You’ve passed your test, got the keys to your very own car, and have the freedom of the open road in front of you. You make a note in your diary to book in the annual service and of course make sure you don’t forget to take it in for its MOT in time.
Thinking about the condition of your car just once a year isn’t ideal though, as so much can happen in 12 months, especially if you are covering lots of miles.
Knowing some basic car maintenance – the sort you can do yourself without help from a professional – and keeping your car in tip top condition all-year round will help reduce the likelihood of any faults developing. This is good for your purse or wallet, and will also mean you are driving a safer and more efficient car.
Here are our top tips for some basic car maintenance you can carry out yourself. Remember to do your checks when the car is cold, so at the start not end of a journey!
TyresIt’s really easy to keep an eye on your tyres, and easy to spot potential problems. But lots of people don’t give them much attention, which is probably why tyre faults are one of the most common reasons for MOT failure.
If you’ve not checked the pressure for a while, it’s worth making sure they are as full of air as they should be – some places, particularly supermarket garages, still provide free air or it’s usually about 20p or 50p. You can find the correct pressure for your car in the manufacturer’s guide and often on a sticker just inside the driver’s door. You can also search easily online by entering your registration number on one of the many sites offering a free look-up.
Cars with underinflated tyres use more fuel and are potentially less safe to drive, so it’s important to stay on top of their maintenance. If you’re having to fill one or more tyres regularly, there could be a puncture or problem with the seal that you need checking professionally.
Not monitoring the tread on your tyres could be a costly mistake; worn or bald tyres are not only potentially illegal, and could lead to a fine up to £2,500 and three penalty points, but are also a hazard to be driving around on.
A tyre tread depth gauge is a cheap and handy tool to keep in the car, but if you don’t have one to hand, a 20p piece can also be used – the minimum required depth of 1.6mm (across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tyre, and around the entire outer circumference of the tyre) is about the same as the outer band on the coin.
You should also keep an eye out for any cuts or bulges, and of course if you’ve picked up something sharp like a nail, which could cause a slow puncture.
Liquid levelsYou have various tanks under the bonnet that contain liquids vital for maintaining the car. Checking these regularly is a great habit to get into as any leaks or low levels can cause potentially big problems between annual checks.
is really important as it not only helps to lubricate moving parts, it also keeps the engine cool and clean – without it, a car would be in serious trouble. You can check your oil level using the dipstick that is inside the tank – remember to wipe it clean before dipping it in, so you know where the true level is. Changing and topping up the oil and keeping an eye on when the filter needs changing need to be done correctly, so professional help may be more appropriate, but at least knowing when the level is getting low is a good start.
, in case it isn’t obvious, is in the car to stop the engine from overheating. The correct coolant is needed to ensure it functions properly – helping to extend the life of the car’s insides, but also to make sure it doesn’t freeze in the system in low temperatures, as water alone would.
You can buy pre-mixed coolant, which can be added straight into the tank, or use a concentrated mixture with water – the antifreeze component is what is crucial. As well as checking the level (it should be between the minimum and maximum markers) under the bonnet, you may also notice overheating problems if the car’s temperature warning light comes on, you smell burning or the engine fan is running particularly loudly.
It’s sod’s law that as soon as you run out of your windscreen becomes blurred with a salty, dusty covering that leaves dirty smears obscuring your view.
Keeping it topped up will avoid potential visibility problems, which is especially important before a long journey or those horrible winter mornings when the low sun makes it even harder to see.
You can use water as a quick fix when you’re desperate, though it won’t do as good a job as a proper mix, and can freeze in the tank in very low temperatures.
Windscreen wipersYou will usually notice if there are problems with your wiper blades as it will show in their performance. Wipers working properly will clear water from the windscreen easily, but if you notice gaps in coverage or streaking, they need a closer look. If they are worn or broken, you may also hear unusual, laboured noises, or see irregular movement.
Looking at the blades themselves, you may notice tears or bits starting to peel away. Remember to have a proper look by gently lifting the whole arm and not just looking at the tops.
