Welcome to our new Q&A series How to Car – From those ‘In the Know’, I am Hannah Gordon and I am here to answer your questions on all things ‘Car Care’
– Want to speak fluent garage talk?
– Know exactly what that dash icon means?
– Or just some help on some basic car maintenance?
Q: I need a new spare wheel and wing mirror. Where is the best (and cheapest) place to source these?
A: There are a few options you can try when sourcing these parts, if you don’t mind used parts then eBay or a scrap yard are the first places I would try. There are plenty of online used car parts stores where car breakers will sell the parts you require and then send it to you.
If you are looking for new parts then you may have to go to the manufacturers themselves, I have found in the past that a lot of car part companies don’t sell wing mirrors and I’ve had to go straight to the manufacturers parts department instead.
When you are searching for the wing mirror make sure you have checked that you are ordering a like-for-like part, most mirror assemblies are now electric, heated and the casing is painted to the car colour, too, so you want to make sure they are the same.
The cheapest place will always be the second-hand market via an online search, but also check the prices against genuine manufacturer parts. I have seen on some occasions that parts available online are actually more expensive than a new part straight from the manufacturer.
Is the spare wheel you are looking to source to replace one that you’ve had or as a back-up for the tyre puncture foam? Before you look at getting a spare wheel check that you have space for one, plenty of manufacturers don’t allow space for a spare wheel to keep weight down.
Q: How often should we be doing basic car maintenance? Such as checking oil, screen wash, tyre tread etc
A: Most modern cars will tell you when the fluid levels are getting low, but it is also best practice to check before this warning occurs. I always advise people to check the oil, coolant, screen wash, power steering fluid (if it has hydraulic steering) and brake fluid once a month. Most cars will have a minimum and maximum level on the reservoir. Also make sure that you check you are using the correct fluid for the vehicle, it may say what to use in the vehicle’s handbook, but if not consult your local car workshop.
If you have a diesel with a DPF filter then you may also need to check the Ad-Blue level, this is a fluid that helps clean the exhaust system and reduce emissions. It should give you a warning on the dash when it’s running low but if it does run out it may stop your vehicle from starting.
Tyres should also be checked regularly for the correct pressure and tread depth – the legal limit for tread depth is at least 1.6mm. When checking your tyres make sure there isn’t any uneven wear and that the tyre walls don’t have any cuts or bulges in them. Tyre pressures can usually be found on a sticker on one of the door shuts or inside the petrol cap.
Q: This summer me and my family are embarking on a staycation. It will be my first time towing and I was wondering if it would be wise to have my car looked at before I tow a trailer/caravan?
A: I would definitely check that the vehicle you intend on using is suitable for towing, the first thing to look at is that the towing capacity of your vehicle is enough to pull the caravan/trailer you want to take.
As a precaution you should get your local garage to inspect your vehicle as towing puts a huge strain on the vehicle, especially the engine and gearbox so make sure the vehicle has been serviced at the correct intervals. If you have a manual gearbox then the clutch needs to be in good condition, a high clutch or ‘clutch slip’ can indicate excessive wear and could result in complete failure when towing.
When getting the vehicle looked at make sure they inspect the condition of the tow bar and the chassis it is attached to. This check should include the bolts that hold it all together, the chassis and tow bar. These can collect water, dirt and salt which leads to rust and reducing the structural integrity of the metal.
The tyres need to be in good condition too, as grip is very important due to the added weight – just imagine the extra load a caravan/trailer puts onto a vehicle when going down a hill. A vehicle’s suspension helps it stay stable so you must also get this checked alongside wheel bearings and drive shafts.
Once you have attached the trailer/caravan you will need to check that all the lights are functioning as they should, and that the registration plate of the vehicle matches the trailer/caravan as well. Safety precautions such as a breakaway cable must be fitted and depending on what you are towing then mirror extensions may be required.
Enjoy your staycation!
A mechanic and workshop owner with over 15 years of experience working on vehicles. In the past, I’ve specialised in air-cooled Porsches and classic car restoration. Just gained my level 3 in hybrid and electric repairs whilst also appearing on Channel 4’s Mend it for Money restoring old cars. Regularly documents what it’s like to own a 150k mile Porsche 911 on YouTube. Owns too many cars and should probably get rid of some!
May 4, 2021