Certain things on a car deteriorate so gradually that a person driving the car every day is not even aware it is happening.

Certain things on a car deteriorate so gradually that a person driving the car every day is not even aware it is happening.

The steering wheel might slowly develop a slight pull to one side, but unconsciously you have adapted to it so well that you don't even notice it. To guard against this, it's a good idea to do your own road test from time to time.

Find a straight stretch of smooth road with minimal camber and a slight downward slope. There should be little or no traffic and no wind. Driving at about 60kmh, gently oscillate the steering wheel to and fro around the middle position to check for excessive free play. Now let go.

A very slow deviation to the left is normal. Anything more, points to a problem, most likely with wheel alignment, although it could have various other causes such as one front wheel having lower pressure.

To eliminate this possibility, check the tyre pressures before you set out. Start the road test here because you can learn a lot from examining the tyres' wear pattern. One tyre losing pressure quicker is an indication of a slow leak. Check for a nail or a leaking valve.

Next, move to the brakes. Roll down both front windows and from about 50kmh, brake gently. Is there any sudden jerk on the steering wheel when you brake?

Switch off the engine, put your head out of the window and listen for any grinding or rhythmic scraping-thumping noises from the brakes. This could indicate worn pads or an out-of-round brake drum.

Keep listening while maintaining gentle pressure on the brake pedal until the car stops. Bear in mind that with disc brakes you sometimes get sporadic grinding noises when dirt get trapped on the pads' surface. This is nothing to worry about.

Now let the car roll forward. Listen for dragging brakes. Disc brake pads are very close to the disc when the brakes are off, sometimes making almost imperceptible wiping contact with the disc which will cause a soft, whimpering noise.

Stop and apply the handbrake four clicks. Does it hold the car? Now release and see if the car rolls freely and silently.

Apply the handbrake, start the engine, select first gear and slowly let the clutch out. Note at which point it engages. Generally speaking, the clutch should be just above the middle point in its travel, leaving a free play of about 25mm at the top.

For the last test go to a bumpy road with a slight uphill gradient. Stop at the bottom of the incline. Pull away fast. The more the wheels jump around as you accelerate, the sooner you have to buy new shock absorbers. - Motoring Reporter