First Gear English edition, Techtalk (Chapter 09)


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Everything you need to know about your first car.

Welcome to the wonderful world of wheels!
We know that every single person dreams of owning a car. It’s understandable: a car epitomises independence. Success. Stature. Mobility. The freedom to go your own way. But we also know that the decision to purchase a car can be fraught with challenges. What car do you buy? What can you afford? What about the servicing requirements? What safety features should you look out for? What about safety out on the road? These and many other important questions plague your mind. First Gear aims to address all these topics and many other essential issues associated with car ownership. We have canvassed the opinions of the world’s leading authorities and this book aims to give you independent, authoritative and utterly essential advice. We want to take the mystery and malaise out of car ownership, and replace it with easy to follow advice and tips… so that your road to car ownership isn’t filled with potholes! We trust that it will provide you with a stress-free introduction to the world of wheels.

Enjoy your first car; you’ve worked hard for it!

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First Gear English edition, Techtalk (Chapter 09)

  1. 1. CHAPTER 9: Tech talk You don’t need to be a mechanic or a mechanical engineer in order to keep your hot hatch or snazzy sedan in tip-top running condition. But you do need to understand a couple of technical basics… The first is this: you simply must have invalidated. Which you don’t want. It’s your car serviced regularly – much like also a good idea to go to an authorised your scheduled dental appointment; it’s dealer because they have all the silly to allow your car to miss a service. necessary equipment to work on your car. Your car is a big investment and it makes Jill learnt this the hard way: she sense to treat it with tender loving care. spotted a bargain basement deal on a So check the owner’s manual, which will service – what a nightmare that turned specify servicing intervals – and then out to be. Yes, the service cost next to stick to them. Remember, it’s also much nothing – but she ended up having cheaper in the long run to maintain your endless hassles with her car because the car properly rather than to wait for it to workmanship was substandard. break, and then fix it. In days gone by, cars were very simple While your car is under warranty, you and no complex equipment was needed. must take it to an authorised dealer. That couldn’t be further from the truth Taking it elsewhere is just plain nuts, today. For example, your car’s engine is because then your warranty will be quite likely controlled by an Electronic70  First Gear First Gear  71
  2. 2. Also, when you do business with an take charge of some basic bits and pieces authorised dealer, you know that certain too: there are some rudimentary duties standards are maintained. Notes Joseph that you can perform to ensure that your Cueter, operations manager for Ford’s car operates efficiently. Customer Service Division, Asia Pacific and Africa: “Ford factory trained Engine technicians know your Ford vehicle best Popping open the bonnet or hood will and can advise you on how to protect often tell you… exactly nothing! That’s and care for your car with regularly because, with many modern cars, the scheduled maintenance.” engine is obscured by plastic covers But you cannot relinquish all which prevent you from tampering with responsibility to the dealer. You need to technical components. If you run an engine without oil, it can seize – which, in non-technical terms, means it literally curls up and dies!Control Unit (or ECU) and, if the engineis not running optimally, the dealer mayneed to hook up sophisticated diagnos-tics equipment and run specialisedsoftware in order to fix the problem. It makes sense to service via anauthorised dealer as this will boost thevalue of your car when the time comesto sell. It is common knowledge that theresale value of your car can be improvedif you have it serviced at an authoriseddealer and your service book is stamped.Remember to check that the dealer hasnot forgotten to stamp your book!72  First Gear  First Gear  73 
  3. 3. engine! If you run an engine without oil, Tyres it can seize – which, in non-technical Don’t forget those bits of black rubber! terms, means it literally curls up and The tyres on your car are safety critical dies! items. So it’s really important to keep Check the radiator coolant level in the them in peak condition. plastic reservoir – it should be between This means sticking to the correct tyre the high and low marks. You should pressures and, once again, this will be never ever check your coolant level stipulated in the owner’s manual and/or when the radiator is hot (this could lead on the inside of the door. Look for to nasty burns). This is one of the most uneven tyre wear and nails in the tread. ? common vehicle-related accidents; it Inspect the sidewall for cuts and happens around the world almost on a bubbles. daily basis, simply because car owners In the tyre tread you will find places are unaware of the associated dangers. where there is a small rubber bridge It is vitally important that you heed this – this is called a tyre tread indicator. advice. When this segment of rubber is the same depth as the tread you should 5 Association (NRMA) in Australia But recommends that you check the oil Some age-old snippets of advice are nothing there level while your car is parked on a level more than maintenance myths. Here are five are some surface. Start the engine, let it run for a things you short