Vehicle maintenance is something that most drivers are reluctant to perform, scared to open their bonnets and fearing the mechanics that that lie beneath. Such negligence shortens the life of every vehicle and with an estimated 31 million cars on the road in the UK, this really adds up and it can sometimes invalidate your insurance.
Taxi drivers use their vehicles frequently, providing a public service and subsequently have to adhere to strict regulations when it comes to servicing and maintenance. Upkeep is more important for them than other road users, it is simple to do and does not require a lot of time.
Here is our list of vehicle maintenance tips to help you save you time and money.
Check your oil and coolant levels
Every vehicle engine bay contains oil dipstick and engine coolant containers, both of which have markers for the minimum and maximum amount of liquid that each one must contain. Your owners manual will tell you the best brand of oil and engine coolant to use, with different engines requiring different liquid viscosities.
Older vehicles will require you to check more frequently, but as a rule of thumb check both of these at least once per month. If your oil levels run low you risk wearing out engine parts, and lack of coolant menas your engine will overheat. This can result in engine failure, fire and costly parts and repairs.
Tyre tread and pressure
Checking your tyre tread depth can be done using a 20 pence coin, simply place it inside one of the grooves of your tyre. If you can see some of the outer-edge of the coin then your tyres may be illegal and should be checked by a professional immediately. If left unattended, your vehicle will be more susceptible to blow-outs, harder to control and have a much larger braking distance in the wet.
Tyre pressure is also very important and can save on fuel costs. Each car will have a manual, normally attached to the inside of driver-side door, which dictates what the standard cold tyre inflations pressure should be. If they do not have enough air in them they will unevenly wear, have reduced grip and increase fuel consumption.
Winter and summer are the most demanding seasons on any vehicle, with hot and cold weather taking its toll on batteries, coolant, tyres and your engine.
Taxi drivers need to pay extra attention maintaining these areas, to keep your vehicle in top condition and lower the chances of an incident. In cold conditions turn on your engine for 10-15 minutes before embarking on a journey, this gives it a chance to warm up to its most efficient operating temperature. Also consider getting winter tyres, and fuel line antifreeze.
Make sure you regularly check coolant levels, oil levels and air conditioning systems in hot weather – problems with these are the most common cause of a breakdown.
A regular wash and wax will make your vehicle more presentable to your customers but will also preserve your paint and prevent rust from taking hold. Also remember to thoroughly clean and vacuum the interior too.
Stick to the manual
Each vehicle comes with an owners manual designed to help you extend the life of your vehicle. Follow the recommendations for engine and transmission maintenance and refer to it if there is an issue. For example do not ignore warning lights, these are here to tell you if there is a problem. Most are easy to fix but can become very costly if they are not addressed as soon as possible.
Most of us can remember the buzz of passing our driving test, redlining our throttle, wheel spinning and driving to our friends house who lived just down the road!
This extreme behaviour causes unnecessary wear and tear to the vehicle but so can the other end of the spectrum. Low revs and idling, particularly in cold weather promotes carbon buildup and deteriorates your catalytic converter. The trick is to drive nice, keeping your acceleration moderate, and not speeding or breaking heavily.
Follow these tips to maximise the lifetime of your vehicle, minimise the devaluation, keep your passengers safe and lower your insurance premiums. Look after your vehicle and it will look after you.