It's been a while since I used to have to don my Marigolds to keep my classic cars going. I check my Mini regularly, but engines these days are full of plastic boxes, we're not encouraged to get involved.
Thanks to TMG for a nice pic of some people pointing at an engine
Doh! Tips from the AA
A few checks under the bonnet could save you money, the chance of a breakdown, or maybe even save your life.
Members of a scheme for local independent garages called Trust My Garage ran a straw poll of female customers recently to see how much maintenance they do themselves.
They found that 63% of the 100 drivers questioned never check their engine coolant, and just under half of never check their oil. A large number said they never carry out any maintenance themselves.
The AA surveyed 21,510 members in June, and found that 8% don't get their car serviced at all, only fixing faults as they arise. A further 12% have either put off or missed a service to save money. Around a third (30%) potentially miss important service items by opting for a ‘standard’ annual service.
The results for women were even more shameful. Only 42% said they stuck to the manufacturer’s servicing schedule compared with more than half of men (54%). Some 10% said they never get their car serviced compared with 7% of men. Click for full details.
This is a pretty bad idea. A car is a machine, it needs oils and fluids to keep working. In particular, TMG highlights the problem of old brake fluid or leaks from the system, which could lead to brake failure. I've had that in my 1964 Volvo 1800S (left), and it's scary.
At least a third of the women questioned by TMG checked the condition of their tyres regularly. Another good idea - a blow-out is also terrifying and potentially very dangerous. If you don't have enough tread on your tyres, it will render your excellent braking system impotent. Plus, incorrectly inflated tyres may mean you're burning more costly fuel, than you need to.
How often should you check?
TMG recommends you check your oil and coolant weekly and your brake fluid monthly. The AA says check the oil fortnightly and you might as well give the coolant and brake fluid reservoirs a visual check at the same time. (See you handbook and the AA's 10 Vital Car Checks)
Some cars, including my Mini, have a brake fluid sensor, and there's nothing in my handbook about checking it apart from getting the car serviced on time. That's something everyone agrees on, whether you're going to a main dealer, or an independent garage such as the one of the 2,000 members of TMG or one accredited by the Good Garage Scheme.
An AA spokesman told me that 50% of breakdowns are potentially preventable through regular servicing and maintenance. So checks could also save you a miserable wait on the side of the road.
Female friendly garage
Guide Bridge in Tameside, a TMG member that calls itself the most ‘female friendly garage in Ashton’, has a cunning plan. Business Development Manager Jan Lord said: “A large proportion of our customers are women; there is around a 70:30 split and I think this is because we have female faces in the garage which makes female drivers feel more at ease when entering a garage environment. We hold regular workshops for women to teach them the basics about their cars. Because of our approach to female drivers, more of our female customers are pro-active in addressing any initial problems with their cars, which is saving them money in the long term." A great idea.
Save on your MOT
On a similar subject, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is running the Just a Minute or Two campaign. Research indicates that around 1.5 million MOT failures each year could be avoided if motorists tell their dealer about simple problems with the vehicle before the test. So, 5,545 manufacturer main dealers across the UK will be giving guidance to motorists on the simple pre-MOT visual checks they can carry out on their own car. See www.passmymot.co.uk
About Trust My Garage
TRUST MY GARAGE (TMG) is a scheme developed for independent garages by the Independent Garage Association (IGA) to recognise the high standards of independent garages throughout the UK.
This blog is by a woman driver, for everyone to read