The essential DIY car maintenance check

Car Maintenance Tips

Regular maintenance checks are a great way to keep your car in sound working order and can stop minor wear and tear turning into a much bigger and more costly repair.

You don’t have to be a trained mechanic to carry out some basic maintenance. We have outlined some simple steps you can follow below, and if you notice any warning signs consult our AA Garage Guide to find a local garage to book your car in at.


Start on the outside and check the bodywork for scratches, dents and large stone chips. Go to the rear of the vehicle and bend down so your eyes are level with the doors. This is the easiest way to check for flaws and dents. If you find any dents and scratches and you would like to get them repaired, one of our trusted garages will be able to give you a quote.


Small stone chips can develop into large cracks and if caught early can be repaired by a windscreen specialist. Leave them too long and you may end up needing to get your whole windscreen replaced.

Under the bonnet

Before lifting the bonnet make sure the car is parked on a flat level surface, the handbrake is on and the engine is cool. If you have just driven the vehicle it is advisable to wait at least an hour before checking. There are three main items to check under the bonnet, the engine oil, the coolant and the windscreen washers. Please consult your manufacturer’s handbook so if these do need topping up you know the correct fluids to use. Once the engine is cool, release the bonnet and secure it open with the hood support rod.

Engine Oil

Find the dipstick, which is usually a bright coloured circular piece of plastic in the centre of the engine. Lift it up and with a tissue or cloth wipe the oil off of the bottom. You should notice a minimum and a maximum level indicator. Dip it back in, all the way, and carefully remove again. If the oil is below half full then it should probably be topped up. Replace the dipstick and remove the oil filler cap – this is where the oil will be poured. You can then check if you have topped up enough by repeating the steps above.


Remove the cap from the coolant filler; you should see a minimum and a maximum level indicator. Top it up if necessary and make sure you replace the lid securely.

Windscreen washers

Remove the cap from the windscreen washer filler, you’ll notice a minimum and a maximum level indicator. If it needs topping up you can do so with washer fluid, or if you have ran out you can use plain tap water.


To make them easier to check, turn the steering so the wheel faces out from the arch. Check you have a good tread of at least 1.6mm depth across the centre three quarters of the thread. You can also run your hands around the front and back of the tyre to check for cuts, tears and kerb damage. If you do have any cuts or tears, make sure these are seen to as soon as possible as they could cause an accident.
The last thing you can do is check the tyre pressure. If you are unsure what it should be you can consult your manufacturer’s handbook or a local garage.


It is important to check all your lights are working, and you might need someone else to help you on this. Consult this checklist below to ensure you don’t miss any out:
• Rear lights
• Brake lights
• Left indicator (back, front and side)
• Right indicator (back, front and side)
• Hazards (back, front and side)
• Reverse lights
• Fog lights (back and front)
• Headlamps
• Registration lights (back and front)
• Side lights (back and front)
• Dip lights
• Main Beam

For anything more specialist, you can use the new AA Garage Guide to search for a local garage and request a quote for any work that needs professional attention.