Unless you’re a car nut, chances are you didn’t really learn all that much about maintaining a car back in driving school. So you just got your shiny new car and you now have no idea what you’re supposed to do to look after it other than what the salesperson told you. Well that’s what we’re here for and to get you started here are our top 5 maintenance tips for new car owners.
1. Keep your tyres inflated
Modern wheels and tyres have the ability to hold air and pressure very well. This does not mean however that air cannot escape over time, especially when it is subject to high temperatures, deformation and friction. Over time our tyres do lose air and it is important that we monitor them regularly.
Image credits: Educational Revolution
Underinflated tyres not only increase fuel consumption, they also affect your handling and cause uneven tyre wear and damage your tyres prematurely. It only takes an extra couple of minutes or so every two to three trips to the station to pump up your tyres. That’s approximately twice a month.
Forgotten what tyre pressure your sales person advised you to inflate your tyres to? Fret not because there is a sticker behind your door that conveniently shows you the ideal tyre pressure for your car. And if you’re not sure how to do it yourself, simply ask the pump attendant for help.
Some cars come with a “low tyre pressure” warning built in that some drivers tend to rely on. Please don’t. These warnings are usually only triggered when it detects an excessively low or sudden drop in tyre pressure indicating a leak or a puncture, so you may still end up driving with a lower than recommended tyre pressure or long periods of time if you don’t check it yourself.
One option is to install a tyre pressure monitoring system or TPMS if your car doesn’t already have one so you can monitor your tyre pressures in real time.
2. Don’t cheap out on tyres
Apart from the few of us (emphasis on “us”) who swap out our original rims and tyres immediately after driving out of the showroom, most of you will probably just use whatever came on the car. There will come a time to change them however, and when it does come, don’t cheap out.
Now I’m not saying you should buy expensive tyres especially if you can’t afford it, just don’t go bargain basement on them. Your tyres are the only point of contact between you and the road so for your safety (and your wallet) you better make sure they’re at least good enough.
The biggest problem with really cheap tyres is they tend to have poor braking and wet weather grip. Yes you could possibly save a couple hundred dollars on a set of four but if you consider that the average accident typically ends up costing more than that, and not forgetting the excess is usually $500 or more, that couple hundred dollars you save every two to three years is hardly worth the risk to your safety, downtime and cost of repair.
3. Don’t cheap out on petrol
Fuel ain’t cheap, especially here in Singapore. And while we’re all about finding ways to save on fuel, running a lower than recommended octane ain’t one of them.
Engines are designed to run on a minimum octane or RON number. We explain this in more detail here but simply put, this is the fuel’s ability to resist ignition caused either by pressure or heat. So if your engine requires 95 but you decide to pump 92 simply because it’s cheaper, that would result in pre-ignition or knocking which is actually harming your engine. Modern engines do have systems to protect them from knocking and damage but the side effect is that you get reduced power and it’s still not great for your engine in the long run.
On the flipside, using a higher octane petrol is not going to make your engine more powerful like some people believe. Engines not designed for higher octane fuels simply can’t take advantage of the benefits that they can provide. There may be slight improvements in responsiveness and fuel consumption but those are all down to the additional additives that are typically added to the higher octane fuels and not the higher octane itself. The higher prices are also typically not worth the slight fuel savings but I’ll let you decide whether this is worth it to you or not. It ain’t to me.
4. Keep a record of your maintenance
Most people here don’t return to the authorised dealer once they’ve exhausted their free servicing credits, and who could blame them? It’s no big secret that they charge significantly more than most independent workshops. The good thing about sticking with them though is that they will maintain a comprehensive maintenance record for you. If you do however decide not to go back, it is a good idea to maintain your own maintenance record for a number of reasons.
One, it helps your next workshop know what critical components haven’t been serviced or changed yet. Preventive maintenance is a very crucial part of car ownership that can save you a lot of money on future repairs that could have been avoided if certain items had been changed on time.
Two, it also tells your next workshop what has been changed previously. Workshops would generally prefer to err on the side of caution, plus it makes good business to sell more parts of course. If you are unsure or have no record of what has already been replaced, you could very well end up spending more by replacing the same thing prematurely. After all it is certainly the safer thing to do if the car has no service history.
Three, assuming your car is regularly serviced, a comprehensive service record does improve the resale value of your car if you ever decide to sell it. Most people will generally be willing to pay a bit more for peace of mind than to gamble on a cheaper vehicle with an unknown service history which could very well end up costing them a lot more.
5. Consult a friend or workshop you trust
Alas, unless you yourself are experienced in dealing with the workings of a car or already have a good understanding of how it all works, it is usually a good idea to consult a workshop or friend that you trust with these things. In this day and age, it is very tempting to consult google and the numerous “experts” giving their take on things online. While the internet is definitely an amazing source of information, remember that everybody uses their cars differently, on different types of roads, different types of traffic, in different climates and so on. Hence it is still prudent to consult with a professional unless you have a firm grasp of things as troubleshooting a car issue isn’t always as straightforward as simply asking Google.
But what if you don’t know who to trust and are none the wiser yourself? One tip we can give you to help determine if the advice you’re being given is trustworthy is if that advice is generally aimed at helping you save money in the long run, avoiding future inconvenience and catered to your practical needs of the car. Whilst this is not always a guarantee of good advice, it is definitely a good starting point if your goal is to avoid unnecessary cost and inconvenience.
While there are definitely many more things to learn about owning and maintaining a car, these 5 tips we’ve shared here are a great starting point for any new driver. Always remember that a little bit of effort goes a long way and that the cheapest option can sometimes end up becoming the more expensive repair.