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Sponsored feature: The Vehicle Maintenance Guide

26th May 2017 5:11 pm

Here are some tips to properly maintain your cars and bikes.



If you own a car, the single most important thing you can do to keep it happy and save money is regular preventive maintenance. If you ignore preventive maintenance, a small problem can snowball into a major, expensive repair job. It doesn’t take too much time to check the basics, like if your oil needs a change, checking your tyre pressure and getting scheduled inspections and work done. It gives you a chance to catch anything before it becomes a serious problem. Think of it as getting regular check-ups with your doctor.

It’s basic, but give your car a once-over periodically, so you catch anything that looks out of the ordinary. Make sure all your lights are working. Check the air pressure in your tyres every two weeks. Doing so gets you better mileage and saves you money since under-inflated tyres can increase fuel consumption. Listen for any strange sounds, inside and out. If anything’s out of the ordinary, don’t ignore it.

Refer to the Owner’s Manual
Different cars have different requirements and needs. How often you change the oil, filters, drive or timing belts, etc, varies between different car brands. So, the most important thing is to pay attention to your car’s owner’s manual. Don’t lock it away in your cupboard, but keep it in your car and refer to it often. The manufacturer has spent lots of money researching and engineering your car to certain specifications. Stick by the manufacturer’s recommendations to get the best out of your car.
Make sure the tyres have enough tread You can use a coin to do it, or look out for the wear indicators on the tyre treads. Today, most tyres have tread wear indicators built into them. If you look around the tread carefully, at some point you’ll see a bar of rubber which goes across the tread and isn’t part of the regular pattern. This is the wear indicator. It’s really basic, but it’s also pretty foolproof. The tread wear indicator is normally moulded into the rubber at a depth of about 2mm. As the rubber in your tyres wears away due to everyday use, the tread wears down. At some point, the tyre tread will become flush with the wear indicator (which is normally recessed into the tread). At this point you have about 2mm of tread left – in other words, it is time to change tyres.

Check fluid levels
Even if you don’t ever learn how to change the power steering, coolant, or even wiper fluid, you should at least learn how to check those fluid levels. In some cases, you can see the tank level directly, but most have to check current levels against a notch that indicates optimal levels. Checking the engine oil needs a little bit more work. Park on level ground and wait until the engine has cooled down after driving, then locate the dipstick. Pull it out and wipe it clean, and then push it all the way back in until the top of it is seated properly in the dip tube again. Wait a moment then pull it out again. Check the level of the oil. If it’s between the high and low marks, you’re fine. The high and low marks can be denoted by two dots, an ‘H’ and ‘L’ or a shaded area on the dipstick.

Replace windshield wipers when you top up the windshield washer
If your wiper blades are leaving streaks on your windshield, change them. Wipers are cheap and easy to replace yourself. Visibility is important so don’t wait till you can barely see through the windshield. Don’t wait for the rains to change your wiper, you need it to clean the windscreen when it gets dirty while driving. That brings us to the second point, always top up your windscreen washer.

Replace the filters
An automobile engine has three vital filters that need cleaning or replacing regularly so that they can block out damage causing dirt and other pollutants.

Air filter: Experienced drivers will know that if the engine response is subdued, it could be due to a choked air filter. Some air filters even have an indicator showing when replacement or cleaning is necessary. It is best to change the air filter at the recommended interval. If the car is being used in a very dusty environment, like a dirt track, then change the air filter twice during the recommended interval.

Oil filter: The oil filter should be changed with every oil change, since the residual dirty oil in the filter will contaminate the fresh, new oil.

Fuel filters: A car has two fuel filters at the least (more for diesel) and these should be changed every 5,000km to 7,000km, depending on the quality of the available fuel. If a lot of travel is done in areas where the purity of the fuel is suspect, it is advisable to change the filters at more frequent intervals.

Get the tyres rotated and balanced, and the alignment checked
How often should you do this? Refer to your owner’s manual. This is important for ensuring that your tyres wear evenly and the car drives smoothly. Your tyres will also last much longer by getting them rotated and balanced. Your alignment is just as important. If you’re fighting your car to keep it straight, the wheels need alignment.

Check belts and hoses
Both should be given a periodic look over. Fraying, worn or glazed belts are best replaced by new ones as they are running on extended time and can give way at any moment. The same holds true for hoses and pipes that are brittle or feel too soft or too hard to the touch.

Keep a record
Maintaining a car is not about all things mechanical. It also means that you need to have all documents like insurance and RTO tax in order. Also, periodic Pollution Under Control (PUC) tests are not only an environmental obligation but also a legal requirement. A well-maintained car, preferably with a meticulously adhered-to service record, will not only be a pleasure to drive but will enjoy a good resale value in the used car market.


The basics of motorcycle maintenance is the same as that of cars. Check your owner’s manual, tyres, oils, filters, etc. But as a motorcycle rider, you are much more vulnerable on the road than a driver in a car. You, therefore, need to keep your motorcycle in top condition over the time you ride it. A car with
a low tyre pressure will burn more fuel, but low tyre pressure in a bike will also drastically affect steering and compromise your safety.

The American Motorcycle Safety Foundation has come up with a checklist that’s easy for riders to remember. It’s the acronym TCLOCS.
T: Tyres and wheels.
C: Controls
L: Lights and electrics
O: Oil and other fluids
C: Chassis
S: Stand

Tyres and Wheels

Tyres: Check both tyres for tread depth, damage, cuts or objects embedded between the treads. Check the air pressure when tyre is cold. Adjust pressure for load.
Wheels: Check both wheels for loose or missing spokes. The wheels should spin freely without wobbling.
Brakes: Check both brakes. Inspect the pads and discs for wear. Each brake alone should be able to keep the bike from rolling.


Handlebars: The handlebar should be straight and turn freely.
Levers and pedals: Nothing should be broken, bent or cracked. Get all pivots lubricated.
Cables: Check for fraying or kinking. Inspect the routing to ensure that it isn’t interfering with the steering head or suspension.
Hoses: There should be no cuts, cracks, leaks, bulges, chafing or deterioration.
Throttle: It should move freely and snap close.

Lights and Electrics

Battery: Check that the terminals are clean and tight, the electrolyte level is correct and the battery is tightly secured.
Headlight: Check if both high and low beams are working correctly, and that the light throw is correct.
Tail- and brake lamp: Check that they are clean and bright. The brake light should activate when using the front or rear brake.
Turn signals: Check if both are working properly.
Switches: Check to see if everything is working as it should.
Mirrors: Should be clean and clearly show traffic behind you. Adjust after sitting on the bike.
Lenses and reflectors: Nothing should be cracked or broken. Also, check for condensation.
Wiring: Check for chafing or fraying. Check the routing for interference.

Oil and Other Fluids

Level: Check that the engine oil, hydraulic fluids, coolant and fuel are topped.
Leaks: Check if the engine oil, hydraulic fluids, coolant and fuel are not leaking.


Frame: Look for cracks at gussets and accessory mounts. Check steering head bearings and swingers bushings.
Suspension: Check front and rear shocks for smooth travel.
Chain: Check for tension. Chain should be lubricated. Inspect the sprocket teeth for wear and damage.
Fasteners: Check for missing or broken nuts and bolts. Tighten everything.


Centre and side stands: Inspect for cracks, to make sure that nothing is bent. The springs should be in place and have the requisite tension to hold their position.

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