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Is your vehicle ready for your holiday?

There are a number of car checks you can perform both around the car and under the bonnet to help keep it in good running order and prevent a breakdown.

Getting your hands dirty under the bonnet might sound like something you should leave to the professionals, but there’s no reason why you can’t maintain some things yourself. 

Spending five minutes carrying out these simple checks every few weeks – and certainly before a long journey or an MOT – can save you a lot of time and money in the long run, not to mention help keep you safe on the roads.

To keep things simple, here are 12 simple car checks you can carry out today to keep your car safely on the road and on the right side of the law. We also have a quick video from RAC patrol Matt Woodbridge demonstrating four simple under-the-bonnet checks:

When it comes to preventing a breakdown, remember the acronym FORCES, which stands for Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics, Screen wash.

1. Fuel

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Use the correct fuel.

Check you have plenty of fuel in your tank for your journey. It may sound obvious but you’d be surprised just how many people run out of fuel, particularly in harsh winter weather.

2. Oil

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Use the correct Oil.

Check your oil level is between the minimum and maximum mark on your car’s dipstick and top up if necessary.

If you don’t know which type of oil you need to use, refer to your owner’s handbook or speak to your local dealer.

3. Rubber

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Use good quality wiper blades.

When it comes to rubber, check both your tyres and wiper blades on a regular basis.

Check your tyres for general wear and tear, splits or bulges, and crucially tread depths (remember to check the inner tread too). Minimum tread level is 1.6mm, although in winter it’s advisable to have 3mm of tyre tread to help with traction and grip.

Also ensure you’ve got the correct pressure in your tyres, checking your owner’s handbook if you don’t know the correct inflation.

Examine your wiper blades and make sure they clear your screen effectively as these won’t last forever and need replacing from time to time due to splits and cracks.

In winter, you can prevent your wiper blades freezing to the windscreen by placing a thin sheet of plastic or cloth, between the wiper blades and the windscreen. Or you can try using de-icer or warm water to free them up before starting your engine.

4. Coolant

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Use the correct coolant.

Check your car’s coolant level. The last thing you need is a frozen engine or for your car to overheat.

Although it’s a sealed system and shouldn’t need to be topped up, you should always double check, especially before a long journey.

Check your coolant levels when the engine is cold and look in your handbook for the location of the filler cap and for the correct coolant and mix to use should you need to top it up.

5. Electrics

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Make sure bulbs are fitted correctly.

There are plenty of electrics in your car – from headlights and fog lights to your battery – and they all need to be checked regularly to keep you safe.

Walk around the car and make sure your lights are all working, even the number plate lights, as you can be fined for having a registration that can’t be seen.

You should also check your battery, making sure the terminals are clean and tight (cleaning off any corrosion with hot water and applying petroleum jelly) and that the engine starts correctly.

If your engine struggles to start when you turn the key, get the battery checked out at a garage. If your battery is over four years old it may be getting to the end of its life and could let you down.

When you’re having your battery tested, ask them to check the starting & charging system and whether anything is draining your battery – this will give a better picture of your car’s overall electrical health.

If you are having your battery test ask them to check the charging system and the drain on your battery – this will give a better picture of your car’s overall electrical health.

6. Screen wash

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Use proper screen wash.

Check your screen wash level in the tank under the bonnet (check your manual for its location), topping up if necessary with a quality screen wash additive or pre-mix, which you can pick up in most petrol stations.

Screen wash is important all year round. In winter snow and grit cause dirty windscreens, while in summer bugs and pollen can easily smear your view – so never put off checking your levels

Make sure you’re prepared for a breakdown and are kept safe at the roadside.

Aside from the vital FORCES checks and if you feel confident enough it’s also worth carrying out a few additional car maintenance checks on other parts of your vehicle to extend its life and avoid a breakdown.

7. Engine air filter

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Use good quality air filters.

A faulty or clogged-up air filter could reduce your fuel efficiency and lead to reduced engine power, which is why mechanics recommend getting it replaced every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.

If you think your filter needs checking or replacing, simply locate the filter (usually in a black box under the bonnet) and remove it, making note of how it fits before you insert the replacement and fasten the box back shut.

Check your vehicle handbook for instructions.

8. Spark plug (petrol engines only)

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Use good quality spark pugs

More of a replacement than a check, but spark plugs are integral to the running of your engine – one or more faulty plugs will cause an engine misfire so it’s worth knowing how to replace them.

Generally, spark plugs need replacing every 30,000 miles or so and you’ll need the right tools if you want to replace them yourself. Also check your handbook or consult a dealer to check that a DIY replacement is possible.

9. Brakes

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Don’t fit cheap brakes.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of properly-functioning brakes, so keeping them maintained is essential.

