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Car maintenance checklist: look after your car in 8 DIY steps

Our DIY car maintenance checklist will help you keep your car in great condition on the cheap

Everyone needs a bit of TLC from time-to-time, right? With modern car technology now so advanced and manufacturers delivering ever-increasing levels of after-sales service, it's sometimes easy to forget that our cars can benefit from a little personal attention, too. Our Car maintenance checklist runs through the DIY tasks you can do at home to keep your vehicle performing as it should.

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We've all been there... driving along trying to clear a grimy windscreen, only to find the screenwash is empty, or maybe being handed an easily-avoidable MoT failure due to a tiny blown bulb. The fact is, regularly checking the basics on your car can save you time, money and, most importantly, ensures your vehicle is as safe on the road as it possibly can be. Even something as straightforward as a quick visual ‘walk-around’ inspection could highlight problem areas that need addressing.

While it's important to use a trained mechanic to properly inspect your car and carry out any necessary maintenance work, there are some simple checks that you can perform and things you can fix, so your vehicle stays roadworthy and avoids you being saddled with unwanted bills in the future.

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We’ve put together an easy-to-follow car maintenance checklist to help you keep your car safe, reliable and in the best possible condition.

1. Engine Oil

A quick check on the engine oil level only takes a minute. You should try and fit one in every couple of weeks, and certainly before a long journey. Top-up the level, if required, using the correct type of oil. If it seems that your car is using more oil than it should, it might be wise to contact your local approved garage.

Find out more in our ‘how to check and top-up your engine oil’ page.

2. Screen Wash

Not only is it good practice to keep your screen wash fluid topped-up, but it is actually a legal requirement. You can receive a hefty fine if found not to have any fluid in the screen washer bottle. It’s also a good idea to use a proper wash concentrate designed for the purpose which you can dilute with water. 

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Our top 10 best car screen washes product test will help you pick the best product.

3. Battery

According to the AA, battery problems are the number 1 cause of breakdowns at any time of year. The life expectancy for your car battery is around 3-5 years, but weather conditions and even your own driving habits can play a part in its overall health. So, if your car’s power cell is getting on a bit, it might be worth sorting a replacement, before you’re left on the side of the road. 

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More information on how to change a car battery can be found in our guide.

4. Wipers

As windscreen wiper blades tend to wear out gradually, it’s surprisingly easy to live with a set that is past its best. If you’re putting up with annoying squeaks, or peering around an area of smeary windscreen glass when it’s raining, you know your car wipers need attention. 

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At the very least, replacing your worn wiper blades will save you an automatic fail at MoT time, but more importantly, you’ll be able to safely see where you’re going in poor weather – and without any noisy distractions. 

Find out how to change your car wiper blades in our guide.

5. Lights

It’s a good idea to make regular checks of your car’s lights - not only for cracked and broken lenses, but also to ensure a bulb hasn’t blown. Don’t forget to include headlights, fog lights, reversing lights, brakes and indicators in your inspection. 

Changing a bulb can be a DIY job depending on the model. Our guide to how to change a headlight bulb explains more.

6. Tyres

Check tyre pressures every couple of weeks and definitely before any long journey - adjusting the pressure to best suit the car’s load. If the tyres aren’t inflated correctly it can affect fuel economy and lifespan of the rubber, but more importantly could have an impact on the handling and braking performance of your car. 

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Always include the spare tyre in any checks, and keep an eye out for excess wear and any damage such as cuts and nicks to the tyre sidewall. 

If you need to fit the spare, our how to change a car tyre guide can help.

7. Glass

Again, just a quick visual check every so often will highlight any chips before they can turn into more expensive MoT-failing cracks. But, you can also keep the glass in tip-top condition by investing in a quality glass cleaner. 

The best car glass cleaners are reviewed in our product test.

8. Paint and Bodywork

It’s more of a cosmetic concern than a safety one, but keeping all the car panels free from rust, and ensuring any scratches and scuffs are treated, will ensure you maintain the value of your car. You might also prevent any longer-term problems from developing. 

Our guide on how to remove car paint scratches explains more. 

If your car is due for an MoT, it might pay to undertake a more thorough inspection than the one detailed above. Our MoT checklist guide has everything you need to know or find out how to check your engine coolant level

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