Golden rule number one is 'prevent, prevent, prevent.'
The following 11 steps, if done once a month, will help you prevent 70 percent of the problems that make your car break down. Do them first thing in the morning when your car is cold. If you don't know where the parts are or what they look like - look in your owner's manual.
1. Check your lights
Are your headlights, brake lights and indicator lights working?
2. Check your radiator
Your radiator should be filled with a 50/50 mixture of water and coolant (antifreeze). Coolant is always a bright colour - either red, green, blue or orange. If you see only a clear fluid in your radiator, it means you have no antifreeze and your engine will be under far more strain than it should be to function well.
3. Check your belts
Check that the belts driving your engine are not frayed or loose. You can usually hear a fan belt that is too loose because it screeches when you accelerate.
4. Check your hoses
Are there any that feel loose? Are there any that are bulging, hard or cracked? If so, you should get them replaced in good time.
5. Check your oil
Take the dipstick out, wipe it off with a clean cloth, and re-insert it. Take the stick out again and read the level to make sure that you have the correct amount of oil.
6. Check your air filter
Your car runs on a petrol and air mist (one part petrol to 9 000 parts air) and a spark to cause an explosion. If the filter is dirty, your car can't breathe, so drop the filter gently on the floor a few times to dislodge the dirt.
7. Check your battery
Make sure that each cell is full and if not, fill with distilled water only! Make sure that the terminals are not too coated with acid build-up. If they are, use a toothbrush and a mixture of warm water and bicarbonate of soda to wash the deposits off. Rinse the area well afterwards.
8. Check the brake fluid
There is usually a brake fluid reservoir, where you can check to see that you have enough brake fluid. Don't open the reservoir to see inside unless you have to. If moisture or dirt gets into your brake fluid, it could affect how well it works.
9. Check the windscreen wipers and windscreen wiper fluid
10. Check the power steering fluid
(If you have power steering.)
11. Check the tyres
Are they showing any unusual signs of wear, such as wearing on one side and not the other? Wearing unevenly? All of these things will tell you that there is a problem with your wheel alignment, balancing or driving.