Wiper blades are easy to replace, but if you’re not sure, the shop or garage you buy from will usually be happy to do it for you for free or a small charge.
Stay well-lit on the roadIt’s not always obvious if one or more of your lights has stopped working from the driving seat, so it’s important to make regular checks.
The easiest way to do this is to park up, switch on all the lights and walk around the car. Testing the brake lights requires help as you’ll need someone to press the pedal while you look, or you can use the reflection in a door or window to check.
If there is a light out and you’re not comfortable changing the bulb yourself, you can usually have it fitted for a small charge or for free with the purchase of the replacement.
BatteryThe first sign you get that something is wrong with your battery is usually that the car won’t start, or struggles to start. Batteries can be particularly sensitive to low temperatures, as anyone who has not been able to start their car on a cold winter’s morning will know. You may also notice things like dashboard lights dimming or a clicking noise as you turn the ignition.
To keep a battery from going flat, try and avoid doing lots of very short journeys – this doesn’t give it a chance to recharge – and make sure you switch off functions that drain battery power, e.g. check you’ve switched off your lights if they aren’t automatic. If you go on holiday and can’t start the car for a while, it can help to have someone do it for you, and if you can put the car away in a garage during particularly cold weather, this can help preserve it, too.
While you may see something like obvious like corrosion when you look at the battery, the best way to find out its state of health is to get a battery check from a garage, which you can often get for free.
There’s not much you can do once you have a flat battery, so carrying an external charger or jump leads in the car to get help from another driver, are also crucial to not getting caught out.
Air conditioningLeaving behind freezing cold weather for the heights of summer, if you have air con in your car, it’s about the sweetest feeling there is to have cold air blowing in a heatwave. However, if you leave it off for the 50 weeks of the year we don’t have nice weather, you could find it doesn’t work when the sun reappears.
This is because your air con is a lubricated system and, without use, the rubber seal can dry out, shrink and leak. Running the air con regularly, even if just for a few minutes, will always be easier and cheaper than paying for a repair.
Is there anything else I should be thinking about?As well as making these basic checks that you will of course now be thinking about regularly, it’s also important not to ignore other warning lights or unusual noises – any suspect sounds from squeals and squeaks to grinding or banging should be checked out properly. Some of the most expensive car repairs can be prevented if major problems are spotted and acted on quickly.
The independent part of your driving test will be conducted at any point, 4 out of 5 tests will use the sat nav if not you will be following road signs, this will last for around 20 minutes. The examiner will pull you over in a safe place & explain that you will now follow the instructions from the sat nav or that you will need to follow the signs on a particular route. Remember you will still need to keep an eye on the road signs Incase there maybe road works ahead which the sat nav may not know about. Alway remember if you go the wrong way don’t panic it’s not a problem you just need to deal with the situation safely. You can take a look at the instructions on the sat nav but just try not to take your eyes from the road for too long! Remember your hands follow your eyes! You will notice that your speed is indicated on the sat nav, again don’t purely rely on this as there maybe a speed reduction for road works or maybe an accident is ahead so always keep reading your road signs & looking as far ahead as possible at all times. Once the independent part of your test has finished the examiner will let you know this & your test will carry in as normal. Just relax & good luck!
Okay so this is one of the most difficult manoeuvres of all and it is the one that tends to go wrong quite often so we want to make sure that we’ve got good control of the car and good observations before we start. Basically, the key is nice and steady and don’t panic!.
Examiners refer to this as a reverse parking manoeuvre so don’t get confused and don’t worry!. They will also tell you to parallel park.
The space you need to do this manoeuvre is about one and half times the size of your car the examiner will be picking a space that’s at least two car lengths.
If you can practice this in 1.5 car lengths you are easily going to do it in 2.
Sometimes we need reference points and they do work for some people, but they don’t work for everybody so have a chat with me and have a plan B.
