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Date added: 02 August 2011

Top 5 tips for Trouble-Free Motoring 

We go under the bonnet at Pebley Beach in West Swindon
Top tips at Pebley Beach, Swindon
Motoring know-how:
Top tips with Pebley Beach
Kirsty Herber-Smith talks to Dominic Threlfall about avoiding that dreaded sound - the pop of the bonnet release after your car has broken down.
Doubly worse of course, if youíre about to head off on your holidays!
Thatís why weíve teamed up with Pebley Beach here in Swindon to go through the five fundamentals for trouble free motoring.
1. Water
Needless to say, crucial for cooling the engine, especially during the summer.
1. Radiator
First things first - NEVER take the radiator cap off when the engine is hot! Steam and burns come to mind. Not a good combination.
Find the expansion bottle and look for the low and a full setting level indicator. You always want to have it either in-between or on the full. Never overfill it.
Pebley Beach Swindon motoring tips
Radiator cap and expansion tank
If itís getting down to the low setting, it can be topped up with water, but the car does need anti-freeze and summer coolant to work efficiently.
If in doubt, ask an expert and they'll advise without charge.
2. Screenwash
This is probably the most common thing youíre going to have to do.
Screens can get obscured by insects crashing against them so make sure there's plenty of water ready to keep a clear view.
It's also a legal requirement
Top tip: use proper screenwash - not fairy liquid!
2. Oil
The simple thing to remember is NO OIL = NO ENGINE = EXPENSIVE REPAIR.
And it's not a good idea to wait until the oil light comes on on the dashboard as your first warning, either. Damage may well have been done before that if the oil level has been allowed to drop too far.
1. Oil Grade
Before you think of topping it up, the most imperative thing you have to check is the grade of oil youíre putting in.
Checking the oil grade at Pebley Beach garage in Swindon
check the oil grade before you fill up
Oil isnít what it was ten years ago when you just got 10W40 off the garage shelf. They are all different specifications and if the wrong oil is put in the car the engine may cease - and, crucially, may invalidate any warranty you have.
Ask at a garage or in the manual for the correct grade.
Check the dipstick
To check the level of the oil, first find the dipstick - ideally when the engine is cold.
It should be quite obvious, with a yellow handle. If in doubt check the manual.
Remove it and give it a wipe with a cloth.
Then re-insert it.
The oil in the sump will then leave a level mark on the dipstick which, when removed, will show whether it's between the minimum and maximum mark.
Checking the oil dipstick at Pebley Beach garage, Swindon
checking the dipstick
Obviously, if it's beneath the minimum mark, you'll need to add some oil. But be careful. Add some slowly. And not too much at a time.
You'll find the oil filler cap near the dipstick and it should be clearly marked.
After making sure you have the correct grade and pouring in the oil, you can check the dipstick mark again after a couple of minutes. Anywhere between the min. and max. is perfect.
Check for water in the oil 
Oil and water don't mix! So a top tip here is to look around the outside edge of the oil filler cap to see if any water from the engine is getting in the oil, especially with older cars.
A 'mayonnaise' type substance around the rim is a dead giveaway for this. 
Checking the oil for water contamination at Pebley Beach garage in Swindon
checking the oil filler cap for signs of water
If so, get some professional advice from a garage. A repair to the head gasket will be required. Not something the AA can fix by the roadside!
3. Brake Fluids
Another obvious one but largely overlooked.
On the dashboard of every car, there is an indicator light to warn you about brake fluid levels. But brake fluid is never normally checked by motorists and itís one of the big bad areas.
Brake fluid gets hot when you apply the brakes and if there isn't enough it can boil - and that's very dangerous.
Again, most garages like Pebley Beach will be able to do a FREE check. And we'd highly recommend it.
4. Lights
All the lights must be working. It's a legal requirement.
First job is to  CLEAN THEM.
And if you're going abroad this summer, then be aware of the need to obey the rules of the road in the EU.
Checking the lights at Pebley Beach garage, Swindon
lights need to be altered if going abroad
Driving on the other side of the road mean the main-beam needs to be deflected in a different direction. Properly applied tape can do this and kits are available from all good motoring outlets.
5. Tyres
We finish with the most important one - tyres!
Tyre Pressure
For safety and saving money, check your tyre pressure all round.
You can get upto 10% more fuel efficiency if the tyre pressures are correct, so if it's a long journey make sure you take the time to correct them if needs be.
Checking tyre pressure at Pebley Beach, Swindon
check tyre pressures
You'll probably find the tyre pressure on a plate near the drivers' door and definitely in the manual. If in doubt ask.
Legal tread limits
Your tyres are also the only contact the car has with the road, so braking and grip depend on them.
Bald tyres
check tyre tread
You'll also get points on your license for running 'bald' tyres, so never take the risk.
See the video above for a quick test.
And the last thing....
After checking the oil and water, don't ruin things by denting the bonnet when you come to close it.
Just hold it about ten inches above and drop it down.
Never push down hard on it with your fists.
Many thanks to Dominic Threlfall and his team at Pebley Beach in West Swindon for their help with making this video.
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