We chatted to the Motor Industry Workshop Association for some basic tips on what to make sure gets done at your car’s next service…
Hopefully you’re not like my uncle. He believed there was no need to change his engine’s oil … ever. And that was odd because he was no Luddite and often worked on his cars. He learnt the hard way, though, and ignoring the oil-pressure light on his Ford Corsair eventually led to an internal-combustion meltdown.
As a CAR reader, you are way more informed, of course, and will frequently check both the service schedule and your odometer to anticipate when your car’s next service is due. When it’s time to get someone to look at your car, however, don’t merely leave it up to the mechanics to do the minimum such as a basic oil-and-filters swap. Encourage them to check the following areas – you might just prevent a breakdown.
If you haven’t changed your brake pads recently, request that the workshop team inspects the pad thickness. An experienced mechanic can estimate how much life is left. Apart from the pads, it is important to have the brake fluid changed every few years. As this liquid is hydroscopic (absorbs water), so replenishment will eliminate water particles from the system and prevent corrosion. The same applies to clutch fluid if your car has an hydraulic clutch.
2 . Tyres
Like the brakes, closely monitor tyre wear. If the previous service listed a tread depth, it will be easy to calculate the mileage between services, along with the tread used, and therefore the mileage remaining until you have to budget for replacement units. But don’t merely look at the outside of the tyres; wear often takes place on the inner edge due to a suspension setting that has a negative camber bias. Remember to check for cuts and bulges, too.
A cambelt replacement is another expensive job. If your car uses a chain, you’re in luck, but a cambelt, on the other hand, requires swapping at intervals of between 60 000 and 100 000 km, or four to five years maximum if your annual mileage is low. Some cars started off with a recommended interval of 120 000 km, but some manufacturers then had second thoughts. An alarming number of catastrophic failures led to bent valves, so intervals were then halved to 60 000 km.
If your car requires this job, check internet forums for advice on whether it is wise to replace the water pump at the same time, since these are often driven by the same belt. Don’t just change the belt, either. Make sure the tensioners are swapped. A high-pitched whining noise linked to engine speed is an indicator of worn tensioner bearings.
4. Spark plugs
These days, spark plugs are designed to last for years. Keep a check on your service schedule for when they need to be replaced.
There are, of course, loads of wear-and-tear parts to watch out for in cars, but let’s concentrate on one vitally important area: the cooling system. It’s a pity that we can’t stick to good old air-cooling like those on the Beetles and Kombis of yesteryear – all those fins and fans meant very little corrosion. Higher engine power outputs these days mean we have to resort to the effective but corrosive ingredient, water.
The cooling system should be flushed out every few years and refilled with the correct mix of water and antifreeze. If it’s not listed on your service record, it’s easy to see when this has been neglected: the water in the expansion tank will have a brown, rusty colour. Ask your mechanic to flush and recharge.
Did you know?
Newer cars seldom consume oil, as tolerances are more accurately achieved with modern machining equipment than before. Don’t take this to mean you can forget about your car’s oil level until it needs a service. Some cars do use oil and, if not checked, could lead to a seized engine. Check the level frequently.
Thank you to the Motor Industry Workshop Association of South Africa, the largest trade association under the Retail Motor Industry, representing more than 2 500 workshops nationally. Visit www.miwasa.com for more info.
*From the December 2016 issue of CAR magazine