The cost of a standard car service can be expensive, even for the simplest of repairs or maintenance issues. However, whilst there are many tasks best left to a mechanic, there are a number of simple jobs you can do yourself at home, saving yourself both time and considerable sums of money in terms of garage bills.
Here are six repairs that almost anyone can handle quickly and easily with minimal expense.
1. Air Filter
You need a new air filter for your car every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. You can pay a mechanic and give up your car for a day, or you can replace your air filter at home in about ten minutes, with a few simple steps.
- First, find your filter under the bonnet of your car. It is in a black rectangular box with metal clips on the side. Check the owner’s manual if you do not see it as soon as you open the bonnet.
- Open up the casing, and check out how the air filter fits inside it. Make a note of which way the filter faces.
- Remove the old air filter, and insert the new one exactly how the old one sat.
- Remember to close the metal clips when you are done.
2. Battery Maintenance
A good battery connection is key to keeping a car running smoothly and efficiently. A simple clean from time to time can help prevent a dead battery, and prevent residue from forming. The process is simple.
- Remove the battery terminals, which should be a fairly straightforward process. Make sure you always remove the negative cable first. If they’re stuck, use a flathead screwdriver to pry them loose.
- Clean the posts. Some advocate the use of Coca-Cola, whilst others prefer to buy a more professional product from their local DIY or car parts store. Apply the fluid to the posts and clean vigorously with a wire brush.
- Rinse the cleaning fluid with a little water, and dry the posts with a rag.
- Replace the battery terminals.
3. Flush the Radiator
A car’s radiator and cooling system need to be clean to work efficiently and effectively. With normal wear and tear, the radiator builds up deposits that can disrupt the cooling system. A radiator flush is a quick and inexpensive way to keep your system in shape.
The tools you need for this job are a Phillips-head screwdriver or wrench, rags, radiator flush solution, coolant, funnel, used coolant receptacle. Make sure that the car is completely cool before you begin. Here are the steps to follow.
- Check the owner’s manual to find the radiator’s drain plug. Put your used coolant receptacle in place, unscrew the drain plug, and let the old coolant drain completely.
- Replace the drain plug and remove the radiator cap.
- Use the funnel to add the radiator flush cleaning solution,fill the rest of the radiator with water, and then replace the radiator cap.
- Start the car, and let it run until it gets to its normal operating temperature.
- Turn on your heater to its hottest position, and let the car run for 10 minutes.
- Turn the car off and wait for the engine to cool completely.
- Drain the contents of the radiator, and then refill with fresh coolant.
Note that the old coolant needs to be disposed of safely by taking it to a garage or petrol station.
4. Oil and Oil Filter
This job requires the use of a jack, so you need to be comfortable using one before you start. It is also the dirtiest job on the list, but the one that could save you the most money.
The oil in a car needs changing every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Whichever benchmark you decide to use, you can save time and money by handling the change yourself. However, never attempt to change the oil when the engine is hot.
Once the car has been jacked up, the following steps should be followed.
- Get under your car and locate the vehicle’s oil pan. It should not be hard to find.
- Unscrew the drain plug and drain all of the old oil into your oil pan.
- Once all of the oil is drained, replace the drain plug.
- Go back to your engine and remove the old oil filter with an oil filter wrench.
- Lubricate the rubber gasket on the new oil filter with some new motor oil.
- Fill the new oil filter about two-thirds of the way with new oil, and screw in the new oil filter, hand-tightening only.
- Fill the engine with new oil, using your funnel.
- With a dip-stick, double check your oil level to be sure you have added enough.
- Discard the old oil filter and recycle the old oil – most petrol stations will accept it.
5. Spark Plugs
Most spark plugs need replacing after about 30,000 miles, but check the owner’s manual to see if your vehicle is any different. Changing spark plugs is not as major a task as it may appear. You just need to set aside some time, exercise patience, and make sure you install the replacements in a specific order. You will need a ratchet or socket wrench with a 12 inch socket extension and a spark plug socket.
- Locate the spark plugs – this should be easy as they are attached to thick rubbery wires. Depending on how many cylinders your car has, you will find either four, six or eight plugs.
- Remove the wire to the first spark plug only. Do not remove all of the wires at once. Your spark plugs are installed in a certain order, which you need to maintain. Use your spark plug socket and extension on your ratchet to remove the first spark plug.
- Install the new spark plug, screwing it in by hand at first and then tightening it with a wrench for a snug fit. Do not over-tighten.
- Re-attach the spark plug wire.
Repeat these steps for each spark plug.
6. Windscreen Wiper Blades
Windscreen wiper blades need to be changed about six months to a year on average. New blades can be fitted easily with no need for any tools. Wiper blade setup differs quite a bit from car to car, so you may have to follow a few different steps according to your owner’s manual. However, the following basic process should be followed
- Lift the blades, as if you were washing your windshield by hand, and remove the old blades, paying attention to how the old blades connect to the metal arms.
- On most models, you will see a tab on the underside of the wiper. Push the tab to remove the old blade.
- Attach the new blades, being careful not to bend the wiper arms or scratch your windshield.
- Line everything up and make sure the new ones are secure and tight.