Start off by checking the brake fluid level and if low, top it up – check your vehicle handbook for the correct fluid specification Be careful as brake fluid is corrosive, and if you feel unsure then get a professional to take a look at it.

Brake fluid should be changed at certain mileage intervals – again, check your handbook for service details.

10. Air conditioning

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Whether it’s 35 degrees outside or barely breaking freezing, it’s essential your aircon unit is fully functioning. However, apart from visual checks of the pipework, there is not a lot for you to check yourself.

Air conditioning system servicing should be carried out by a competent person with the correct equipment. A typical complaint is when the air conditioning does not feel cool enough on hot summer days, this may indicate that the system requires re-gassing – specialist equipment is required and so should be entrusted to an authorised service centre.

11. Interiors

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No-one wants their car to be known as a “skip-on-wheels”, so keep things clean with a regular interior clean, clearing out your footwells, wiping down your dashboard and keeping only the essentials in your boot.

It’s not just about being a neat freak, a clean interior also keeps you safe on the roads – you don’t want any discarded bottles dangerously rolling underneath your pedals.

12. Exteriors

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Keep the outside of your car clean with a regular wash. If you’re doing it by hand, focus on the headlights, brake lights and number plates as these help you see and be seen on the roads.

Keep all windows clean and clear at all times. As well as being unsafe, an unclean windscreen that limits your view of the road could see you fined for driving a car in a “dangerous condition.”

Should I take my car to a garage?

If you carry out these simple car checks, your car should stay on the road without seeing a mechanic for longer, but if a more serious problem arises you should always seek professional help.

Aarons Autos car service garage.

Your friendly car garage in Derby

Give us a call at Aarons Autos for more info.

Broken Catalytic Converter On This Vauxhall Mokka.

A Vauxhall Mokka came into the garage today with its engine management light on in need of some diagnostic work to find out the reason why.

After speaking to the customer we soon found out that we were not the first Garage to look at the Mokka.

It had gone into another garage who had replaced the ignition coil pack due to diagnostic trouble codes relating to cylinder miss fires, the coil pack cured the problem and the customer left happy.

After a couple of days the engine management light came on again so back to the Garage she went.

This time the diagnostic codes related to Oxygen sensor (lambda) faults? But rather than checking live data on the scan tool or checking the sensors with an oscilloscope they proceeded to change the sensors and clearing the fault codes to turn off the engine management light.

After another couple of days the light came on again but rather than take the car back to the same garage the customer looked on Google and found us, gave us a call and got herself booked in.

Once the car was in our workshop we plugged in our Diagnostic scanner and carried out a full code scan of the vehicle, all modules were clear of codes except for the Engine Control Module (ECM) which had codes relating to ‘Oxygen sensor faults’.

We then carried out some live data testing on the Oxygen sensors to see what was happening, straight away we could see a problem, both Oxygen sensors were reading the same, this is not good!

Both Oxygen sensors showing the same pattern.

The basics of Oxygen sensors are that they read the gases which are being produced by the engine before and after the Catalytic Converter, and if the Catalytic Converter is working correctly the first sensor should be switching and the second sensor should be pretty static (on idle), if this is happening then the gases coming out of the Cat are cleaner than the gases going in to the Cat meaning lower carbon emissions.

Basics of the Oxygen Sensor.

Once we had checked the Oxygen sensors were working properly (not giving false readings) we needed to check the Cat’s internals to see why it wasn’t working.

With the Cat removed it was obvious why we were getting the same readings on our live data, the honey comb centre of the Catalytic Converter which catches and burns off the carbon from the engine had broken up and was allowing the gasses to pass by.

The Catalytic Converter had broken inside.

A new Cat was fitted and we ran another scan, this time no codes returned and the Oxygen sensors were working as they should.

Both Oxygen Sensors now reading as they should.

The customer now has a car which is working as it should, more economical and with a lower carbon output.

Aarons Autos car service garage.

Your friendly car garage in Derby

Give us a call at Aarons Autos for more info.

Renault Laguna rear end knock.

Renault Laguna rear end knock.

The customer of this 2007 Renault Laguna came into us with a complaint that there was a knock from the back of the car when he went over bumps or potholes.

We raised the vehicle and it became apparent that the rear axle bushes had split and separated causing the rear axle to move and hit the chassis when going over bumps.

Renault Laguna rear bush split and middle separated.

Once we removed the rear axle from the vehicle we could gain access to the bushes and replaced them both.

Renault Laguna rear axle removed ready for new bush installation.

Renault Laguna new rear axle bush fitted.

The rear axle bushes were both replaced and with the rear axle refitted we road tested the vehicle and all the knocking had been cured.

