Autumn Maintenance: What’s Worth Checking on Your Car?
The autumn season is almost upon us, and that means there are some particular things you should be looking out for when it comes to your car’s maintenance. Naturally, the seasons shouldn’t affect your regular maintenance schedule, but there are certain conditions in the autumn that make additional checks worthwhile.
What Difference Does Autumn Make?
As we mentioned in the introduction, your vehicle has a recommended maintenance schedule based on total mileage and time that you’ve owned and operated the car. For instance, it may be recommended that you change the oil every 5,000 miles, get a service every year, don’t use a set of tyres more than 5 years, etc.
Different seasons bring unique challenges, however, and autumn is no exception. In the UK, autumn is usually a rainy season — by which we mean, rainier than usual — which hopefully leads you to conclude that it might be worth checking on your brakes to make sure they are working properly. Rain means wet roads, and wet roads are slick roads, and that means greater braking distances.
In addition, temperatures fall in the autumn, which might affect the viscosity of your engine oil or other fluids. It can also affect the performance of your battery. Finally, days start to get shorter real fast in the autumn, which means reduced visibility, worsening light in the morning and afternoons, and more. Are your headlights in good condition? It might be time for a check.
Below you’ll find all our recommendations for key maintenance to do before autumn fully sets in.
Autumn Maintenance Tips
With temperatures falling, you’ll need to ensure that you have proper oil levels to lubricate your engine sufficiently. The colder the weather, the harder starts in the car can be and the more help the engine needs. Proper lubrication in the engine is what provides at least some of that help.
After you’ve checked your engine oil, you should also top up your windscreen washer fluid, and back up your stash of washer fluid that you keep in the boot. If you don’t have a stash already, get one before autumn comes around. Wet roads in the autumn mean more mud and other contaminants are on the surface, and will be thrown up at your windscreen by vehicles in front of you. It’s extremely dangerous to be out of washer fluid when your windscreen is dirtying and your visibility as a driver is being reduced.
If it has been a while since you checked on your coolant/antifreeze levels, before autumn kicks in would be a good idea. When your car engine is off, and cool, open up the radiator lid and check the levels inside. If your car has a transmission fluid dipstick, check for the colour and condition of the fluid there, too. It should be as close to deep red as possible, and smooth in consistency.
The summertime likely meant a lot of driving on family holidays; the car laden up with luggage and passengers; covering long distances every day for weeks. How is your tyre tread doing? Do a quick “20p test” on your tyres. Place a 20 pence coin into the tread, and if you can still see any of the outer rim of the coin showing above the tread, then your tyres are too worn.
If the tread seems ok, then check on the tyre pressure. If your car has a tyre pressure monitoring system, then it will have warned you already if any one tyre was showing improper pressure. For those who don’t have that, you should check them manually and top up according to your owner’s manual recommendations.
3. Tracking / Wheel Alignment
During the summer, or earlier in the year, did you experience any minor accidents in your car? We’re not talking about collisions here, but perhaps bumps into the kerb and things like that. If your summer holidays took you to many unfamiliar places, then it’s more likely to happen. You might have thought nothing of it at the time, but even such apparently minor collisions can result in your car’s tracking — aka wheel alignment — being put off kilter.
It’s not the cheapest thing to get done, but checking on your vehicle’s tracking is important for your overall safety if you have reason to believe that it has been affected by any collisions or other factors. You can also check for this problem by centering your steering wheel and driving straight and see if the car starts to drift (even slightly) to one side.
You’ll need the heating system more and more as autumn wears on. It’s a good time to make sure there are no problems with the system before winter kicks in. Ensure that your heating controls are responsive and that the system is heating as it should. You’ll likely also need to make increasing use of your fans to get rid of condensation on the windscreen, and eventually ice and frost as the temperatures continue to fall. Even in the autumn, mornings can be very cold.
Headlights and brake lights are another essential area to check. It’s not just a case of making sure all your bulbs or LEDs are working correctly, but also how dirty the light housings are, that your dipped/high beams are functioning properly, and that they are properly aligned. These things are easy to check and remedy, but they make a profound difference to your overall safety on the road.
Remember also that lights are not just about you and your car, but about others on the road, including other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and others. Autumn days bring strange light patterns, especially in the later afternoon. It can appear “light” out but dim afternoon light can make seeing a speeding car coming from a distance very difficult unless it also has its lights on. Check all your lights to make sure they are working properly, and able to illuminate to their full potential.
Readying Yourself for the Season
In the end, it’s just a question of reflecting on the particular autumn conditions in your area and then thinking about how they affect your car in particular. If you’re still unsure, ask your local dealership or mechanic for advice. You needn’t necessarily do a full service, but checking at least the above-mentioned things is a good start.