Here are the five most common mistakes car owners make:
1) You sit in your car, start it, and immediately put it into Drive (or into first gear, in the case of manual cars) and zip away. AVOID doing that. Once you start your car, let it idle for about 10 seconds, allowing for the revs to come down and reach ideal idling RPMs. Use that time to put on the seat belt or to adjust the seats. Put it into Drive only about 10 seconds after starting the car. These 10 seconds will allow the oil to start circulating to important engine components. The older the car, the more important this is.
2) Accelerating too hard immediately upon starting the car. DO NOT do this. Let the RPMs slowly build up, as the engine is not yet warm. Accelerate in a relaxed manner until you have reached optimum engine temperature.
3) READ the owner’s manual. It’s surprising how few people do this. If you own a car, you should know what every button on the instrument cluster is for. Where is the rear window wiper located? Which button circulates air inside the cabin? The owner’s manual is a treasure trove of information about your car. Which engine oil does the manufacturer recommend? Is it 5W-20 or 5W-30? How long can you go without changing the Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF, commonly known as gear oil)? What is the best coolant to use for your car? The owner’s manual tells you all this, and much, much more.
4) Look under the bonnet once in a while. Just have a cursory glance at the engine bay. This helps you re-acquaint yourself with your car. Locate key, basic stuff, such as the engine oil dipstick, the radiator cap (or the cap of the coolant reservoir in some cars), the washer fluid reservoir, the brake fluid tank, the power steering fluid tank. Should be very easy to do. Once you have done that, pull out the engine oil dipstick and inspect the oil level. When was the last time you changed your oil? Your owner’s manual says it must be done once in 5,000km (or 10,000km or 15,000km, depending on the vehicle). Check the coolant level, too. Is it in line with the marker in the tank? Or has it fallen below, in which case it needs to be topped up? Is there enough power steering fluid? Coolants, brake fluid, and power steering fluid are cheap and available in most petrol stations, not to mention car parts stores. Keep them in small quantities in the boot of your vehicle, along with a small funnel. You can top it up whenever the level goes below the marker in these tanks.
5) CHECK your tyre pressure. You don’t have to wait till your next service appointment or visit to a lube oil garage. Your vehicle’s ideal tyre pressure, for hot or cold weather, is mentioned on the door jam on the driver’s side (a sticker with barcode that has all sorts of important details, such as origins, year of manufacture etc). Once you’ve determined what the ideal tyre pressure is for your car, you can invest a few dirhams in the pencil-style tyre pressure gauge and keep it handy to help you check the tyre pressure from time to time. In many vehicles, this comes with the took kit. So check there first. In many newer, higher end vehicles, sensors display this information on the dashboard. Just keep an eye!