Maintaining your Vehicle
As a company car driver you have a responsibility to maintain the vehicle in a roadworthy condition between the manufacturers recommended service intervals. Here are some important maintenance tips.
#1 Tyre Safety Check
To maintain the optimum performance of your vehicle and ensure your safety on the road, we recommend carrying out a regular safety check on your tyres every two weeks for damage or wear, especially if you are a high mileage driver.
Checking your Tyre Tread Depth
Checking the tread depth of your tyres is one of the most important safety checks you can make on your vehicle. A brand new car tyre has approximately 8mm of tread. The minimum legal tyre tread depth in the UK and Europe is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tyre. The tread must meet this legal minimum across the full circumference of the tyre. Failing to replace your tyres before they reach the minimum 1.6mm limit could result in a hefty fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points on your licence per tyre.
Tread Wear Indicators
Most tyres have a small raised area at the bottom of their grooves called a tread wear indicator. When the surface of your tyre tread wears down to the same level as these indicators, the tyre tread depth is approaching the legal limit of 1.6mm.
At this point, you will need to arrange an inspection and possible tyre change at your nearest Kwik-Fit centre. See the Changing your Tyres section to book an appointment.
20p Tread Depth Test
Another simple way to check if your tyre tread is close to reaching the legal limit is to carry out the 20p coin test. Place a 20p coin into each of the main tread grooves across the middle three quarters of each tyre. The outer band of the coin measures approximately 2.7mm, so if you can’t see the outer band of the coin when it is inserted, your tyre tread is above the legal limit.
If the outer band of the coin is visible, your tyres could be illegal and unsafe, in which case you will need to arrange an inspection and possible tyre change at your nearest Kwik-Fit centre. See the Changing your Tyres section to book an appointment.
You can also carry out a more accurate inspection of your tyres with a digital tread depth gauge, available from various retailers, including Halfords and Amazon.
#2 Maintaining Correct Tyre Pressures
We recommend checking your tyre pressures at least once a month and before undertaking any long journeys. The best time to check the pressures is before you start driving the vehicle, when the tyres are cold.
Maintaining the correct tyre pressures for your vehicle has several important benefits. The first and most important one is safety. Tyres that are under inflated can cause overheating and over inflated tyres can lead to poor vehicle handling on the road, meaning. longer stopping distances and a higher risk of aquaplaning in wet conditions.
Economy can also be affected. Over inflated tyres make less contact with the road’s surface, leading to faster, uneven tread wear and shorter replacement cycles. Under inflated tyres have increased rolling resistance, which also causes uneven wear and uses more fuel to maintain the same speed.
Correct tyre pressures can reduce the environmental impact of your vehicle by helping to maintain optimum fuel efficiency, which can equate to lower the CO2 emissions coming from your vehicle.
The correct tyre pressures for your vehicle may differ between your front and rear tyres so it’s important to follow the vehicle manufacturers guidelines. The correct tyre pressures will be included in your vehicle handbook and are often printed on the sill of the driver’s door or on the inside of the fuel flap. You can check your tyre pressures at most fuel stations or by purchasing a tyre pressure gauge.
#3 Maintaining Oil Levels
It’s important to check the oil level of your vehicle on a weekly basis and top it up if necessary to avoid engine damage and keep it running smoothly.
Carry out the oil check when the vehicle is parked on level ground and the engine is cold to avoid burning yourself. With the engine off, open the bonnet, pull the dipstick out of the engine and wipe the oil from it with a lint-free cloth before inserting it back into its tube. Pull it out again and look at the oil level at the end of the dipstick.
Every dipstick has markings that indicate the proper oil level, which could be the letters L and H (Low and High), the words Min and Max, two pin holes or an area with crosshatching. If the top of the oil is between the two marks or within the crosshatched area, the level is fine. If the oil is below the minimum mark, you need to add the correct grade of oil. Never top up your oil when the engine is hot and make sure you don’t exceed the maximum oil level shown on your dipstick.
Once the level is correct, wipe the oil from the dipstick again and insert it back into its tube, making sure it is fully seated and close the bonnet.
If you can’t locate a dipstick on your vehicle, check the owner’s manual for guidance on how to check your oil level.
