Things all women (and men!) should know about their car!

cold-snow-winter-frozen-1When it comes to car care, I’ve always had the importance of knowing the basics drilled into me by my Dad. Every time I’ve ever had to do fix or replace anything on my car that can be done without the need of the garage, it was never done for me, but rather overseen so that I could do it myself and learn for next time (that’s the idea anyway, I still get flustered when requiring jump leads!) Being with Adam now is no different and I’d like to think that I could now deal with most of the common car issues. Being a girl in no way means you should ignore it and plead to the ignorance assumed by your gender! As we head into winter (*sob*), knowing some of the simplest things about your car can both save you money and time waiting for breakdown recovery at the side of the road in the pouring rain.

This list is by no way exhaustive, but they’re all things I’ve had to learn to do (probably not helped by the fact I’ve always had wonderfully old cars that aren’t always particularly reliable and require continuous tinkering). However, even if you have a brand spanking new car (you lucky thing), things can still go wrong, so being prepared is well worth it:


Knowing where all the relevant fluids are, and crucially how to check and fill them is so important. If you run out of any of them, it’s not only illegal; it could also ruin your car. Most are really obviously labelled under your bonnet, so get used to where to check them, and how to top them up. The main fluids to look out for are:

  • The obvious – fuel! Might seem silly to mention, but running out of fuel doesn’t just leave you stranded and walking to the closest petrol station, it can also dredge up all the crud at the bottom of your tank and block the fuel injectors. Bummer!
  • Brake fluid– something that one of my friends didn’t even know existed but really should be an obvious one. No brake fluid = no stopping = big big NO!
  • Engine coolant– in the summer you can top this up with water, but as soon as it gets below zero that water will freeze, so make sure you’re topped up with proper coolant during the colder months.
  • Windscreen wash– In winter especially, the weather gets wetter and roads end up pretty muddy. Not being able to see out your windscreen is definitely an issue – make sure it’s topped up regularly!
  • Oil– One of the most underestimated fluids but such an important one – no oil = crunching engine = dead car (often permanently – scary!). Really easy to check and top up – you need to pull out your dip stick whilst your car engine is cold and on a level surface, then wipe it off on a tissue and put it back in, pulling it out a second time to see if the oil is adequately between the min and max lines. Google to find out what oil your car requires if you do need to top it up.


They roll you around and you’d be pretty stuck without them, so looking after your tyres is a must. People seem to get really quite stuck on the idea that tyres are scary and impossible, but take some time to leisurely teach yourself a few simple skills with someone on hand who knows what they’re doing and if you ever get stuck, you’ll know what to do and not end up panicking on the side of the road.

  • The big one – changing your tyres. It’s actually not as scary as you might first think, but it’s always good to practice when you don’t actually need it so you know where to find your locking wheel nuts and where to put your jack. If I had the time and space here to go through it, I would, but use this handy guide instead!
  • Tread depth is really important and it’s actually illegal to go below 1.6mm. Fear not, put those rulers away, this also happens to be the same depth as the rim on a 20p coin which you can use to test each of your tyres across the whole width – handy!
  • Buying new tyres– as they’ll need balancing to prevent excessive uneven wear, if you need new tyres for any reason, head to a garage to get them changed. Tyres come in a whole range of prices, and if you use a well known dealer like Point S* or similar, you’ll at least be in the knowledge that you’ll get a good deal and a decent product.
  • Tyre Pressures– easy as pie to check, most petrol stations will give air for free and all you have to do is type in the correct pressure for your tyres and then unscrew the dust caps and push on the air nozzle until it beeps to say it’s full. Most cars have their correct tyre pressures inside the petrol flap or somewhere else obvious – get to know yours and check them regularly!


Unfortunately I’ve had to do this a few times with my little VW Golf as it turns out the locks were draining the battery (madness I know!). Having jump leads in your boot is so useful and can get you out of a pickle quickly and easily – you either need a hill to roll down or another working car to jump it from. It is really important to get this right and do it safely, so be really careful and look it up before you start so you can follow the instructions one by one!


Brake lights, head lights, fog lights, indicators…your car is covered in them. When the daylight starts fading at 4.30pm, it’s never more important to make sure you’ve got the full set. Some cars can be a fiddle to reach certain bulbs, but most are actually much easier than you’d imagine and are a job to do at home, rather than paying the garage man to do it for you. Bulbs can be found online cheaply or in so many other shops, just be sure to keep your fingers off the glass bit as the grease will cause irregular heating and could break the bulb prematurely.

Winter Extras

Unfortunately our cars in winter will always be slightly unhappier than in the summer. For day to day assistance, keep a few keys items in your car to help you in most chilly situations. I’ve always got a can of de-icer, a scraper, a torch and a warm jumper and waterproof jacket. Having a hi-vis jacket and a warning triangle will also keep you extra safe and help make other drivers aware. In some European countries, these things are a legal requirement (as well as a breathalyser interestingly). If you go on a specifically long and chilly journey – for instance if it’s snowing heavily and it’s a necessary journey – it might also be worth taking a small shovel, some cardboard for getting your wheels out from icy spots and extra clothing/sleeping bag/food/drinks in case you do get completely stranded.

This post was a collaboration, but written entirely by me, as I actually think this whole list is so important for all drivers to know about. A last hint is that every time I’ve had an issue and no handy Dad/boyfriend/informed person on hand, trust me, google is your friend! If there isn’t a webpage or useful Youtube to teach you the specifics of your car I’d be amazed. It may also be super duper useful to buy the Haynes Manual for your specific make and model – most tasks are explained in really simple terms that even I can understand!