5 Car Maintenance Tasks Every Singaporean Driver Should Know
Adulting is a lot sometimes. You know what we mean––in between work, chores, taxes, bills, groceries, and a million little appointments and errands, it’s all too easy to put off the things you need to do to next week. And next week. Then the week after. Before you know it, two years have passed and you still haven’t been to the dentist.
(This isn’t based on a true story, we swear...)
If you’re a car owner, maintenance shouldn’t be something you put off, but a regular part of your schedule. Why? For one, regularly keeping your car in good condition will prevent wear and tear, which means extending your car’s lifespan and reducing the chances of nasty breakdowns or accidents. This is especially true in Singapore’s tropical climate, where our cars are far more susceptible to sun and heat damage, not to mention salt and humidity (especially if you hang around the coast).
When it comes to repairs and maintenance, not everything has to be done by the professionals. There are a few easy tasks you can do to take care of your car, most of which will only take a few minutes. Not only will you save some $$ and a trip to the mechanic, you’ll have learned a few new skills that’ll impress your friends and future partner. Trust us: being able to change a tyre is super sexy!
So what can you do to keep your car feeling good? Here are a few things you can do at home.
The obvious soundtrack for washing your car
Keep your car clean
The simplest form of TLC you can lavish on your car is… washing and waxing it regularly. No, it’s not about blinding pedestrians with the gleaming paintwork as you cruise through town––washing your car will help prolong its life!
Over time, dust and dirt (also dead bugs, bird poop, acid rain, smog, and everything else) accumulates on the surface of your car, and left long enough, that layer of grime will begin eating its way through the coating. Leave it long enough and the paint will begin oxidizing, turning into rust. Plus, the salt-flecked winds near the coast are likely to wear away the paint faster and make your car rust faster. If you don’t deal with the rust and it gets into the metal, you may as well say goodbye to your car––a rusty car is dangerous to drive, and almost certainly non-compliant with LTA standards. You’ll also never be able to re-sell it for a good price.
There’s the option of the drive-through car wash, but they can be pretty abrasive and hard on your car’s paintwork. The best way really is to wash it by hand every 2–4 weeks with a nice sponge, and finish off with a spray-on wax to prevent grime from sticking too much. Top it up with a professional wax job once or twice a year to keep your car looking good. Ideally, you could also keep your car parked in the shade to minimize sun damage!
Even if you don’t have the time to wash your car all too regularly, you should at the very least take some time each week to clean your windshield. It’ll be like going from 360p to 1080p in under 5 minutes.
Watch your windshield wipers
As drivers, we pay most attention to our brakes and tyres, but in fact, the windshield wiper blades are the bits that tend to wear out the fastest. That’s not so surprising when you think about it. The wiper blades are the underappreciated workhorse of our cars. They work furiously in our tropical rainstorms, and then bake all day against the windscreen under the hot Singaporean sun.
Over time, the rubber on the wiper blades will degrade and wear out, even drying out and cracking in prolonged heat and UV radiation, so they work a little less efficiently. They might streak and squeak, and if they’re not replaced in time, you’ll have poor visibility when it’s raining. Your windscreen might even be damaged if the blades wear out too much!
Luckily, it’s super easy to replace the wiper blades yourself. The video above is an excellent primer on how you can change them––it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, and you’ll feel much more confident about taking care of your car after this.
If you can, try parking in the shade to reduce wear and tear on your wipers.
Check and adjust your tyre pressure
Why is tyre pressure important? Well, low tyre pressure will impact your car’s performance––such as braking and fuel economy––and it can also lead to a tyre blowout, where the air in your tyres is suddenly released all at once. Yeah, it’s dangerous, your car might break down, and it is much more likely to happen in hot weather. On the bright side, keeping the tyre pressure in your car just right will help your car use fuel efficiently (saving you money), put less stress on your car’s framework, and help your car last longer (also saving you money).
Checking your tyre pressure sounds tricky, but it’s easily accomplished. Some cars have a built-in tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS), which is a fancy way of telling you whether the tyre pressure is too low. For the rest of us, a tyre pressure gauge is an inexpensive little tool to have lying around––a cheap, low-tech one will cost less than $10––and a tyre inflator is worth investing in. Your tyres’ recommended PSI (pressure per square inch) will vary by car make. Check your manual or the little sticker inside the driver door panel.
If you’re feeling confident, you could even invest in a jack, jack stands, and a torque wrench in order to rotate your tyres and keep ‘em even. It’s another little maintenance task that’ll help your tyres (and car) last longer––at best, a good, properly-maintained set of tyres should last you around 80,000km before the treads become too thin to safely use.
Quite possibly the most entertaining guide to changing your car tyre
Check the tyre tread
Tyres are the only parts of your car that touch the road surface, and it’s vital that drivers keep them in good condition. They need adequate traction (a.k.a. a nice, firm grip) for when you brake, and no one wants to find themselves slipping and sliding into a tree when it’s raining.
Your tyres will wear out over time, so you’ll need to check their tyre tread depth around once a month. The tread refers to the rubber on the tyre’s circumference that makes contact with the road; the little grooves and ridges are part of the tread pattern. The thinner the tread gets, the less effective the tyre is at “gripping” the road surface. It’s like how you need to resole your shoes after a while, since all that walking wears away the bottom. Deeper ridges also help to channel water away from the rubber; when it wears down, a wet road becomes that much more hazardous.
A good tyre tread depth tool will set you back just a few dollars, and checking all your tyres will take a few minutes at most. You just need to poke the probe bar into a groove, then push the shoulders of the tool flat against the tread block, and take the measurements. New tyres have tread of around 7–9mm, and the LTA’s stipulated legal limit in Singapore is 1.6mm. But, you should already be replacing them at 3mm. (Prevention is better than cure, remember?)
Tread depth alone isn’t the only indicator that you’ll need to change your tyres. Your tyre performance might already have diminished way before 1.6mm––the tread might be unevenly worn or damaged, or you might even have a flat tyre. If you’re unsure, consult your trusted mechanic.
Change your engine oil
Along with other fluids like coolant and transmission fluid, engine oil is quite literally the lifeblood of your car, and an oil change is a basic and essential part of keeping your car healthy. Engine oil lubricates and protects other components, but it also captures contaminants so they can be trapped in the oil filter without gunking up your engine. The danger for us in Singapore is that our engines might be more susceptible to heat, especially if our cars are parked outside for awhile––this causes serious damage to the motor oil and quite literally ‘bakes’ it into a sludge..
In our tropical climate, synthetic motor oil is ideal, as it’s designed to withstand high heat over longer periods of time. Yes, it’s a little more expensive, but it’s also less likely to burn up and clog up your engine. Save yourself that expensive repair bill by using synthetic.
It’s entirely possible to change the engine oil by yourself in your driveway––check out the fantastic video above––but equally, if you’re pressed for time, this is a task your trusted mechanic is likely to carry out faster and more efficiently than you will. Like, an hour tops. In short, don’t skip your regular service appointment!
Looking for a reliable car workshop? We can recommend someone. Head on over to ST Auto for a chat and test drive with our friendly sales staff! Call +65 6464 9098 or email us at email@example.com