How To Repair Your Car At Home
By trying to live a more economical life, you can learn how to work with projects for which you normally pay professionals. By learning a few things about repairing and maintaining your car, you can save a pretty decent amount of money that you will spend paying the mechanics. And rest assured that you don't need to be a car expert for that.
This article will give you some practical tricks on repairing and maintaining your car that you need to do and pay for on a fairly regular basis. Also, there are some well researched and easy to use repair manuals that will prove to be very useful when servicing your car.
1. Air Filter
- Tools You Need: None
- Estimated cost: $10
- Time to Complete: 10 minutes
You need to replace the air filter for your car every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. You can pay the mechanic and give the car away for the day, or you can replace the air filter at home in about ten minutes.
- First, find the filter under the hood of the car. It is in a black rectangular box with metal clips on the side. Check the user manual if you cannot see it as soon as you open the hood.
- Open the hood and check how the air filter fits inside it. Make a note of which side the filter is facing.
- Take out the worn air filter and replace it with the new one.
- Close the metal clips when you have completed the job.
There you go. For additional long-term savings, you can extend the life of your new air filter by hitting it with compressed air to remove any debris.
2. Windshield Wipers
- Tools You Need: None
- Estimated cost: $10 to $20
- Time to Complete: 15 minutes
If you visit your local auto parts store and see that they have sales on wiper blades, offering the installation free, this usually only applies if you buy the most expensive blades in the shop, so maybe change them yourself.
You will need new wiper blades after about six months or a year of use. You probably tend to push them a little longer before asking your mechanic to change them, but you should not deal with the danger of lanes while you postpone an inconvenient trip to an auto parts store.
The installation of the windscreen is very different depending on the car. Therefore, you may have to perform several different steps according to the instructions of your owner’s manual. For example, The Honda Civic is different from the Opel Corsa. However the process is the similar to changing an air filter:
- Lift the blades by hand and remove the old ones.
- Look to see how the old blades connect to the metal brackets.
- On most models, you will see a tab on the underside of the windscreen wiper. Click on the tab to remove the old blade.
- Attach the new blades with care not to bend the wiper arms or scratch the windscreen.
- Align everything and make sure the new blades are securely fastened and tightened.
If you are distracted or can't remember exactly how the new blades should fit on the wiper arm, don't worry. Packaging for new blades should have a common set of instructions and a useful diagram.
3. Spark Plugs
- Tools You Need: 12″ socket extension, ratchet or socket wrench, spark plug socket
- Estimated cost: $10 to $15
- Time to Complete: 20 to 30 minutes
Spark plugs often need to be replaced after about 30,000 miles, but check the owner's manual to see for your specific car. While changing spark plugs can sound like a lot of work, it's a relatively simple process. You may put some time aside and be patient. Take your time because you need to install the replacement in a particular order.
- You should be able to find your spark plugs quite easily because they are attached to thick rubber wires.
- You will usually find either four, six, or eight spark plugs, depending on how many cylinders your car has.
- Remove the wires to the first spark plug only. Do not remove all the cables at once. Your spark plugs are set in a particular order that you must maintain.
- Use the spark plug socket and extension cord on the ratchet to remove the first spark plug.
- Install a new spark plug by screwing it in manually first and then tightening it with a wrench to ensure a tight fit. Do not tighten it too much.
- Connect the spark plug wire again.
Repeat these steps for each spark plug. If you buy the right spark plugs, you won't have to worry about "listening" to them. If you have a Chevy Silverado truck, check out these spark plugs for 5.3 silverado.
4. Oil and Oil Filter
- Tools You Need: Ratchet, oil filter, oil pan, wrench, and funnel
- Estimated cost: $20
- Time to Complete: 30 to 45 minutes
Experts say you should change the oil every 3,000 miles, but with better products and more efficient cars, I think you can get away with changing oil every 5,000 miles.
