Here are just 10 simple checks to keep your car safe on the road
The onus is on you, the owner, to keep it roadworthy at all times - not just so that you can pass the NCT test
Every driver is delighted when their car passes the NCT. However, as we have said before, it's not a substitute for a full mechanical check.
It is the legal responsibility of the owner to make sure their vehicle is in a roadworthy condition all year round; not just when its NCT is due. Our advice is to consult your car manual to find out how often a full service is required.
General guidelines are that this should be done every 10,000km to 15,000km. Remember a valid service history and regular maintenance by a qualified mechanic will not only increase your vehicle's resale value, it helps to ensure your car runs more efficiently and safely, minimising problems and expensive repairs in the future.
Between services you should make some regular basic checks.
A good habit is to take the time, once a week or before a long journey, to do a walk around appraisal of your car and make sure everything is in working order.
Here are 10 simple checks that you can carry out yourself:
Your tyres are the only contact your vehicle has with the road, so ensuring they are up to the task is vital. It is important you check they are inflated to the correct pressure and that your tread depth is above the legal limit of 1.6mm.
To check this put a €1 coin in the tread of the tyre. The tread should, at a minimum, reach the silver part of the coin.
Worn-out batteries, especially at this time of the year, are one of the most common causes of breakdowns.
Cold conditions can reduce a battery's capacity and ability to accept a charge. A car struggling to start is a tell-tale warning sign. Don't ignore it; get it checked out.
It is imperative you can see and be seen by other motorists. Check that all your lights are working and that they are clean.
4. Engine Oil Level
Do not wait for the red light to appear on your dashboard before checking your engine oil level. Check it regularly.
If you don't maintain the correct level or carry out the necessary changes by skipping a service it could result in extensive and costly engine damage.
5. Coolant & Anti-freeze
To prevent your engine from overheating make sure your car has enough coolant. Do not open the coolant tank while the engine is hot as it could result in a nasty burn.
6. Brake Fluid
A thorough inspection of your brakes cannot be carried out without removing your wheels so get your mechanic to do this. But between services it is important to be vigilant for tell-tale signs of wear.
This includes the brake pedal requiring more pressure than normal, a scraping sound when pressing the brake, the car pulling left or right while braking and the brake fluid level being at or below the minimum level.
If you experience any of these signs take it to your mechanic.
7. Windscreen Wash
You should keep your windscreen washer topped up and when refilling it use a funnel to prevent water spilling on other engine components.
8. Windscreen & Wipers
Keep windows clean inside and out.
Windscreen wipers need to be replaced every one-two years - it varies depending on usage.
9. Safety Kit
It is important to keep a high-visibility vest, a working torch, a hazard warning triangle (all of which I had to use recently at night to change a flat tyre), de-icing equipment and a first aid kit in your vehicle at all times.
10. Dashboard Warning Signals
As a general rule, a yellow light on your dashboard means 'check your vehicle as soon as possible'. A red warning light means 'stop the vehicle', provided it is safe to do so.
Never ignore a warning light; if you're unsure about a symbol, check your owner's handbook or contact the manufacturer.