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Understanding Your Car

We take our cars for granted. That’s a fact. Certainly we arrange for a car servicing garage to attend to routine maintenance and the MOT test, but often times, we may hear a noise, or feel a judder under braking and yet we carry on regardless. In a sense, your car is ‘talking’ to you. It is telling you that something is amiss and it pays to listen. It may save a bigger bill later on:

Testing The Brakes

Brakes are obviously a crucial component and one that should be maintained in tip-top condition. When brakes suffer a failure a warning light comes on in the dashboard array which means immediate action, but there are times when this won’t apply.

Sometimes, for example, there may just be an odd noise whenever the brakes are applied. This isn’t right. It may be a grinding or squealing noise; the sound which often comes from worn-out brake pads. The squealing sound could be because the brake pads have come into contact with the rotor, as a sign of excess wear.

Alternatively, a grinding noise could mean several things, all of which signal an issue. If the brakes make a noise, or if the car judders or pulls to one side then ask your local professional mechanics, pronto.

Dipping The Black Stuff

At an interim service it may not always be necessary to change the oil. That doesn’t mean though that it is in perfect condition. Also, make sure when having a car serviced that the garage used has a good reputation. Unscrupulous back-street so-called mechanics may say they have changed to oil when they haven’t. They will have charged for it though.

When a car is started from cold, oil begins to circulate and lubricate the engine. Additives within the oil help it cool and reduce friction between internal moving parts. Oil also cleans away dirt and contaminants, preventing premature engine wear. As a result of all the dirt and contaminants it picks up, oil needs to be changed regularly. Old oil will not be anywhere near as effective, leading to premature engine wear.

The car’s manual says to dip the oil regularly to check the level, but dipping the oil isn’t just about levels. Look at the colour. Fresh oil will usually have a golden appearance. Old oil is black and sludgy; don’t let it get to that state. Have it changed every service to make sure. Oh, and as the oil is being changed, ensure the oil filter is changed as well, it is neither an expensive or a difficult option and it makes all the difference.


Driving on UK roads these days is not always a comfortable or pleasant experience thanks to the decades of neglect to road surfaces. The result of this is that a car’s suspension suffers more, as anyone who has experienced a damaging pothole strike will tell you.

So daily use takes its toll on a car’s suspension. Watch out for warning signs that attention is needed. Does the car dip or ‘nose-dive’ under braking? Does the vehicle pull to one side (see also brakes) or is there visible oil on the shock absorbers or springs?

After a bump, suspension should immediately return to its normal setting; if it continues to ‘bounce’ then this, or any of the above, could signal excess wear on suspension componentry. It will also affect tyre wear; another give-away.

Stop/Start Battery

Over time, batteries run down and need replacing; this has always been so. Invent an ever-lasting car battery and the world will beat a path to your door. If the engine is sluggish to turn over when cold or if the dreaded ‘click of doom’ is heard when the key is turned or the button pressed then the battery needs replacing. There is, these days, another issue too:

Many cars now have stop/start technology, ostensibly to reduce emissions when stationary and to save fuel. This is fine, but it does put an extra load on the battery. To counter this manufacturers now fit a larger capacity battery and multi-stage charging systems that can cope with this extra demand and this is the point. It is absolutely imperative then that any replacement battery is absolutely the right one for the model of car, not the cheapest.


So your car does indeed tell you when something is wrong or a problem is developing. Ignore these warning signs at your peril because it may be that in a few days and weeks you won’t be going anywhere at all. If in doubt have a chat with your local reputable garage.

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