Your complete guide to daily car maintenance

This image shows a car undergoing car maintenance.

Many car owners aptly refer to their car as their other half. This is because daily maintenance for cars is like building a relationship - care and patience are a must. If you aren’t paying attention to your partner’s needs, you might face a tragic malfunction in the middle of the road. Today at Kwiksure, we’ll take a look at caring for your beloved car. Here, we’ll list out the basics of car maintenance so you’ll see at a glance how to minimize wear and keep your vehicle in the best condition. 

“Five Oils and Three Waters”

“Five Oils and Three Waters” refer to five types of oils, and three types of water involved in basic vehicle upkeep. All drivers should regularly check the Five Oils and Three Waters to ensure that the car functions smoothly. Thinking of buying a secondhand vehicle? Here are our 5 tips for inspecting secondhand cars before you bring one home. 

Five Oils

The five oils include motor gasoline, power steering fluid, engine oil, gearbox oil, brake fluid.

1. Motor gasoline

From the fuel gauge on the dashboard, you can check the remaining fuel in your car. Get into the habit of topping up your gas tank when the needle points to the last unit before it hits ‘E’ (Empty). Don’t head to a gas station only when the needle indicates that your tank is completely drained. Here are our top 10 tips to save fuel and improve fuel efficiency.

Nowadays, most vehicles use an electric fuel pump and electric fuel level sensor. Waiting until the gas runs out before you refill leaves your car parts unable to dissipate heat through immersion. Meanwhile, it’ll also affect the oxygen sensor of the exhaust system, not to mention, shutting down the engine without any gas will damage the oil pump. 

2. Power steering fluid

Every 3 years or 50,000 km driven, we recommend changing the power steering fluid. After starting the engine, check the dipstick under the cap for the current fluid level. It should be somewhere between the maximum and minimum limit. However, if it isn’t, depending on whether your car is above or below the limits, you can replenish or change the steering fluid. 

We recommend using a specialized power steering fluid for vehicles. Also, try not to keep your steering wheel fully steered to the right or left to avoid putting too much pressure on the circuit.

3. Engine oil

Every 5,000 to 10,000 km reached, we usually recommend changing your engine oil. First, find a flat road. Fire up the engine and wait for 5 minutes or until the cooling fan turns on and the engine has cooled off. Then, turn off your engine and wait for 1 to 2 minutes. Afterwards, clean the engine oil dipstick and stick it back into its tube before pulling it out. Verify whether it reads somewhere between the maximum and minimum markings on the dipstick - an indication that your engine oil is at a normal level. 

Keep an eye out for impurities or a gasoline smell in the oil. This means that certain parts of the car are worn or the engine is out of order. In this case, you should get it checked out and repaired as soon as possible. Is the engine oil in your vehicle often running out? Oil leakage might be the problem, which should also be solved as soon as possible.

4. Gearbox oil

Every 20,000 km, we recommend changing the gearbox oil. Usually, after changing the engine oil, you can check the gearbox oil level on the way. Next to the engine, there’s an oil dipstick. Similar to checking for engine oil, you insert it to see if the gearbox oil level is within the upper and lowermost limits. 

Both too much or too little will damage the gearbox. Leakage may result from too little gearbox oil. Normally, gearbox oil is red in color, whereas the engine oil is a brownish yellow. Examine the colors of these leakages under your car, and you’ll be able to find the source. Too much engine oil will create a huge running resistance on the machine parts. This causes the gearbox oil to foam and deteriorate, which results in the abnormal wear of the parts.

5. Brake fluid

Every 2 years or around 40,000 km driven, we suggest changing the brake fluid. Open the hood, and check on the brake oil container’s marked scale to ensure its level is between the upper and lower markings.

Is the fluid level below the lower limit or is your warning light on? You need to top up in this case. Keep in mind that you can’t mix different brake fluids. Plus, changing the brake fluid requires venting the brake system. So, the best way to do this would be to head to a car maintenance center. If you see bubbles in the brake oil or the oil becomes dirty, it means that the oil has deteriorated and you need to replace it as soon as possible.

Three Waters

The three waters include coolant, electrolyte, and windshield washer fluid.

1. Coolant

Every 2 years or 40,000 km, we recommend changing out the coolant. Remember: you must examine the coolant when it’s cool and when the car isn’t running. The radiators of European cars often come with a marked scale. On the other hand, this is less common in Japanese cars. When you add coolant, it’s best to use coolant specifically made for this purpose along with clean water. If the coolant turns gray in color or oily, the engine may be rusty or something is wrong with it.

2. Electrolyte

We recommend changing this once every 1 to 2 years. You will mainly be examining your wet cell battery’s electrolyte levels. Its battery shell will have a marked scale so pour in electrolytes until the fluid reaches the right level.

3. Windshield washer fluid

Different car factories and brands have slightly different washer fluid checkups and top-up locations. We recommend referring to your car manual when you’re doing your checkup, which should be at least once per year. Although it won’t cause a car malfunction, it can lead to a ‘fail’ on your vehicle inspection. An unclean or dirty windshield might affect the safety of everyone. Fortunately, changing washer fluids is a simple process. Once you open the cap, pour in a mixture of water and glass cleaner until full.

Other checkup and maintenance items

Check the brake system

Every 2 years or 40,000 km driven, we suggest checking the brake system. It’s not recommended to do it yourself. Instead, you should let the vehicle maintenance workers check on this system, which also includes the brake pads and brake oil. 

Replace the air filter

You should replace your air filter with a new one every 20,000 km. The lack of an air filter seriously damages your cylinder, piston, and piston rings. Use a car cleaning air blow gun to clean the air filter if it’s dirty. Since it’s made of paper, water won’t work. Gently blow air from the inside to the outside of your filter so that the air gun’s strength is between 0.2 to 0.29 MPa. 

Swap front and rear tires 

We recommend swapping your front tires with your rear tires every 5,000 km. The level of wear for your tires varies depending on the car model, and where you’ve installed your wheels. This is why the wear condition differs between your front and rear tires. 

Swap the positions of your front and back tires to make the wear more even and your tires last longer. First-time car owners should find professionals to help with the swap.

Protect your vehicle with car insurance

Besides car insurance (third-party and comprehensive), Kwiksure also provides motorcycle insurance, home insurance, voluntary health insurance scheme (VHIS), and many more. Interested in more practical knowledge on driving in Hong Kong? Check out our articles The benefits of keeping up your car maintenance in Hong Kong and Vehicle examination in Hong Kong. Contact our team of expert insurance advisors today to get a free quote!