Cars are very special types of equipment. They make our lives so much easier, and even if the public seems to be going after them in favour of their more environment-friendly alternatives, they still have some years ahead of them. Cars aren’t only transportation, they symbolize freedom, the open road, and adventure.
But, cars aren’t cheap either. From the cost of purchasing a car to the cost of maintenance, cars can weigh heavy when it comes to your finance. The average car owner in the US spends between $820 and $1000 a year on car maintenance. That is roughly 1.5% of their annual income. So, if you want your car to last longer and avoid expensive repairs, you should know your car and perform some maintenance yourself. Nowadays, there is no excuse for not knowing how to do car maintenance because everything is on the internet.
Remember, the most important thing to know before working in a car is safety. Things in a car can be hot and acidic, sharp and they can hurt you. Sometimes you will be under the car or elbow deep in, so always have protective gear (gloves, long sleeves, eye protection…). You will also need the proper tools before working on your car (socket sets, extensions, wrenches…) and start small (don’t start by opening your differential)!
So, if you want your car to last longer and save money on the side, these are 11 car maintenance tasks you can do yourself.
Changing the brake pads
Your brakes are the closest thing you have to safety in a car. Imagine speeding without the ability to stop at will! Your brakes, thanks to friction, provide safety and allow you to stop at will. But, brake pads need maintenance. Because they aren’t outright visible, we tend to forget about them. On average, brake pads should be changed every 50,000 miles. Some lower-quality pads can last 25,000 miles, but some can go as high as 70,000 miles. Make sure to track your brake pads to avoid brake failure and accidents.
Performing an oil change
You can use conventional oil in your car when doing the oil change. This can be done every 3,000 miles or so. Engines are expensive car parts, but oil is cheap. Modern variable valve timing engines are more demanding in this sense, so you need to keep the oil clean. Leaving the oil dirty will clog the variable valve timing cams. The repairs will cost thousands.
Checking motor oil
Engine oil is very important to the car. Unfortunately, most people don’t check their engine oil often. The irony is that it is super easy to do so… Unless you have an electric car, but that is a whole other story.
This can be done fast. Park your car on a flat service and assure that your engine is cool. Pull the dipstick out, wipe it off to avoid false readings. Put it back and pull it out, again. If your level is between “low” and “full,” you’re okay.
Checking the cooling system
Another important maintenance item is the coolant in your car’s cooling system. Warning: dirty coolant will ruin the whole system and a poorly maintained cooling system will cause severe damage (overheating the engine and blowing it up, clogging the fins in the radiator, etc.). Keep an eye out for damaged cooling system components, such as hoses.
Changing windshield wipers
You need your windshield wipers to be in good shape. They can be worn out, so knowing how to change them is important. Luckily, this is an easy task to perform. They are clipped into place. Changing them means pushing a small button for release or sliding them on.
Adding wiper fluid
Changing your wipers is half the equation. Clear visibility is crucial to safe driving. This fluid ensures that your windshield is free of any material (dust, road grime, etc.) and there is nothing simpler in car maintenance.
Go lift the hood and locate a cap with a windshield symbol. Open it and fill it up. The cap can be blue, black, or yellow for easy recognition.
Checking tire pressure
Your tires are the only part of your car that should ever touch the road, which is why they are so important. Insufficient tire pressure can be synonymous with accidents. This is another simple task to perform. Remove the valve cap and put the gauge on its end. Make sure to hold tight to avoid air leaks and false readings. Always use tires with factory pressure recommendations. These instructions can be found on the driver-side door panel.
Changing a flat
This is a must-know task. There are times when tires are deflated and you can’t go on without changing them. Every driver should know how to do this. Jack up your car, remove the flat tire, and put the spare in place. It is a very important skill, especially if you can’t get immediate help.
Jump starting a car
You should be able to jump-start a car that has a dead battery. All you need is a set of cables and a fully charged car or portable jump starter. Be sure that the leads are well placed, avoid mixing them up to avoid sparks or electrocution. Red means positive and black means negative. Positive goes on positive and negative on negative.
Replacing the engine air filter
You need fresh air for healthy lungs, your engine does too. Without fresh air, you will have poor internal combustion. This is why your air filter is important. Dirt and debris will impact airflow and decrease engine performance. Luckily they are easy and cheap to replace. The location can vary according to vehicle type, but air filters are found under a big rectangle housing held in place using clips. Unclip the housing and lift it to remove the worn-out air filter. The new one should fit right in. Assure that it is oriented as the previous one.
Inspecting the serpentine belt
Inspecting the serpentine belt should be easy after reading this article. If it is obstructed or not visible, though, you might need to put in some effort.
Reach the serpentine belt to verify any cracks, abrasions, or any signs or wear. Look for fractures in grooves or full-length tearing. Look for any signs of damage and replace the belt if you identify damage.
It might sound easy, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get it the first time.
Your car is a very important tool, so taking care and conducting maintenance is important both for safety and if you want it to last longer. If you want to diagnose your car’s health, you can do so using an OBD2 Scanner. OBD2 Scanners will measure and track the health of your automobile and make identifying issues easier.