Right Driver

What car maintenance can you do yourself?

If you want to save some money, you can do quite a bit of maintenance on your own car, certainly enough to get you between major services.

Changing the oil

All you need to do is jack up the front of your car, put some blocks or axle stands under it, place a pan under the sump that will hold 7-8 litres, then under the sump drain plug. Once the oil is all drained, replace the plug, then fill it with new oil. Dispose of the old oil responsibly.

Changing windscreen wipers

Wiper blades are available from many car parts stores. Check in your manual for the measurements and what type of clips they need. There are different sorts of blades for different environments, so if you live in a place that gets muddy or snowy, you might want to put a heavier duty blade on.

Checking tyre pressures

Check your tyre pressures at a petrol station every month. Easy. There’ll be guidance in your car’s manual regarding what tyre pressure to put in. It’s OK to be over by a couple of PSI. Make sure you check them when the tyres are cold so you don’t get a false reading.

Replacing blown bulbs

You’ll need a socket set or spanner. The rear bulbs can usually be accessed by pulling some of the interior carpet or trim back, undoing a couple of bolts and uncoupling the old bulb. Remember, don’t touch the bulb with your bare hands otherwise it transfers oil from your skin which reduces the longevity of the bulb.

Coolant

Check the coolant level every couple of months. Add more coolant if it’s low.

Air filter

The engine air filter is usually housed in a clipped plastic box in the engine bay. