Rocking up at university in your own car might win you favour among those keen to bag themselves a lift home every now and again, but the reality of owning a car at university isn’t as glamorous or luxurious as it sounds.
From unexpected repair bills to the eye-watering insurance premium, cars come with all sorts of pricey overheads that can spell financial ruin for cash-strapped students. Then of course there’s actually looking after the thing, and the effort needed to ensure it doesn’t breakdown or — heaven forbid — get stolen.
But don’t get us wrong; keeping a car at university isn’t all bad, what with the boundless freedom it affords and all. And with a little knowledge of what’s going on under the bonnet, as well as some savvy shopping, it’s easy to look after your wheels as a student.
To help you do just that, here are 5 helpful tips for taking care of your car.
Check the Fluids Regularly
While you may be reluctant to take time away from your studies, we promise checking your car’s fluids will only take a few minutes, and doing so could help to avoid unexpected breakdowns and nasty repair bills.
Holts Auto, who have published a great guide on the basics of looking after a car, reckon checking your car’s fluids is just about the most important thing you can do to keep it in good condition. They said: “Car engines rely on a number of fluids, including oil, coolant/antifreeze, transmission and power steering fluid. By checking the levels of each of these on a monthly basis, your engine will work to its optimum and is less likely to encounter a problem, which could cost you fortune to put right.”
Keep Tabs On Your Tyres
Apart from engine trouble, the most expensive thing that can go wrong on a car is the tyres. Given the average quote for a new set of rubber comes in at over £300, it’s in your best interest to take care of your tyres and ensure they’re in a roadworthy condition at all times.
The easiest way to look after your car’s tyres is to make sure they’re always inflated to the correct PSI as recommended by the manufacturer. If left under or over inflated for any amount of time, tyres can develop uneven tread wear, and are more likely to puncture or blowout. That’s why we’d recommend checking your tyre pressure each time you stop by the petrol station. For more advice on tyre care, check out this guide from TyrePros.co.uk.
Keep it Clean
Keeping your car clean doesn’t mean you need to relinquish £10 at the local car wash — just get a sponge, bucket and do what your dad does. Unless it’s the dead of winter and snowing buckets outside, there’s no real reason why you shouldn’t wash your car at least every fortnight, and neglecting to give it a regular wash could have far reaching consequences beyond someone scrawling “clean me” on the rear windows.
Dirt, dust and muck left to dry on your car can lead to the early onset of rust, and will be much more difficult to get off when you finally do come to washing it, which in itself could result in paintwork damage. Plus, not taking care of your car’s paint could diminish its resale value, so it pays to keep it clean throughout your time in university.
Buy Breakdown Cover
According to LV, there are around 800,000 breakdowns a year on the UK’s roads —and you could be one of them. While buying breakdown cover might not be the most exciting thing to buy as a student, it could get you out of a tight spot in times of crises. Plus, if you use your car to drive back to your parents’ house on the motorway, you really should have roadside assistance.
Luckily, breakdown cover prices have plummeted in recent years, with the average policy now costing under £30 a year. Sure, it’s £30 you could spend on beer, but we reckon it’s a small price to pay for complete peace of mind behind the wheel. For the best price when buying breakdown insurance, we’d recommend using a price comparison site like MoneySupermarket.com.
Look After Your Battery
Statistics show that when it comes to roadside breakdowns, battery issues account for more emergencies than any other component beneath the bonnet — so it pays to take care of yours. If your car is over five years old you’re more at risk from suffering a flat battery, so we’d recommend having it checked by a trusted mechanic just to be on the safe side.
In terms of looking after your battery, try not use too many electrics in the cabin — particularly when you’re first starting the car on a cold morning. Electrical components put additional strain on the battery, causing it to overload and fail. Also, though it goes without saying, you shouldn’t leave anything electrical on in the car after parking up.
Like we said, with a little know-how it can be easy to enjoy stress-free and affordable driving whilst at uni. For more tips and advice, check out our Travel page.