The easiest method I have found over the many years of being a driving instructor is if you pull up along side the vehicle just slightly ahead of it. Then pop it into reverse, have a good look all around your vehicle before moving backwards. Reverse very slowly until the rear of your car roughly is roughly aligned with the end of the parked car at this point have a quick check over your right bling spot & do one while turn to the left. Keep reversing slowly until you reach a 45• angle at which point you need to turn the wheel a whole turn right (wheels are now facing straight). Reverse slowly backwards until in the left mirror you front door handle is just over the kerb (visually!!) at which point you then need to turn the wheel a whole turn right. Keep reversing slowly backwards until you vehicle is parallel to the kerb! & that’s it!! Now those reference points will vary car to car.
We do have modern day cars with camera’s for reversing. Don’t overuse them. A glance into the mirror and a glance into the camera is useful but don’t rely on them. You must make effective all round and good observations. There’s lots of blind spots on the vehicle to easily hide a young child or a cyclist so keep your eyes peeled!. Make sure you’re looking into the direction of travel and never be afraid to have a little stop and an extra check.
Coronavirus: driving tests
Driving tests are currently suspended for up to 3 months (from 20 March 2020) due to coronavirus. You can apply for an emergency test if you’re a critical worker.
Published 17 March 2020
Last updated 20 April 2020 — see all updates
Applies to: England, Scotland, and Wales (see guidance for Northern Ireland)
Stay up to dateThis page tells you about the suspension of driving tests because of coronavirus.
It will be updated if anything changes.
Sign up for email alerts if this page changes.
Driving tests have been suspended to help prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Check back for updates about when they’re available again, or sign up for email alerts.
There’s separate guidance about theory tests and coronavirus.
If your driving test was cancelledWhat happens next will depend on what type of test you had booked.
If you had:
Car driving testsYou’ll get an email to tell you when your car driving test has been rebooked.
It will tell you the new date and time of your test.
You will not get this email immediately - it should arrive around 2 weeks before your original test date.
It’s likely that your new test date will be around 3 months after your original date.
If you want to cancel your car driving testYou can cancel your test if you want to get a full refund now. Email the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to request this.
You need to include your full name and 2 of the following pieces of information:
DVSA customer services
Other types of driving testsIf you had booked any other types of test (for example, a motorcycle or lorry test), the test will be cancelled and you’ll get a full refund.
You’ll then need to book another test when the booking service is available again.
You cannot book a future driving test dateYou cannot currently book a new driving test.
When driving tests start again, people who had their test cancelled will be given priority. This means you’ll have to wait longer than usual.
Check back for the latest updates, or sign up for email alerts.
If your theory test certificate expires soonLegally, your theory test certificate cannot be extended in any circumstances.
You’ll need to book and pay to take another theory test.
You need to pass this before you can book your driving test.
Apply for an emergency driving test if you’re a critical workerYou can apply for an emergency test if your work is critical to the coronavirus response.
This includes if you work in:
You must be ready to take your test at short notice when you apply.
You must have lived in England, Wales or Scotland for at least 185 days in the last 12 months before the day you take your driving test.
You cannot use this service to apply for emergency compulsory basic training (CBT). CBT is a training course that’s provided by motorcycle training schools.
How to applyEmail DVSA to apply for an emergency driving test.
To need to include:
You must also attach an image of one of these:
Emergency driving tests
If your application is successful, DVSA will contact you to explain what happens next.
Do not resend your request if you’ve already sent an email. DVSA will contact you as soon as they can.
Theory tests cancelled until 8 May 2020Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, from Monday 20 April 2020, all theory tests have been cancelled until Friday 8 May 2020.
What DVSA is doing
We are emailing anyone with a test booked during this time to let them know their test has been cancelled and that they will be automatically refunded.
A theory testing service will still be available to those who have a critical need to take a test, such as NHS and front line workers.
Please do not call our customer service centre as they will not be able to help. Stay up to date on the latest information on GOV.UK.
We will be monitoring the situation and we will let you know if we need to cancel any more tests.