#4 Checking Engine Coolant Levels
Engine coolant contains a combination of water and antifreeze that stops your vehicle’s engine from overheating and prevents scale build-up and corrosion. It is vital to check your coolant levels on a weekly basis to ensure your engine is kept at an optimal running temperature.
You should never use pure water or antifreeze on their own to fill the coolant system as it is likely to damage your engine. To achieve its necessary thermal range and prevent overheating and freezing, coolant must always contain an equal mixture of 50% water and 50% antifreeze. You can purchase concentrated antifreeze and mix it with water yourself or choose a pre-diluted mixture.
There are various types of coolant available for different engine types, so always refer to the owner’s manual to check the recommended coolant for your vehicle.
Firstly, check the vehicle handbook to locate the coolant filler cap and follow the manufacturer’s advice. Some vehicles have a sealed cooling system, which may not require topping up. Open the bonnet and check the coolant level on the side of the expansion tank, which should be between the Min/Max marks. If the level is below the Min mark the coolant will need replenishing. Do not remove the filler cap unless the engine is cold to avoid serious burns from the sudden release of pressurised hot coolant. Fill the expansion tank with the recommended coolant until the level sits between the Min/Max marks and replace the filler cap.
#5 Maintaining AdBlue Levels
AdBlue is an exhaust fluid that helps to reduce the harmful emissions produced by diesel engines and was introduced by car manufacturers to help them meet stringent emissions targets.
If your vehicle uses AdBlue you will be notified by your car’s onboard computer that the AdBlue level is low and needs to be refilled. The notification will typically alert you a few thousand miles before the refill is required to allow you time to purchase some AdBlue. If you don’t refill your AdBlue as and when required your vehicle may refuse to start, or will work in a low-power “limp mode.”
We also recommend topping up your AdBlue prior to any maintenance work being carried out on your vehicle as it is rechargeable and costly if carried out by the service provider.
Check your vehicle handbook for the refill procedure specific to your vehicle, which will include how much AdBlue you need to use. The AdBlue refill cap should be located either next to the diesel filler cap, under the bonnet or in the boot.
You must be careful to prevent spills when refilling as AdBlue can corrode some metals. If you get any liquid on your skin, rinse your hands thoroughly. Once you have filled the AdBlue container with the required amount replace the cap and check that the warning message is no longer showing on your dashboard.
AdBlue has a short shelf life and loses purity once it is opened so it is advisable to only buy as much as you need to refill and avoid storing any excess fluid that could potentially damage your emission control system at a later date.
#6 External Lights
A regular check of your vehicle’s external lights to ensure they are all in good working condition is critical for your safety and the safety of other road users. It is a criminal offence to drive a vehicle with broken headlights, brake lights or indicators, which can lead to a heavy on-the-spot fine if you’re caught.
Check your front, side and rear lights at least once a month. If you are unable to get someone to help you check your reversing and rear brake lights, simply park in front of a garage door or window and use the reflection of the light to see if they’re working. Use a clean cloth to wipe all your exterior lights regularly and check for blown bulbs and cracks in the lens. If any of your lights are faulty, get them replaced or repaired immediately to stay safe and legal.
#7 Dashboard Warning Lights
The various warning lights on your dashboard alert you to potential issues with your vehicle, so it’s important to know what they mean. They can pre-empt a vehicle breakdown or full-on failure, potentially saving your vehicle from serious damage and ensuring you stay safe on the road.
Certain warning lights are found on all vehicles, while others may be specific to your model. We recommend checking your vehicle handbook to familiarise yourself with what each light means. As a general rule, red lights require immediate attention, amber for non-urgent attention and green or blue lights are just for information.
#8 Windscreen Wiper Blades
Ensuring your windscreen wiper blades are in good, working condition is essential for your safety behind the wheel, especially when you are driving in heavy rain. Faulty wipers are a common cause of road accidents because they prevent the driver from having a clear view of the road ahead.
Signs that your wiper blades need replacing include squeaking/squealing noises, juddering or skipping movements across the glass and water streaks being left on the windscreen. Badly deteriorated wiper blades can even scratch your windscreen if they aren’t replaced.
We recommend changing your wiper blades every 12 months or more often if you are a high mileage driver, to ensure maximum visibility at all times.