Love Your Car: The Nuts And Bolts Of Self-care

  • Cars require regular monitoring and maintenance to stay in showroom condition
  • Services and repairs are best left to qualified auto technicians, but there are many ongoing maintenance aspects owners should be taking care of themselves
  • Ford offers car owners a handy list of maintenance basics for not only peace of mind behind the wheel, but a good-looking ride for years to come

So you bought a set of wheels, complete with new car smell, all the bells and whistles, and messages of congrats from family and friends wishing you miles of smiles. Your pride and joy is, however, not going to take care of itself. It requires regular monitoring and maintenance to stay in tip-top shape.

“Knowing a bit about how your car works is very empowering,” says mom and mechanic, Mulalo Tshidino, who works in the servicing department at one of Ford’s leading South African dealerships.

“While regular servicing and major repairs are best left to the pro’s, there are plenty of things that you can, and should, monitor and maintain yourself,” she says. “If ever you’re in doubt about something, just check your owner’s manual. It has all the information you need on what consumables to use, what falls under the warranty and service plan, what the various warning lights mean, and loads more.”

Ford Motor Company offers these practical tips to ensure your new ride not only looks great, but runs smoothly for years to come:

Paint and bodywork

Wash your car with a good quality car wash soap and lukewarm water. Rinse the bodywork once a week if you are unable to do a full wash. Then check the paintwork for chips and scratches, and have any damage attended to immediately. Failure to do so could cause corrosion.

Windscreen and wipers

Clear visibility of the road is critical, so always get any chips or cracks on your windscreen fixed as soon as possible. Remember that small cracks will get bigger over time. If your windscreen has suffered sandblasting – what appears to be millions of tiny sparkly particles in the glass, which are especially distracting when driving into the glare of a low-lying sun – the reduced clarity can seriously compromise your vision, and the entire windscreen should be replaced. You should only top up your washer fluid reservoir with windshield washer fluid. Other fluids can damage the washer/wiper system. If you use water in the reservoir and it freezes, it can clog and damage the reservoir and hoses. And if your wipers leave streaks on your windscreen that impair your vision, it’s time to replace them.


Ask a friend to stand outside your car and help you check your lights. This includes headlights, brights, daytime-running lights, brake lights, reverse lights, and indicators. All your car’s lights should be working and any blown globes replaced. Brake light globes blow regularly because this is a globe that you are using constantly as it switches on and off under braking. Unless you have mechanical knowledge, don’t try replacing faulty bulbs on your own – it’s a tricky job and you don’t want to damage the light fixture.


Water and oil are the lifeblood of your engine; you should check the levels of both, as well as the coolant level, every time you fill up at the fuel pump. If your coolant and oil levels are low, you may have a leak somewhere.


Tyres are what connect your car to the road, and you really want to know that they are in good shape. Check tyre pressures every two weeks, when your tyres are cold. You’ll find the recommended pressures on a sticker on the inside edge of your driver door. Check you have enough tread on your tyres; they should be replaced when your tyres have around 2mm of wear left. And make sure your spare wheel has a properly inflated tyre on it, and your jack and spanner are in the car.

Steering and brakes

If you feel a vibration in the steering wheel, or if your steering pulls in a certain direction, veering to the left or right, it could indicate a wheel alignment problem. If the brake pedal feels soft or spongy when depressed, if your car pulls to one side under braking, or if you hear a grinding or squealing sound, have an auto technician address the issue right away. The handbrake also shouldn’t click more than four times before it holds your car in place.

Safety checks

Regular safety checks at an auto fitment centre are a quick and effective way to identify potentially dangerous issues or defects before they cause major problems. These checks are also crucial before setting off on a long journey. They cover not only the state of your tyres’ pressure and tread depth, but also your shock absorbers, brake fluid, brake pads and discs, battery, and the condition of your exhaust. Often dealerships and auto fitment centres offer these safety checks for free before major holidays, like Easter, or Christmas. Keep your eyes and ears open for these opportunities.