How much do you know about the inner workings of your car? There are a few simple things that you can do to fix your car yourself and help you stay away longer from the auto repair shop. I mean, it’s all right if you’re not an automotive engineer. Of course, if you are, this article probably isn’t for you. In this article, we will cover 10 basic things every motorist should be able to do to fix their car and help reduce cost.
#10 – Adding Windshield Wiper Fluid
Unobstructed visibility is critical to safe driving, helping ensure your vehicle’s windshield is clear of precipitation and road grime is washer fluid. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be simpler to keep the reservoir filled with plenty of this refreshing but poisonous liquid. Just pop the hood and look for a cap, they’re usually blue so it can be easily identified.
#9 – Changing Windshield Wipers
Washer fluid is only half the equation. Occasionally you’re going to need a fresh set of windshield wipers, which is, of course, point number nine on this list. Luckily, it’s also an easy task to swap them as they essentially clip into place to release a blade. There’s often a small button that you push. Other times they slide into a hook on the end of the arm. In either case, the blade shouldn’t be overly difficult to swap out. So give it a try next time they’re smearing rather than wiping.
#8 – Checking Motor Oil
Another mission-critical vehicle component for the do it yourself fixing car owners is engine oil. It’s super easy to check, provided you don’t own an electric car since they lack a crankcase that is full of lubricant or a modern BMW which don’t have dipsticks. Keeping an eye on the oil is a snap. Just make sure the vehicle is sitting on a relatively level surface and if you just parked it, wait a few minutes before attempting to change the oil as the oil may not have completely drained back into the pan, which could result in a false reading.
With all that out of the way, simply pull the dipstick out, wipe it off with a rag or piece of paper towel and stick it back into the tube from whence it came. Then pull her out again and read the level. If the oil shows between the low and full marks, you’re good to go. Now, this is a case where more is not better. Having an overabundance of oil in an engine can be just as bad as not enough. It can lead to aeration and many other issues. So basically keep it between the marks and you should be all set.
#7 – Adding Motor Oil
But if the engine is low on lubrication, every driver should also be able to top off the crankcase. Just locate the filler cap, which should look something like the one in the picture above. Then pour a bit of oil down into that area, make sure it’s the correct viscosity wait a minute or so and check the dipstick again to avoid overfilling. Add small amounts until the correct level is achieved. Car engines typically take between four and five quarts, though this does vary, a 3500 HD truck with a straight 6 diesel requires three gallons. Just make sure to check the owner’s manual for specific details.
But taking this a step further, you could also change the oil and filter, which usually isn’t that difficult. If you could do this, sir or madam, you have just made your do it yourself bonus points.
#6 – Checking the Tire Pressure
Next, let’s talk about the only part of your vehicle that should ever touch the road, which would be the tires. All motorists should be able to check their tire pressure. Again, this is a very simple task.
Just remove the valve stem cap and stick a gauge firmly over the end, make sure it sits well so no air leaks out around the edges. If not properly secured this could lead to an inaccurate measurement.
Now, unless there are special circumstances, of course, it’s best to maintain the factory recommended pressure, which is displayed on a placard usually near the driver’s side door jamb, inflate or deflate as required. While we’re in this area, every driver should be able to change a flat tire. Though unfortunately, temporary spares have become less and less common, replaced by space and weight saving emergency inflation kits.
#5 – Changing A Flat Tire
Still, the ability to jack a vehicle up, remove an offending flat, and install a spare tire is an important skill to have, especially if you get a flat where cell phone service is not available. Also, add major bonus points if you’re able to rotate those tires, a process that’s a bit more time consuming, though the payoff, of course, prolongs tire life.
If your ride is newer, you’ll probably also have to reprogram the tire pressure monitoring system so it accurately shows where each tire is located.
#4 – Jump Starting A Vehicle
Now, point number four, on this list of things every motorist should be able to do is jump start a vehicle that has a dead battery. This requires a set of cables, a car or a truck that’s fully charged, and a little bit of know how when attempting this to jump start a car.
The most important thing is making sure you do not mix up the leads. A positive terminal must connect to a positive terminal and a negative to negative. If you switch them around, very bad things will happen. A helpful hint to prevent this is that the colour red is associated with positive and the colour black, with negative. Also, in modern vehicles, the negative cable doesn’t necessarily have to connect directly to the battery, as the negative side is grounded to the engine and body structure.
#3 – Replacing the Engine Air Filter
So an engine bracket or metal part of the body will work just as well as a terminal. But if you’re in doubt, go for the battery. Fresh air is a wonderful thing. It’s as necessary to life as it is to your engine. You see, without a free flowing supply of oxygen, internal combustion simply cannot take place and that’s why it’s important to keep tabs on your vehicle’s air filter. If it’s clogged with dirt and debris, it won’t flow as much as it should reducing the output of your engine.
But the good news is they’re usually cheap and relatively easy to replace. Now, this will vary from one vehicle to another. But in many modern cars and trucks, the air filter is found underneath a large rectangular housing with the lid held in place by screws or clips. In either case, just pop it off to gain access to the filter itself. The new element should drop right in, but make sure to orient it in the same way as the old one. The pleats need to face the incoming air to capture as much dirt as possible. Many vehicles are also equipped with cabin air filters, and they clean the air before it enters the HVAC system. Depending on make and model, these can be easier or much harder to replace than an engine air filter. But give yourself even more bonus points if you’re capable of this maintenance item.
#2 – Inspecting the Serpentine Belt
Next up, point number two, every driver should be able to inspect their car or truck serpentine belt. Provided the part in question isn’t concealed by layer after layer of plastic shrouds, it should be easy to give a check for any abrasion.
If the belt shows heavy abrasion, cracking across the grooves lengthwise, tearing, or other obvious signs of damage. You’ll want to replace it sooner than later and award yourself some super bonus points if you can tackle this job on your own.
In theory, the process is simple, but it often feels like you need two extra sets of hands to get the belt position exactly where it needs to be with the tension release. Remember, proper routing is critical for all accessories to function.
#1 – Checking the Cooling System
Finally, every driver out there should be able to give their engine’s cooling system a good once over, critically important, yet often ignored like that exercise equipment you bought around the holidays in 2007. Cooling systems have to cope with scorching summer heat and arctic cold.
Keep an eye out for swelling, chafed, cracked or weeping hoses they are fixing to burst, which will leave you stranded. Also, make sure there’s enough coolant in the overflow reservoir. Add more as required, if it looks like the antifreeze is discoloured or rusty, it means the cooling system is long overdue to be flushed out. This is something you can do yourself if you fancy earning even more bonus points.
That’s it, now you have learned 10 simple vehicle maintenance items every driver should be able to tackle. How many of these things can you do and how many bonus points did you earn? Thank you for reading the 10 basic things you should know to maintain your car. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance items for your particular vehicle.