You don’t need serious equipment like a lift to perform many DIY car maintenance jobs. In fact, some projects require few tools or experience.
Working on your car will save you money. And while the financial benefits are great, it also makes you more familiar with your vehicle. You might notice problems you would never have spotted before.
Being more acquainted with your car will also help you communicate issues you’re having if you ever do have to take it in to see a mechanic. What’s more, your automotive knowledge could come in handy if you run into trouble in a remote area and you need to perform a quick fix.
If you have just a little time and the right tools and supplies, you’ll benefit greatly from changing your car’s engine oil. Everyone should know how to do this basic maintenance job, instead of shelling out far too much at a shop.
Have the correct type and amount of oil on hand, plus a replacement oil filter, filter wrench and a catch pan before you start this job. You’ll also need jack stands or ramps to work under the car, and a socket set to remove the drain plug. Just remember to put a layer of fresh oil around the new filter opening and seal, keeping it from fusing with the engine.
Recycle the oil through auto parts shops.
Some people are scared to change their brake pads because they’re arguably your car’s most critical piece of safety equipment. Except for drum brakes, you’ll find they’re easy to work on. If you’re careful to double check your work, brake jobs shouldn’t put you at risk.
Get a brake gauge tool to estimate when your pads are too worn down. Of course, once you hear the telltale squealing of the wear indicator, you know it’s time. You need basic tools to swap pads and even rotors, with the most unusual item being a C-clamp.
If you’re not highly experienced, plan on spending up to an hour and a half per pair of brakes.
Just like engine oil, swapping your transmission fluid turns into cheap insurance. After all, draining and replacing the fluid in your transmission takes little time and costs next to nothing compared to a new transmission. While you’re at it, you should change the filter, or your effort is pretty much for nothing.
Don’t know how often to change your transmission fluid? As a good general rule of thumb, you should drain and replace transmission fluid every 30,000 miles. If you tow, haul heavy loads or drive on the dirt frequently, you might want to change it more often.
You’ll need to work under the car for this job. Some transmissions have a drain plug, but most automatic transmissions don’t. Dropping the pan to drain fluid and get to the filter isn’t difficult, but it might take you a little bit of time, depending on how good you are at working on your back.
You have to let your car breathe or you’ll have some serious problems. The filter in the air intake performs the vital function of stopping dust and other debris from reaching the intake manifold, and in turn the cylinders.
As a rule of thumb, check your air intake filter each time you change the engine oil.
On most cars, you just remove a few clips or screws to access the filter in your air intake box. Most filters are made of paper and cost little to replace.
The cabin air filter is often forgotten, but it also performs a vital function. It keeps debris from passing through the air vents in your dash and elsewhere. That’s great for allergies, keeping you interior clean, and even blocking some unpleasant smells, depending on the type of filter your car uses.
A clogged cabin air filter can diminish defroster performance. If your defroster doesn’t clear fog or you can’t melt ice off the glass easily, check the air filter. Most are in the dash, behind the glovebox, and are simple to access.
Stopping Coolant Leaks
Your car’s cooling system should prevent any overheating, but a simple leak can spell chaos. Fortunately, most leaks are easy to fix, once you figure out the source. Always let your cooling system cool completely before starting.
Hoses are held in place by a few simple straps you can remove with a screwdriver or socket wrench. Even swapping out a radiator or fan for a new one involves simple steps.
About the Author
We here at WheelScene are a group of like-minded automotive enthusiasts. We love all aspects of self-powered, wheeled machines that transport us to places both real and imaginary. From taking them apart to putting them back together, from old to new, from everyday family haulers to high-performance models and racing cars, WheelScene loves it all! Steven Symes is a contributing writer for WheelScene. He lives in the Mountain West and loves to go off-roading, as well as have other outdoor adventures. He still has a passion for street cars, especially Porsches and just about anything with a Small Block Chevy V8 under the hood.