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Weekly routine maintenance

A simple five-minute check of your car once a week can make the difference between trouble-free motoring and costly repairs. You don't need to be mechanically minded, either.

. Under the bonnet, wipe grease and dirt off all high-tension leads and check for frayed wires, leaking seals or pipes and cracked or polished rubber hoses.

. Check the oil level, with your car on a flat surface, and the engine cold. The dipstick is usually found low down on the side of the engine. Pull it out wipe it clean, and re-insert it. Pull it out again and read the oil level. If it's not on Full, or close to it, add oil to the engine crank case through the oil filter cap on top of the motor. If you've always have to add oil, you've got a problem... See a technician.

. Modern cars have a coolant reservoir, a see-through plastic container mounted near the radiator. If your car has one, check the level in it, not the radiator. When the engine's cold, the coolant level should be near the Full Cold marking; when it's hot it should be close to the Full Hot mark, top up with a recommended coolant.

. Check the see-through plastic brake master cylinder reservoir, mounted on the firewall at the rear of the engine. If the brake fluid level is always low, you've got a leak that could be disastrous. See a technician fast.

. Keep the windscreen washer bottle topped up, using clean water with some special cleaning agent added.

. Check tyre pressure when tyres are cold. Buy a tyre pressure gauge, check your handbook for recommended tyre pressure, and go around the car tyre by tyre, not forgetting the spare. Look for cracks, blisters, missing pieces of tread or foreign objects in the tread, and ensure your tyres have a good tread depth and are wearing evenly.

. If you find a dented wheel rim, check that the tyre wasn't damaged when the rim was bent.

. Lean down on a front fender and "bounce" the car. If it stops bouncing as soon as you do, all's well, if it keeps
bouncing, your shock absorbers are weak and need replacing.

. With ignition on, check your lights... high and low beam, traffic indicators, hazard warning lights, brake lights,
reversing lights and instrument panel lights.

. Look for windscreen chips or cracks, check seatbelts to make sure they retract as they should and that the belts
aren't frayed. Check the steering by moving the steering wheel back and forth - there should be very little free play or looseness in the steering.

. With the transmission in Park or Neutral, with handbrake on, step on the footbrake. If the pedal feels spongy or drops to the floor, have the brakes checked immediately.

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