while, and then turn it off. While common fallacies: should check, your engine’s still warm, remove the and the two most important items are dipstick, and wipe it clean with a lint- • You should change your car’s oil every • The number listed on the sidewall of your oil and water levels. Your car’s engine free rag. The dipstick is normally pretty three months. This isn’t necessary. Synthetic tyre is the recommended tyre pressure. simply cannot survive without these easy to find. It’s that long, flexible rod oils don’t break down so rapidly. Check your False! In most cases, this is actually the maxi- two liquids. It’s also a good idea to normally near the front of the engine owner’s manual and be guided by its mum pressure allowed for that tyre. The rec- check the level of windscreen washer compartment – and it often has an recommendations ommended pressure is usually listed on the fluid as well as the brake and power orange hoop at the top. Be careful to • You need to let your vehicle engine warm inside door panel – check your owner’s manual steering fluid. Don’t know where to find reinsert the dipstick fully, otherwise up in cold weather. Not true. The engine to be sure these? All is revealed in your owner’s you’ll get a false reading. warms up while you drive. Running your car any • Buy fuel in the morning and you’ll save manual. If you read the manual and Remove the dipstick again and check longer beforehand is just a waste of fuel money. When someone tells you to fill up in you’re still clueless as to their location, the oil level. If it’s reading low, top up the morning when fuel is coolest and most • Premium fuel is a treat for your car. Wrong! stick your pride in your pocket and pop your oil using the correct grade as Unless your vehicle is specifically tailored to dense (because fuel is sold by volume), just tell over to the dealer, who will explain all. recommended by the vehicle take advantage of the higher octane level in them they’re talking nonsense. The belief was But firstly the all-important oil. The manufacturer. Very important: if no oil the fuel, you’re wasting your money. Use what you would get more fuel for your buck. But fuel National Roads and Motorists’ shows on the dipstick, do NOT run your is recommended in your owner’s manual is housed in underground, non-metallic tanks and they aren’t that sensitive to sunlight74  First Gear First Gear  75
  4. 4. replace the tyre. Legal requirements Lights pedal spongy (this means the brake differ from country to country but, Check that all your lights work properly. pedal is not solid when depressed, but according to the Automobile Association Get a friend to stand outside your car bounces softly)? Does the car tend to (AA) in the U.K., most countries require a and help you check your park lights, high pull to one side under braking? Can you minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm. It and low beams, indicators, brake lights hear an unusual grinding sound? recommends a minimum of 2 mm for and fog lights. Unless you have some If the answer to any of these questions road safety reasons. It is extremely mechanical ability, do not attempt to is yes, go to the dealer or an approved important to have enough tread on your replace faulty globes or bulbs (it’s a brake fitment centre. And ask them to tyres: without enough tread, tyres cannot tricky job; you could end up damaging sort it out now! do their jobs. the expensive plastic clips that form part Remember to always check the infla- of the lights, for instance). Shock absorbers tion of your spare tyre. We recommend These nifty devices (which you cannot that you keep an emergency tyre sealant Windscreen and wiper blades see unless you look under the wheel – it’s often referred to as a “tyre bomb” If your windscreen is chipped – do not arch) are part of the suspension. They canister – in your boot. This handy tyre leave it. It’s very important that you have work in conjunction with the wheel sealant inflator re-inflates a flat tyre in a maximum visibility on the road. spring. They are responsible for the road minute or two. It cannot be used for a Clean the wiper blades with a rag holding and handling characteristics of sidewall puncture (this is a puncture in dipped in household detergent regularly. your car so they’re also pretty important the side of the tyre). It’s not vitally important to use fancy to your car’s (and your!) wellbeing. If your tyres show uneven wear pat- windshield washer fluid – a few drops of You cannot replace or repair the terns, get the wheel alignment checked. dishwasher detergent mixed with water shocks yourself; this must be done by will do the job perfectly. If, in wet the dealer. But you can certainly check if weather, your wiper blades leave lines they’re functioning optimally. The best and do not clean the windscreen way of doing this is by getting a strong properly, this means it’s time to change person to push down independently on them. These are readily available from each corner of the car and then suddenly your local spares shop. They will most release the downward pressure. The car probably even help you fit them – it’s a should lift to its normal ride height five-minute job. So you don’t need to go position at a uniform rate – if it bobs up to the dealer and pay for this service. and down a few times, chances are good that your shocks are faulty. Brakes The brakes are seriously important components! That’s because they can keep you from becoming another road statistic! So, if you suspect you may have a problem with your brakes, attend to this immediately. There are many things that impact on good braking, and firstly you need to understand what is wrong. Is the brake76  First Gear  First Gear  77