Whichever way you choose to use, you can save time and money by doing the change yourself. Before you start, remember these precautions:
- Never change the oil when the engine is hot. Park it, wait for it to cool down, and then start. Driving around the neighborhood to heat the car and loosen the oil can result in more efficient drainage, which is good news. However, you should let the engine cool down before you start.
- You need to jack up the car, so make sure that you handle the jack carefully and safely.
Now that you've covered the security first, it's time to get a little dirty.
- Get under the car and find an oil tray. It shouldn't be hard to find.
- Unscrew the drain plug and drain all the old oil into the oil tray.
- Once all the oil has been drained, replace the drain plug.
- Return to the engine and remove the old oil filter with the oil filter wrench. (Be careful, because the oil filter also contains the old oil).
- Lubricate the rubber gasket of the new oil filter with new engine oil.
- Fill the new oil filter with about two thirds.
- Screw in the new oil filter. Only manually tighten.
- Fill the engine with new oil using a funnel.
- Double-check the oil level using a measuring rod to ensure that you have added enough oil.
- Throw out the old oil filter and recycle the old oil (most petrol stations will take it).
An oil change is the dirtiest job on the list, but perhaps the most useful. Although there are many quick-service stations nearby, if you think about driving maybe four times a year, the costs and time adds up.
5. Battery Maintenance
- Tools You Need: Wrenches, wire brush, corrosion-removal fluid, and rags
- Estimated cost: $5
- Time to Complete: 20 minutes
The answer to keeping your car running efficiently and smoothly is a good battery connection. Just a few crisp white spots on the poles can prevent your car from starting. A simple visual check of your battery will tell you when you need to do this.
- Remove the battery terminals, which should be a fairly simple process. Make sure that you always remove the negative cable first. If they get stuck, use a flat-head screwdriver to pull them out.
- Clear the poles. Some say Coca-Cola will work, and it does, but I suggest you use a more relevant product from your local auto parts store. Most of these solutions are made up of baking soda and water, so if you feel very economical, create your cleaner.
- Gently apply the liquid to the racks and vigorously clean with a wire brush.
- Rinse the fluid with a little water.
- Dry the racks with rags.
- Replace the battery terminals.
A discharged battery can be one of the most frustrating problems in a car because it is usually so easy to avoid. Especially if you have had the same battery for several years, remove the hood every few months and look at the battery to see if it needs a simple cleaning.
6. Radiator Flush
- Tools You Need: Phillips-head screwdriver or wrench, radiator flush solution, coolant, rags, funnel.
- Estimated cost: $25
- Time to Complete: 30 minutes
The radiator and cooling system of the vehicle must be clean to work effectively. If wear and tear are reasonable, the vehicle radiator will form deposits that may disturb the cooling system.
Flushing the radiator is a quick and inexpensive way to keep your system in shape. Refer to your owner's manual to see if you should wash your radiator annually or every second year.
- Make sure that your car is completely cool before you start.
- Check the owner's manual to find the radiator drain plug. Replace the used coolant reservoir, unscrew the drain plug, and let the old coolant come off completely.
- Remove the radiator cap and replace the drain plug.
- Use a funnel to add rinse solution to the radiator, and then fill the rest of the radiator with water.
- Replace the radiator cap.
- Start your car and let it run until it has reached normal operating temperature.
- Turn the heater on in the hottest position and let the car run for 10 minutes.
- Switch off the car and wait until the engine has cooled down completely.
- Drain the radiator.
- Fill the radiator with fresh coolant.
- Always dispose of old coolant by taking it to a car dealership, gas station, or mechanic. The old coolant is lethal, but its sweet taste can attract pests.
Coolant handling is a step towards more advanced DIY auto projects. Temperature can be a dangerous problem when you work on your car. Therefore, make sure you give the engine time to cool down before you start and before you drain the radiator.
Take your time with this work, and always be cautious.
7. Brake Pads
- Tools You Need: Lug wrench, C-clamp, hammer, open-end or adjustable wrench.
