Regular and meticulous car check-ups are a must if you want to use your car for many years.
Oil and filter - two things than an engine can't do without
Engine oil and filter change is the foundation of every car check-up. Neglecting it may cost you dearly - spent oil deprived of its original qualities will not protect your engine during start-up in winter, and may lead to its overheating in the summer. It is crucial to choose the oil recommended by the manufacturer - e.g. cars with a diesel engine equipped with a DPF filter should use oils intended for this particular engine type.
Cars of about 10 years of age, and even relatively new but intensively used cars, should be checked in terms of other elements as well, e.g. the oil level in the gearbox or the rear bridge.
What else should a basic car check-up include?
- Inspection of the suspension and brakes
A roller brake tester is used to check the condition of both the main and the emergency brake. First, the device spins the car wheels, following which the brake pedal is pressed to check the braking force on each axle. Shaker plates are used to analyze the level of wear of particular suspension components. A car's suspension is inspected from an inspection pit or after lifting a car. A mechanic controls the plates in order to thoroughly check the condition of the suspension - by skilfully steering the plates, he is able to check how the steering knuckle coupling pins or shock absorber mounts behave. From underneath a car a mechanic is also able to check the condition of the housing of particular elements for potential leaks. The oil pan, gear box and brakes should definitely be checked for leaks. A general car suspension test allows to diagnose any play in swing arm joints, the stabilizer, the track bars and the steering rods.
- Inspection of the braking system
It is analyzed especially in terms of the level of the braking fluid, the condition of the brake pad lining, discs and drums. Brake diagnostics allows to detect defects of every single braking system component. Discs are checked for potential cracks and scratches, while pads for any signs of vitrification or contamination of the lining and its thickness.
- Checking the fluids level
The cooling, transmission and power steering fluids should be analyzed. The cooling liquid has a lower freezing and a higher boiling point, ensuring optimal working conditions irrespective of the air temperature. Changing the power steering liquid makes your driving wheel easier to turn. The liquid protects the steering system against malfunction and excessive wear, and prevents damages to the pump, which is particularly vulnerable to failure when turning the wheel while your car is in stationary position. And one more thing - don't forget about the windscreen cleaner.
- Testing the electrical system
Testing the electrical system of a car consists, among other things, in checking the electrical cables for any signs of corrosion. It is also important to inspect the lighting elements, including the bulbs and the current (+) and ground (-) contacts. The contacts between the clamps and the battery cables should also be checked. Most batteries are maintenance free. Only some of them require electrolyte refilling.
- Checking the tensioning and condition of the timing belt
A loose timing belt may cause wrong operation of many components. It produces a squealing sound, especially when the engine is cold or after it has not been started in a few days. If it breaks, you will not be able to drive, as it powers the water pump and the alternator. If, however, it is too tight, the pulley guide rollers will wear faster as a result of too big a load. Although timing belts are generally durable and don't have to be changed for several thousand kilometres, they must be inspected on a regular basis, primarily for their tensioning; a properly tightened belt will bent by app. 0.5-1.5 cm halfway between the pulleys during inspection.
- Tyre and tyre pressure inspection
Up to 0.2 bar worth of air escapes from the tyres each month. Too low tyre pressure makes your car more vulnerable to skidding. In addition, the tyres wear faster and your car consumes more fuel.
How often should you have you car inspected?
As a standard, you should do it every 20 thousand kilometres or once a year. This is the absolute minimum. The best solution, especially if you use your car intensively, is to have it inspected regularly. Ideally, you should do it before and after winter, ensuring that one of these check-ups is comprehensive. Regular car check-up reduces the risk of failures and, consequently, the costs. Refer to the user instructions for maintenance recommendations.
Choosing the right garage
It is important that each check-up be performed by a proven garage equipped with top quality diagnostic devices. The garages associated in the Motointegrator Partner chain have the right tools to precisely verify the technical condition of your car. These tools comprise the so-called diagnostic paths featuring a series of diagnostic devices capable of checking your car's braking force, wheel alignment or the general condition of its suspension. Professional garages also use special simulators to check how car wheels behave when exposed to strong forces, and to analyze the condition of the shock absorbers.
Today, the good technical condition of a car is ensured by computers and standards set by machines. The experience of the mechanics responsible for evaluating the technical condition of a car and for the proper handling of the diagnostic devices is of a great importance, too.
Diagnostic paths featuring shaker plates and rollers are not the only tools used in car diagnostics. An exhaust gas analyzer checks the operation of the fuel system. The analysis consists in connecting a special probe to a car's exhaust pipe to check the fumes for excess amount of carbon dioxide. When connected to a car with a diesel engine, diagnostic devices diagnose the condition of the engine, the timing system, the injection devices and the starter. Nowadays, failures are more and more often diagnosed by means of a tester of codes displayed by the onboard computer. This way a failure may be easily identified.
The Motointegrator Partner chain garages use the latest technologies. All of the garages associated in the chain hold quality certificates issued by Inter Cars SA - a leading spare parts distributor in Central and Eastern Europe. A car check-up performed by a Motointegrator Partner garage starts with checking the wear and tear of all car components to identify the existing and potential failures. Each car is checked with respect to its suspension, steering and braking system, as well as tyres and wheels. A car's external lighting and the level of operating fluids are checked, too. The engine, gearbox, power steering and the differential gear are also verified.
What to pay attention to before having your car is inspected during a particular season of the year:
The electrical system is the priority. Rain and moisture may cause charging problems and, consequently, difficulty in starting a car, problems with the lighting system or windscreen heating.
The cooling system. If you're not sure about the condition of the cooling fluid, a good idea may be to change it before the frost strikes. Don't forget about the battery. Low temperatures affect its operation.
Oil change Do not postpone oil change! It 's a big mistake! The friction is the same irrespective of the weather. In spring, a good oil is as important as in winter when starting your car.
The air-conditioning system. Up to 15% of the cooling agent may leak out of the system each year. This is why it needs refilling. It is also important to regularly perform an anti-fungal treatment and change the cabin filter. Apart from the annual check-up, you should also have the dryer exchanged every three years.