Most drivers don’t do enough basic checks on their car as often as they should – potentially increasing the chance of a breakdown – new research has revealed.

A study conducted by the RAC among 2,000 motorists found that more than 38% said they check their car’s oil at best every two months, with 7% saying they wait until a warning light comes on before they do anything – despite too little oil risking causing dangerous and expensive engine damage.  Just 24% check their oil as often as the RAC recommends, which is at the least every two weeks and before long journeys.

When it came to tyres, things were no better.  It seems that just 58% check the condition of their vehicle’s tyres – including tread levels – at least once a month, with the RAC advising they are looked at least this often and possibly even more frequently in case of damage from potholes, and prior to long road trips.  But 37% said they did this at best every two months, and at worst less than once a year.

It was a similar story with tyre pressure – unless a car is fitted with a pressure monitoring system, this should be checked every fortnight and before long journeys.  And yet only 32% said they checked them that often, with 29% doing it once a month and 18% leaving it until at best every three months, and at worst less than once a year.

But it was the other form of rubber – windscreen wipers – that appeared to be most neglected, despite the crucial job they do in keeping a driver’s view clear.  While 33% looked at them at least monthly, a remarkable 30% said they wait until the wipers stopped clearing the windscreen properly before checking them.  This represents a genuine road safety risk as drivers are unlikely to carry spare wiper blades in the car if one should fail.

With the daylight hours now getting longer, it’s also vital that drivers are visible in low light.  But only 30% checked their lights at the RAC’s suggested weekly interval, with 24% doing it every three months at best.

The other vital thing to check under the bonnet is the level of engine coolant.  Modern vehicles should not need topping up between services, but a drop in the level of coolant could indicate a problem and lead to engine overheating.  Only 26% of drivers said they looked at the coolant level at the recommended interval of every two weeks, with 24% checking it every month and the rest checking it less frequently or even waiting for a warning light to appear on the dashboard.

“While there are no hard-and-fast rules on exactly how often drivers should check basic things like oil, windscreen wipers and tyres, our research suggests a sizeable proportion are chancing it and hoping their car won’t fail them,” the RAC’s Patrol of the Year Chris Burgess said.  “During the snowy conditions in December we saw breakdown volumes increase by around a fifth in some parts of the country, so it really does pay to make sure your car is prepared before setting out.

“Checking things like tyres, oil, coolant and wipers takes little time – and can often be simple and reasonably cheap to sort out.  The risks of not checking things and getting them fixed or topped up is potentially disastrous – at worst, you could be risking an accident or breakdown in freezing conditions, and at best you’re storing up problems that could prove very expensive in the long run.”

Added: 01 March 2018

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