to refer to the car owner’s manual which will show you where the tank or reservoir for engine coolant is located. A key point is to allow the engine to cool down before topping up with anti-freeze because after the engine has been running the closed system carrying the coolant will be under pressure.
Also consider checking the level of engine coolant, perhaps an hour or so after you top-up, in case there is a leak. If this is not resolved there is a risk of damage due to the engine overheating. During icy, cold winter months when temperatures plummet, you may want to consider increasing the concentration of anti-freeze in the system.
Ensuring transmission fluid levels are satisfactory and topped up when necessary is another are to be aware of when carrying out regular car engine care. This is a key part of the engine as the oil is responsible for lubricating essential processes such as power transmission to the wheels and enabling smooth gear changes.
Depending on what model you have, the transmission fluid may either be checked by you using the user’s manual or it is better for the authorised car dealer to carry out the procedure. If you have manual transmission, take out the dipstick with the car in neutral and engine running, checking the level and making sure it is near the “full” mark.
The fluid should be pink to clear in colour, so if you notice the fluid is darker and containing particles, you may need to change the fluid. It is best for a garage mechanic to drain the system and put in fresh fluid.
Statistics show a flat or faulty battery is one of the top reasons for calling out the car emergency breakdown services. So clearly a regular battery check is a key part of your car engine care routine.
Inspect the battery to see if there is any damage to the unit, and check if there’s any corrosion at the terminals, which can lead to poor connections and even a failure to start-up.
Some simple ways to give your car battery a longer life include making sure you don’t leave a light on or look out for a faulty part that may drain the battery. Taking a number of short journeys or little use of your car means the battery will be under-charged which can lead to a hardening of the lead plates, so reducing the battery’s effectiveness in holding charge.