Here are few basic vehicle safety and maintenance checks that most drivers can easily do themselves, to ensure their vehicles are safe and ready to be driven again.
Check your engine oil
Checking your engine oil is fairly easy and something everyone should learn how to do.
- Park the vehicle on a level surface with the engine off and cold.
- Check your vehicle’s manual for the location of the dipstick.
- Remove the dipstick and wipe off oil with a clean cloth or paper.
- Look at the ends for the recommended levels.
- Put the dipstick back in and take it out again.
- Check where the oil level is. It should be around the full mark.
- If it’s around the full mark, you don’t need to do anything, but if the level is low, you need to top it up.
For more insight, check out the AA’s helpful video guide.
Top up your engine oil
If your engine oil is too low, you’ll need to top it up. This is something you can easily do yourself.
- Check the owner’s manual for the grade of oil you need and where to find the oil filler cap.
- Using a funnel, fill the oil to the correct level. Be careful to not overfill.
- Check the oil level once more, or as often as needed until you reach the right level, with your dipstick.
Check your tyre pressure
Details of the ideal tyre pressure for your vehicle can usually be found in the glovebox, front door opening, on the fuel flap, onboard computer or in your owner’s manual. It’s important to check individual tyre specifics, such as the size of your tyre, to get the right pressure settings. You should also check whether the front and rear are different, and if it’s a PSI or Bar setting.
To check and adjust your tyre pressure you will need an air compressor. If you don’t have one at home, you can find one at most fuel stations.
- Remove the valve cap.
- Press the tyre inflator fitting onto the valve.
- Check the pressure, adding or releasing air as necessary.
- Place the valve cap on tightly, ensuring no dirt gets in.
Check your tyre tread
Having enough tyre tread is extremely important for your safety. Tyre tread helps your vehicle grip the surface of the road and ensures you can control your vehicle properly, especially when braking.
Luckily, checking your tread is easy. All you need is a tyre gauge or a 20p coin.
- Park on a flat surface.
- Using a tyre gauge or a 20p coin, place it in the tyre groove. If you can see the outer band on the coin, it means your tread depth is too low and your tyre needs to be replaced.
- Check the tread in the remaining wheels and while you’re at it, check your tyres for any visual signs of damage (glass or sharp objects in them).
Check your lights
Having working lights (headlights & brake lights) are essential for your safety and to ensure your vehicle remains legal and roadworthy.
- Front & rear lights: The easiest way to check your lights is with a helper. If you don’t have one, switch on the lights and walk around to check the lights.
- Brake lights: Check the brake lights with a helper or place the car in a position where the lights can reflect on a garage door or wall while testing the brakes.
What not to attempt yourself
There are some vehicle maintenance jobs that you should never do yourself.
With these tips, you will be able to do some vehicle checks and maintenance yourself but bear in mind that these are only the basics. If your vehicle requires any additional maintenance work, talk to an expert. You should always take your vehicle for a full service with a professional, when safe to do so.
Not back on the road yet? Read our top tips to keep your vehicle in good condition while it’s idle.