Some people say that buying a car is a little like taking home a bottomless piggy bank. Or perhaps, simply opening your wallet above the nearest drain and watching your money vanish before your eyes.
Truth is, it is not until you take ownership of your first car that you realise how much time and money it takes to keep them running. From staggering fuel costs to MOTs to servicing and routine maintenance and repairs, it all quickly adds up.
At least some comfort can be taken from the fact that you’re certainly not alone in your plight. However much it costs you to keep your car on the road, there will always the others worse off than you.
But what are the most commonly encountered car maintenance issues in the UK?
If Google’s current search statistics are correct, these are the top priorities (or at least the biggest concerns) for UK drivers right now:
1. Low Tyre Pressure
First up, the search term “what should my tyre pressure be?” is right at the top of the rankings. Chalking up an impressive 36,000 searches per year, it is evident that many motorists are completely clueless as to how much air should be in their tyres.
Make no mistake about it, overinflated tyres and underinflated tyres are equally dangerous. Unless you want to risk a blowout at high speed and a potentially fatal accident, you need to keep a close eye on your tyre pressure.
Plus, it is worth remembering that driving with improperly inflated tyres could also land you with a £2,500 fine and 3 penalty points…per tyre!
2. Low Tyre Tread
Next in line comes the search term “how to check tyre tread”, which according to Google is asked by an impressive 20,400 people each year. As with poorly-inflated tyres, driving with tyres that don’t have enough grip on the road is illegal.
UK law states that tyre tread must be 1.6mm or more to comply with road safety regulations. If not, you are breaking the law, and you are exponentially more likely to be involved in a disastrous accident.
The ‘20p check’ is one way of checking the tread of your tyres, where you use the outer rim of the coin as something of a rudimentary gauge. But as a much more accurate tyre tread gauge will set you back no more than around £2, it’s well worth investing in.
3. Windscreen Wiper Issues
Interestingly, third place in Google’s listings went to “how to change windscreen wipers”, asked by a sizeable 5,400 drivers each year. Contrary to popular belief, windscreen wipers in a poor state of repair are not just inconvenient but are also illegal.
This is because it is a legal requirement to drive with wipers that ensure adequate visibility in all types of weather conditions. Whether they smear, skip or simply don’t get the job done properly, you should not be taking to the roads with problematic wipers.
A decent set of windscreen wiper blades won’t cost you a great deal and could technically save your life in adverse weather conditions. The moment you detect any performance issues with your wipers, change them, and maybe save yourself a £2,500 fine in the process.
4. Oil Change
Technically speaking, it should never be necessary for the average motorist to change or top up their oil. If you have your car serviced (even at a basic level) every six months, it will be handled on your behalf.
A car’s oil doesn’t normally need to be changed before covering around 5,000 miles, so periodic servicing should be sufficient. But if you cover way more miles than this and you are wondering “how often should I change my oil?”, so are 1,200 other Googlers per year.
Your car will most likely feature a warning light that tells you when its oil level is low and could do with being replaced or topped up. Contrary to popular belief, breaking down due to inadequate oil levels is actually an offence. One that could see you slapped with 3 penalty points and a £100 fine for negligence.
5. Windscreen Scratch Repairs
Lastly, the golden rule when it comes to minor windscreen cracks and scratches is to deal with them as soon as you spot them. In doing so, you could save yourself the time, trouble and expense of a much costlier repair.
This is something that is apparently common knowledge to many motorists, with around 1,200 Googling “how to remove scratches from car windscreen” each year. On the legal side of things, a minor windscreen scratch is not going to land you in trouble. By contrast, a crack could constitute driving a car that is in an unsafe condition, paving the way for a fine of up to £2,500.