Aarons Autos is the best car servicing garage in the world

Your friendly car garage in Derby

Give us a call at Aarons Autos for more info

Honda Civic Type R EP3 Welding

A Very Holy Honda Civic Type R EP3

This Honda Civic Type R EP3 came into us after the customer had been cleaning and under sealing his car and came across a couple of small holes in the floor. 

We inspected the holes and it soon became apparent the small holes were in-fact massive holes stretching the length of the floor pan on both sides. 

Honda Civic Type R floor pan rusted through.

After finding good metal we started to weld plates in.

Plate welded in ready to be under sealed.

Whilst checking we also found holes in the rear wheel arches which is another common place for the Honda Civic Type R EP3 to rust so both were repaired and under sealed.

Honda Civic Type R EP3 rear wheel arch rusted through.

Repair panel made and welded into place then undersealed.

All repairs were completed and now the Honda Civic Type R EP3 can enjoy many more years on the road instead of going to the scrap yard in the sky.

We do all Types of welding on all makes and models.

Aarons Autos is the best car servicing garage in the world

Your friendly car garage in Derby

Give us a call at Aarons Autos for more info

2015 Peugeot Expert 2.0 HDI (AHZ) oil pump failure.

2015 PEUGEOT EXPERT 2.0 HDI OIL PUMP FAILURE.

Our customer gave us a call as there 2015 Peugeot Expert 2.0 HDI oil light, stop light and engine light had illuminated on his dashboard and the engine sounded really noisy. 

We started the van and immediately it was apparent that there was a major oil pressure issue. As we service the van we knew the correct oil and filter had been used so we did a oil pressure test to measure the pressure of the oil that was circulating the engine.

The oil pressure was only 1 bar when it was supposed to be 4.2 bar so we knew there was a problem with the oil pump, after speaking with the customer it was decided to strip the engine to gain access to the oil pump. 

Oil pump failure Peugeot 2.0 HDI.

We removed the sump pan and lower engine sandwich plate to gain access to the oil pump and removed it so a visual inspection could take place.

Oil pump vain failure Peugeot 2.0 HDI.

Once the oil pump was stripped it was found that the main vain in the pump had shattered and only half of it remained which caused the low oil pressure.

Oil pump shaft damage Peugeot 2.0 HDI.

We cleaned out the oil ways and replaced the oil pump then performed 2 oil and filter changes 200 miles apart to make sure no remnants of the oil pump metal remained in the engine.

Always remember if your oil light comes on pull over and stop your engine immediately as damaged will be caused if you do not.

Aarons Autos is the best car servicing garage in the world

Your friendly car garage in Derby

Give us a call at Aarons Autos for more info

Citroen C2 VTS Welding for MOT.

Citroen VTS MOT Repairs.

This little Citroen C2 came in for MOT but unfortunately failed on corrosion around both rear sills. Once we had removed the side skirts we could see that the corrosion had been there for quite a while but had been hidden by the skirts.

Find good metal to weld to!

When welding for an MOT we need to find good metal to weld to, this might sound obvious but it means that what looks like a small hole of say a couple of centimeters might end up being a 30cm plate due to the metal around the hole being corroded and thin and not suitable for welding.

In the case of this VTS we had to make plates for the inner and outer sill to bring it back to its original strength. After all the welding was completed it was just a matter of under sealing the welds and metal work then refit the side skirts and carry out an MOT retest.

Then hand the car back to its happy customer to enjoy another twelve months motoring.

Aarons Autos car servicing garage

Your friendly car garage in Derby

Give us a call at Aarons Autos for more info

Nissan Qashqai air conditioning not working.

Nissan Qashqai air conditioning not working.

The owner of this vehicle had taken his car to another garage for a air conditioning service but they could not complete the work as there machine had detected a leak but they didn’t have leak detection tool. 

At Aarons Autos we have a nitrogen gas leak test kit that fills the system with nitrogen which is not harmful to the environment when released into the air. 

Front end stripped down to find leak and then removal of the air conditioning condenser.

We used the air conditioning leak detection kit and with the gas escaping we pinpointed the leak to the air conditioning condenser behind the intercooler. We informed the customer of the air conditioning leak test result and after a estimated repair cost they gave us the go ahead to replace the air conditioning condenser.

Damaged air conditioning condenser.

New air conditioning condenser fitted.

After replacing the air conditioning condenser we performed another leak test and the system held gas as it should with no leaks detected.

We do air conditioning servicing, leak tests and repairs.

Aarons Autos is the best car servicing garage in the world

Your friendly car garage in Derby

Give us a call at Aarons Autos for more info

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Air Conditioning service and repair.

We may not have Air Conditioning in the garage but we do try and make it more comfortable for our mechanics Adam and Sean on hot days like today. Remember we service and repair vehicle Air Conditioning. Our Air Conditioning service is £84.00 inc vat and includes gas up to a extra 500 grams top up, give us a call today on 01332 205070.