- Estimated cost: $40 and up (depending on the model of your car)
- Time to Complete: 30 minutes - one hour
You'll have to change most brake pads every 20,000 miles or so, but as always, check the user manual for your model specifics. If you are continually making a lot of "stop signals" driving, you will have to change them more often.
Brake pads are suitable for DIY, but safety is your top priority. Be careful, prepare everything before you start driving, and if you feel uncomfortable, pay a professional to do it for you.
- Pick up your car and rest it securely on jack racks.
- Break the eyelets on the tires before anything.
- Remove the wheel.
- Remove the brake caliper to allow the brake pads to extend through the upper part. The brake caliper needs to be at the "12 o'clock" position, directly above the lining bolts. You will find the bolts on both sides of the caliper at the back of the caliper.
- Remove the bolts and put them aside. Hold the caliper at the top and pull it up. Give it a few blows if necessary to avoid disturbing the brake line (black hose). Do not leave the caliper to hang from the brake line; find a place where it can be securely fastened. If the caliper is out of the way, old brake pads could slip.
- Replace the old brake pads with new ones, securing them with the same clips that held the old pads in place. If you have an old car, you may need to use a little hammer. Careful!
- Squeeze the brake piston. Take out the C-clamp and attach the end of the screw to the piston. Then attach the other end to the back of the caliper.
- Tighten the clamp until the piston has gone far enough to place the caliper on the new brake pads.
- Reinstall the brake caliper (a process opposite to what you did when you took it off) and then just put the wheel back on.
If you're still learning how to change oil, you might want to build up your confidence level a little bit before taking this project.
8. Fuel Filter Replacement
- Tools You Need: New fuel filter, open-end wrenches, rags, eye protection, and new fuel line washers
- Estimated cost: $20
- Time to Complete: 30 minutes
A new $20 fuel filter can protect your engine from more costly damage, so follow the rule and change it annually. But keep in mind that, like replacing brake pads, this is an advanced DIY project.
Make sure you don't overdo it before starting this project. Working with fuel and fuel filters can be dangerous if you're not ready. If you are not a DIY mechanic, let a professional do this annual job for you.
- Most importantly, start by relieving pressure in the fuel system. If you don't, you may get explosive results.
- Find the fuel pump fuse on the fuse box. If you do not have a fuel pump fuse, find the relay that controls the fuel pump.
- Start the car and pull out the fuse when the engine is running. When the engine shuts down, you'll know you've pulled the right fuse.
- Disconnect the fuel pipes from the fuel filter. Also, find two open-end wrenches that fit your fuel filter fittings (you will usually need two sizes).
- When the wrenches are in place, place a cloth on the fitting to protect yourself in case there is still some pressure left in the pipes.
- Hold the wrench that fits the filter and turn the other wrench counterclockwise until this bolt comes out.
- Slide the fuel line off the shutter and put the shutter aside.
- Repeat the process for the opposite side of the filter.
- Remove the old fuel filter. Many filters are held in place by a clamp, which can be released with a flat-head screwdriver. Beware, as the old fuel filter may have some gas left in it!
- Replace the fuel filter washers that are on the bolts connecting the fuel lines to the fuel filter. Make sure the new ones are correctly fitted.
- Install a new fuel filter, which is the opposite to the process you did to remove the old fuel filter.
- Return the fuse or fuel pump relay before attempting to start the vehicle.
Working with the fuel system is a serious job, so if you are unfamiliar with any of these terms and do not know where to start, visit your mechanic for this regular maintenance.
An oil change can cost $40, and if you change the spark plugs professionally, it will cost you around $60. The list goes on and on. You can easily reduce these eight auto costs by taking over repairs. It can perhaps save you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your car.
However, remember that one of the most significant steps in any DIY project is to know when not to do it yourself. If you need a partner, look for a friend who also wants to save money and learn more about their car, or take the opportunity to teach your kids some car basics.
Just be sure you know your level of experience, and don't try to do a DIY project that is too big to handle. Don't risk getting hurt or taking apart pieces that you can't put back.