Give your car a little more love

by Belinda Wan (bwan@sph.com.sg)
published on 22 February 2016

Just like any relationship, having a car requires your time and attention, not only when you need to drive it.

Some extra care and effort to keep it in good condition can help extend its life span and avoid costly problems later on.

KEY AREAS TO NOTE

The president of the Automobile Association of Singapore (AAS) Bernard Tay said paying attention to a car’s key areas and servicing it in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended intervals is crucial.

Tyres

“For tyres, insufficient tread depth of less than 2mm will affect the braking distance, especially during wet weather,” said Mr Tay.

“Look out for warning signs like cuts in the sidewall, which may indicate that your tyre is developing a leak. Pay attention to bulges and blisters. Sometimes, the outer surface of the tire begins to weaken, and the result can be a bulge or blister that extends outward from the rest of the surface.”

He also said that vibration while driving could mean that your tyres are misaligned or unbalanced, or that your shock absorbers are giving way. It could also indicate an internal problem in the tyre itself.

Mr Lixon Tan, the vice president and head of retail chain of Stamford Tyres International said the wearing out of a tyre’s shoulder is a sure sign of unbalanced air pressure.

Brakes

Stay alert to warning signs like poor braking performance, squealing, grinding and clicking noises during braking, excessive drag during acceleration, as well as a lit anti-lock braking system (ABS) light for anti-lock brakes, said Mr Tay.

Dashboard warning light

Mr Tay said: “If the dashboard warning light is lit, it may indicate a faulty sensor. If left unchecked, it might cause lasting and expensive damage to your vehicle.”

A spokesperson from the aftersales department of Volkswagen Group Singapore said: “Warning symbols will appear on the car dashboard instrument cluster if the levels are low. The owner’s manual will indicate what each warning symbol represents and what the corrective action is.”

REGULAR MAINTENANCE

The spokesperson also said: “It is best to practice preventive maintenance. The manufacturer’s recommended service intervals must be followed. Due to differences in design and technology, some cars need to be serviced more frequently than others.

“All Volkswagen passenger cars, for example, have service intervals of 15,000km or one year, whichever comes first. There are also differences in the scope of the inspections and renewal of maintenance items during each servicing – for example, during the 60,000km service, most of the fluids in the car need to be changed.”

Replacement of parts and fluids

Mr Tay said the engine oil and oil filter, air filter and fuel filter, spark plugs and timing belt need to be replaced regularly.

The engine coolant, as well as brake and transmission fluid, must also be topped up at regular intervals. He also advised checking and rotating your tyres at regular intervals.

Mr Tan said: “If the radiator water level is too low, your car’s temperature will go up, and if your car is running out of engine oil, you may have a rough ride in an overheated car.”

Five tips for a safe drive

Mr Tay said: “Not paying enough attention to the roads while driving, following the vehicle in front too closely, changing lanes abruptly, failing to slow down in response to environmental conditions, and speeding are five of the most common driving mistakes on the roads.”

He shared the following driving tips.

1.         Understand your vehicle

Be familiar with your car’s controls and handling characteristics. Ensure that the tyres, indicator lights and brakes are in good working condition.

2.         Always drive attentively

Mr Tay said: “Avoid driving when you are tired, stressed, and have consumed alcohol or medication that causes drowsiness. Do not use your mobile phone while driving, even if you are using a hands-free kit.”

3.         Signal early

Communicate clearly your intentions to turn, change lanes or stop. Maintain a safe following distance. Look out for pedestrians and cyclists.

4.         Be alert to changing road conditions

Although a road may look the same, there could be road diversions due to road works or tree-pruning activities.

5.         Think ahead

Constantly check the road ahead, and scan both sides and the rear of the car using the side and rear-view mirrors.