According to our Roadside Assistance Patrols, many breakdowns and car problems could be avoided by doing a few simple car maintenance checks.

By checking things like coolant levels, oil, battery, windscreen washers and lights on a regular basis, you can help ensure your car stays in good condition - and also help avoid expensive repair bills.

Here are five simple car checks to ensure your car is in tip-top shape.

1. Check and top up your coolant 

You'll be able to check your coolant level in the expansion bottle that is usually located close to the radiator. If you have trouble locating it, check your owner's manual. Your car's coolant level will fluctuate with engine temperature, so it is best to check when the engine is cold.

If the coolant level is low, top it up to the marked point. 

2. Check and top up your oil

When checking your oil, make sure your car is on a level surface, and that the engine is cold. 

First, remove the dipstick and wipe it with a clean cloth. Note the marks for high/low level.

Then, put the dipstick back in and remove it again, this time noting the oil level. If the oil level is not close to the higher mark, top up with a small funnel. Be careful not to overfill. 

Image of dipstick covered in car oil

3. Clean your battery's terminals and top up electrolyte levels

In car batteries, it's important to keep electrolyte levels topped up and terminals clean.

Some car batteries are sealed for life and require no topping up - but nevertheless, battery terminals should be free of corrosion, and the battery case should be kept clean and dry. 

If your battery is the non-sealed type, however, you can check the level by removing the caps and ensuring the electrolyte covers the plates. Always top up with distilled water as tap water can contaminate the electrolyte and shorten the life of the battery.

When disconnecting the battery to clean the terminals, always disconnect the negative terminal first and reconnect it last.

RELATED: Car battery maintenance tips »

4. Check and top up your windscreen washer reservoir

It's important to check your windscreen washer reservoir weekly, and top up with clean water. Adding a windscreen solvent will help prevent road grime build-up, but never use household washing-up liquid or detergents in the reservoir, as they can damage the wiper rubbers.

You can adjust and clean your washer jets with a small needle, but be careful not to damage the nozzles.

Make sure you also regularly clean your windscreen with a glass cleaner. 

5. Check your front and rear vehicle lights

If your lights are not working, your car is not roadworthy and you could be subject to a fine.

You can check the front lights of your vehicle yourself, but you may need some help checking the rear lights.

Replacement light globes can be purchased from most service stations. Check your handbook for information on the correct type and installation procedure.

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Last updated: April 2020