From A Tyre Inflator To Screenwash: Your Guide To Student Motoring

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Last time, we brought up the scary subject of your child disappearing off to university as their first real ‘leaving home’ moment. We say first because a huge proportion of ‘children’ (term used loosely) return home for months or even years after higher eduction these days, thanks to high house prices or rental costs.

When they wave goodbye, it’s more common than ever that it’s actually them driving to University in their own car, rather than the familiar old days of parents taking them with cars loaded to bursting point with suitcases, duvets, computer equipment and anything else they can fit in, then lugging it all to their student bedroom. Fortunately, technology now means that unlike when I went to university, a huge amount of space isn’t required for a mountain of CDs and a stereo. In it’s place, Alexa in her Echo Dot does both nicely!

So, here’s where you need to hand over to your young bright eyed offspring, with a quick guide to car maintenance…

From the point at which you begin learning to drive, it is essential that you understand how to ensure that your vehicle is safe for the roads.  Identifying your motor vehicle’s weaknesses prior to departing will allow you to address them and ensure that your means of transport is secure.  Some of the issues that you recognise may be corrected independently at home or a local petrol station, whilst others may require you to seek support.

What should I check?

  1. Lighting
    As soon as the sun begins to set and the darkness falls, it is essential that you use your headlights to make sure your car is clearly identifiable whilst you are travelling.   One way you can check your lights are working is by turning them on whilst you are parked securely.  This can usually be done without starting the engine.  If you are on your own, you will be able to walk around the car to check the lights. Any issues you identify can then be dealt with as necessary.  If you are unsure how to do so, you should seek advice from a mechanic, or head down to your nearest Halfords (in daylight!) where they’re usually helpful, and will often even change bulbs for you.

    In addition to the lights you switch on inside the car, there are also lights that automatically appear as you break whilst driving.  These should also be checked.  You could do this in several ways.  Asking someone to let you know if they can spot your break lights as you press the pedal whilst parked safely is one option.  If you are alone and parked in front of something including a garage door or another vehicle, you can recognise the reflection of your break lights, particularly when it is becoming dark outside.
  2. Tyres
    Tyres have specific regulations to ensure that your vehicle is safe.  The minimum legal tyre depth is 1.6mm.  Inspecting your tyres regularly should ensure that you are safeguarding against exceeding the required tyre depth.  Additionally, ensuring that your tyre pressure is within the range suggested by the vehicle’s manufacturer, will support your vehicles safety.  You can do this at home using a pressure gauge.  This will identify the level of pressure in the tyres.  If the tyre pressure is too high you can release it.  Discovering the tyre pressure is too low will require further inflation.  Just like changing tyres for example replacing a flat tyre with a spare tyre, you can also use a tyre inflator, some of which can be 12V (like the Ring RAC635) and so powered by the car itself, to increase your tyre pressure to meet the recommended amount. Find out more about getting one for the boot at
  3. Engine oil and coolant
    The coolant reservoir is in a different location to the engine oil.  The coolant reservoir will have a marker on the side showing the minimum and maximum levels required.  Again, if the level is below the minimum marker, the coolant can be replaced.  It is suggested that you only increase the level if required once the car is cool, and that you ensure the replacement is ideal for your vehicle by checking in the manual, with a mechanic or the cars manufacturer. Again, you can buy coolant off the shelf at Halfords.
  4. Windscreen wash
    Keeping the motors windscreen clear ensures that you may see clearly whilst moving.  Over time dirt will build up on the screen meaning that vision is impacted.  Assessing the volume of screen wash is essential to guarantee that you are capable of cleaning your screen as and when required.  By raising your bonnet, you can locate the windscreen fluid reservoir and check the volume of wash within it.  If the level is low, replace this by removing the cap and adding the appropriate screen wash. This is the easiest of all to buy, as it’s sold in almost all petrol stations, supermarkets, discount stores and more.<

Being able to check that your means of transport is reliable will build confidence and increase the security when operating it.  Booking your car in for its annual service is great for its maintenance and even using the winter checks offered by many garages supports you in ensuring that your vehicle is safe to drive.