It’s a nightmare scenario. It’s summer in the UAE, it’s hot and your tyre is flat, or even blown out, or else the engine just won’t start.
But there are things you can do to reduce the chances of a breakdown this summer. Here are some of our top tips for car maintenance.
Buy an official service contract
New cars sold in the UAE come with pretty lengthy and comprehensive warranties. All good things come to an end, however, and then it’s time to make a choice: buy an extended warranty, also known as a service contract, or pay for servicing and repairs as you go. A service contract might look pricey, but it will give you several more years and many thousands of kilometres of peace of mind. Understand what’s covered by the contract and push back gently if the repair shop ever refuses to cover certain things. One big benefit of the service contract is that someone from the dealer will call you every six months to remind you that it’s time for a service. Left to your own devices, you’ll never get round to booking that service.
Check your tyre treads
Check your tyres’ treads regularly. If they’re flat, it’s time for a change. Don’t think you can wing this one. Bald tyres are more likely to blow out and/or lose their grip on our hot roads. A car with bald tyres will also fail its Tasjeel check when it’s time for annual registration. Official agents will charge a lot for new tyres, so check prices at independent repair shops. Stick with a reputable tyre brand, though.
Don’t ignore dodgy AC
You don’t want your AC to pack up in the middle of summer. If it’s starting to smell or feels like it’s slowing down a bit, it needs some attention. Usually, you only need to change the gas. Be sceptical if the mechanic tells you more extensive mechanical work is needed. Again, check around as prices will vary.
Change oil (but only when you should)
There seems to be a common belief that oil should be changed every 5,000 clicks. Only your car manual can really tell you how often. It’s also worth teaching yourself to spot the difference between clean and dirty oil (the latter a sign that there might be a problem with your engine). If a repair shop insists that you need to ‘flush’ your engine, make the mechanic explain why: it can be detrimental on an older car because it exposes worn-out seals and it might not be necessary on a newer car that’s been well maintained.
Maintain tyre pressure
Most of us are guilty of ignoring tyre pressure, but don’t. A car with low tyre pressure will use more fuel, treads will wear out more quickly and your car will just feel more sluggish and unresponsive. You can usually put air in your tyres for free at any petrol station. Do consult your owner’s manual or check online to find out what your car’s exact tyre pressure should be.
Understand your gauges
Do any us know what all those lights on the dashboard mean? Do we even take any notice of them if we do? One of them might be telling you something really important, so dip into your car manual and find out what they mean. If some or all of them are not working, get them fixed!
Keep an eye on the battery
Car batteries are often sold as ‘maintenance free’, but you should keep an eye on them nevertheless. Look for signs of leakage and if there’s build up on the contact points, clean them with a battery brush, which you can probably get from a hardware store. Keep jump leads or a battery starter in the car for emergencies. When you replace the battery, choose a reputable brand and make sure the replacement is the correct unit type. You might get sold one that still works, but isn’t quite the recommended spec and ends up failing more quickly.
Make sure the lights are working
You will get fined in Dubai if police see that a light isn’t working on your car. Often, this comes as a complete surprise when you receive a text about the fine or go to renew the registration. So, check lights regularly and fix them as a priority if any are bust. If you choose to fix them yourself, try not to touch the glass part of the new bulb as this could damage it. Also, make sure you buy the right bulb for your model of car.
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Check the coolant level
Coolant goes in your radiator and your radiator works to keep your car engine cool. So make sure you keep the coolant topped up. The coolant container should be made of clear plastic, with markings on it to indicate if the liquid inside is at the correct level.
Monitor fuel consumption
Most of us don’t really monitor fuel consumption as petrol is relatively cheap in the UAE. It’s worth keeping an eye on it though as an accelerated level of consumption could be a sign of something wrong with the car, like failing spark plugs. Your car will also have to work a lot harder and use more fuel if tyre pressure is too low.