Keep your car in peak condition with these maintenance tips.

A sign at a car dealership sign read: "The best way to get back on your feet? Miss a car payment."

Neglecting your car can have the same impact. The symptoms of disregard, says Julian White, Group Showroom Manager, 4x4motors, Dubai, can be sluggish performance. "The oil (when checked with the dipstick) will be black in colour, the air filter could be clogged with fine sand particles, coolant levels may be low, oil leaks may be visible and the air conditioner may not provide adequate cooling," he says.

"Other signs," says Kevin Jones, General Manager-Service Division, Al-Futtaim Motors, "could include the engine misfiring, high fuel consumption and poor exhaust gas emission. The car could also stall or experience engine seizure."

Regular servicing and maintenance, however, can keep your vehicle running smoothly. "Safety, prevention (of problems), performance and durability are all very important aspects of maintenance," says Jones.

Owner's manual

The car owner's manual is a good place to start if you are not familiar with the kind of maintenance your vehicle needs or the time it needs to be done. The following guidelines from experts can also help.

"The most important checks to carry out are the basics: engine oil, transmission oil, coolant, fluid leakage, tyre pressure, battery water and lights. These can be assessed by the owner once a week," says White.

You should also get a qualified mechanic to check the condition of the air and fuel filters, brakes (for wear and tear), belts and hoses (for cracks), spark plugs and fluids at regular intervals to avoid potential problems.

"The importance of cleaning the air filter, for instance, is to ensure that the engine does not draw in dust particles and other foreign matter, as this could lead to accelerated engine wear and poor engine performance, high fuel consumption and poor exhaust gas emission," says Jones. Checking the electrical system of your car, especially the battery and alternator, is also crucial.

A complete service, in keeping with the car manufacturer's recommended vehicle service maintenance schedule, is also essential. This will avoid untimely breakdowns and expensive repairs. Complete service involves changing and re-filling of all serviceable fluids, greasing/lubrication/inspections and, if required, repair and/or the replacement of ‘service maintained' parts.

Changing fluids

Jones says that the changing and re-filling of serviceable fluids is important for the smooth running of a car. "Engine oil, for example, is needed for the proper lubrication of all the engine's moving components. A coolant maintains the proper operating temperature and prevents the engine and other related components from corroding. Brake and transmission fluid are also important to keep the vehicle in ‘trouble-free' running condition.

According to Jones, a complete service will also include the inspection of engine and engine related components, brakes system, suspension and chassis system and body and paint condition (for body corrosion or paint defects).

White says tyres should be checked during every service by a qualified technician. "The wheels should be balanced when a tyre is replaced. You will notice a vibration through the steering wheel if any of the tyres are unbalanced," he says.

Jones also says that additional checks are not necessary on a well-serviced or maintained vehicle. "However, you should ensure that you follow the service maintenance schedule recommended for the car to ensure optimum performance and roadworthiness," he adds.

Jones also suggests other tips for preventive maintenance, including warming the engine as much as possible before driving. "Avoid sudden and hard acceleration and braking, and excessive engine revving. Ensure that you do not exceed the permissible vehicle load rating (passenger, cargo and towing). Make sure you cool the engine down before turning it off after a long drive. Always be consistent with the service maintenance schedule," he says.

Pay attention

Finally, always pay attention to the signals your car is sending. If something sounds, smells or feels wrong, get it checked immediately.