Maintaining Your Car While At University
It’s something you’ll never realise until you actually graduate, but owning a car is a massive help when applying for jobs – the ability to travel easily is a surprising boost to your CV, and many graduate jobs even specify a full driving license within their requirements.
It’s always worthwhile learning to drive before you leave for university if possible. Not many students will have the time or cash to take up driving lessons during their course, and having a car whilst away from home might actually cut travel costs.
Any student who owns a car knows how helpless you can feel when something goes wrong and you don’t have the knowledge to fix it. There are many different ways a car can fail and many scenarios could be avoided with some simple car maintenance and upkeep – but a surprising number of drivers out there have no idea how to perform basic checks on some of the most vital parts of their vehicle!
Avoid looking daft by learning how to carry out easy maintenance which will prevent some very expensive damage being done!
The car needs oil to lubricate all the working parts – if your oil runs out or gets too low then the entire engine could seize up and write off the car completely! It’s easy and well worth it to get in the habit of checking your oil.
The car must have been sitting on a level surface and the engine needs to have been off for some time (cold).
– Locate the dipstick and pull it out, wiping off the excess oil with a cloth.
– Put the dipstick back in and out again to get an accurate reading of the oil level: the oil should be visible at the bottom of the dipstick and should reach roughly between the two markers OR be halfway through the hatched area.
If the level is below the second marker or not visible then more must be added to the oil tank. This may be in different places depending on the type of car you have so it’s best to just ask someone with more knowledge where it is – it’s an easy but costly mistake to make if you pour oil in the wrong tank!
Making sure you have the right type of oil for your car (most can take 10W-30 but check your manual) pour a small amount of oil into the car and check the dipstick again. It’s best to check the oil again after a short drive (with a cold engine) to get a more accurate reading of how much oil is in there.
Depending on the reading you can decide whether to add more. Make sure you don’t fill past the top marker either though as too much oil can be as damaging as no oil.
Tyre tread and pressure
The tread on your tyres needs to be at a minimum level to make sure you have enough grip on the road – there is a legal minimum requirement of 1.6mm that you need to meet to be safe to drive.
You can determine the depth of your tyre tread by looking at the grooved pattern on the wheel. You could purchase or borrow a tread depth measuring tool to check your tyres accurately, but if you don’t have one to hand you can insert a 20p coin into the lowest tread depth of your tyres. If you can’t see the outer rim around the edge of the coin then your tyres are safe, however if you can then it’s best to double check with a proper tread depth measuring tool (or ask a mechanic to take a quick look) so you can be certain that the tread is safe.
You should be able to find out what tyre pressure your car requires by checking the handbook, asking a mechanic or looking on the inside of the driver’s door (the measurement should be found here). The pressure should generally be around 27-32 PSI but can vary so it’s better to check the exact number. You can fill your tyres at most petrol stations or garages for less than a quid, or even for free if you keep an eye out!
The water levels in the car need to be checked although generally the car shouldn’t use up much water. Again, park on a level surface and wait until the engine is cold before checking the water levels.
Locate the coolant/water tank – there should be a minimum and maximum level marked out at the top and bottom of the tank, ideally the tank should be somewhere not too far under the maximum marker. If the tank needs filling, pour in a mixture of coolant and water (or if winter is approaching, top up with some antifreeze instead). If you find that the water is running out on a regular basis then you may need to check for leaks in the pipes or radiator.
It’s always good practice to check your lights are working properly; just ask a friend to have a look at the back of the car when the brakes are applied so you can check that both brake lights are working properly. If any brake lights are out then there’s a very high risk of someone crashing into the back of you, so it’s important these are working!
Check that fog lights, low and full beam headlights and side lights are all working too – it’s better to keep an eye on them before you end up driving in poor conditions as you may cause an accident if you get caught out.
This guide is provided by Chaucer Direct