5 Car Maintenance Tasks You Can Do Yourself
We all try to play the saving game as best as we can. However, when even the smallest of things go wrong with our cars, it’s easier to schedule time at the shop than try to fix it ourselves, costing us quite a bit of money in the process. And while many things should be left to the professionals, there are a couple of tasks that you can easily check or fix at home.
Things You’ll Need
- Rag or towel
- Tire Pressure Gauge
- Your Car’s Manual
You don’t need to be a car genius to know how to change your windshield wipers. Blade set-up may differ from car to car so it’s important to check your vehicle’s manual, but it goes something like this:
- Lift the blades, similar to when you wash them, and remove old blades.
- Be sure to look at how the old blades connect to the metal arms. This so you know how your new ones will be attached.
- Find the tab on the underside of the wiper and push to remove old blade.
- Attach new blades carefully so as to not bend or scratch your windshield.
- Line everything up and make sure they are both secure.
- Generally, the packaging for new blades offers additional helpful tips and diagrams in case you’re unsure.
Having correct tire pressure is very important as it helps evenly distribute the weight of your car. When tire pressure is off, due to either under or over-inflating, the tire loses that stability and can negatively impact your car’s stride. When tire pressure is too low, you’ll see a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) sensor light up on your dashboard. This means it’s time to check your tires. Luckily, this doesn’t have to break the bank and can easily be done in less than 5 minutes with a basic tire pressure gauge.
- First, be sure to check your vehicle’s recommended PSI. This can be found on the inside of the driver’s side doorjamb or in your owner’s manual.
- Remove the caps from the tire air valves; place the gauge on the valve creating a solid seal between gauge and valve.
- Apply pressure to get a reading. Do this for all four tires.
- If the pressure is too low, use an air compressor to add air. These are available at many gas stations. Ensure that you add air to match your vehicle’s PSI.
- If you overfill your tires, use the back end of pin to remove any extra air.
Don’t let the sight of your engine or fancy car terminologies intimidate you. Checking your vehicle’s fluid levels can be quite easy and time effective. As a general rule, a fluid level check is recommended every 1-2 months. To check any fluids under your hood, be sure to park your car in a flat, well-lit area and let the engine cool for about 20 to 25 minutes.
Check Your Oil
- Identify the dipstick. This is a long, thin rod with a ring or handle at the top. Not to be confused with your transmission fluid dipstick. As always, refer to your owner’s manual to be sure.
- Pull the dipstick all the way out, wipe it with a rag or towel and reinsert. This will ensure a better reading of the fluid level.
- After a couple of minutes, pull the dipstick out once more and check if the oil level is near the FULL line.
- If not, add more oil. Your manual will state what kind of oil is best for your vehicle.
- Be sure to never overfill the oil reservoir.
- To add oil, simply locate the reservoir, remove the cap and use a funnel to add. Wipe any excess or spilled oil with a rag or towel. Place the cap securely on the reservoir and recheck your levels.
- If you notice that your oil is black or brown and not clear light brown and shiny, you might need to go get your oil changed professionally.
- For a helpful graphic, click here.
Check Your Windshield Wiper Fluid
- Find the windshield wiper fluid reservoir. This is usually a white plastic container or tube with the picture of a windshield. You can find the exact location of this reservoir in your manual.
- If the level is lower than the FILL line, remove the cap and add the appropriate fluid with a funnel. Do not add water.
- Be sure to close the lid securely once you’re finished.
Flush a Radiator
Keeping a radiator from overheating is essential. Unfortunately, over time, sludge can build up inside the generator making your coolant less effective. In turn, this can negatively affect your engine’s performance and mileage. A coolant service is generally recommended every 30,000 miles or five years. However, it’s always important to check your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s recommended specifications. Here’s how that goes:
- Make sure your engine is cool. This will prevent any injury should you make any contact with the engine. A good time to work is two hours after your vehicle’s been last used.
- Locate your vehicle’s radiator drain plug. Place a coolant receptacle under the drain and unscrew the plug. Allow the coolant to drain into the receptacle.
- Replace drain plug and remove the radiator cap. With a funnel, add radiator flush cleaning solution to the radiator and fill the rest with water.
- Replace and tighten the cap. Start your car, turn your heater on to the hottest setting, then let cool for about 10 -15 minutes. After those minutes are up, turn your car off and wait for your car engine to cool.
- After your engine has cooled back down, unscrew the drain plug and empty its contents into your receptacle.
- Replace drain plug. With your funnel, fill the radiator with 50% coolant and 50% water. Tighten all caps and voila!
Jump Start Your Car
Knowing how to jump-start a car is an essential roadside know-how. In many cases, it can not only help you get back on the road but also help be a good Samaritan by knowing how to help other drivers in need.
- Have a friend or family member offer to help. Have them drive the good car up to your car so batteries are as close as possible.
- Attach the red positive cable to the good car battery terminal, then attach the other red positive cable to your car’s battery terminal.
- Attach the black negative cable to the good car battery, then ground the car by attaching the other black negative to a solid, unpainted metal surface on your car (a bolt, for example) as far away from the battery as possible. Avoid any moving parts in the engine.
- Start the good car first and wait 2 minutes. Then, start your car and wait for 2 minutes.
- Remove the cables in the reverse order they were attached in.
- Let your car run for 2 more minutes then hit the road!
- For a helpful diagram, click here.
Simple as many of these steps may be, be sure to recognize when something is out of your capabilities or knowledge. If you’re unsure of how to proceed, take your care to a professional and avoid any further damage.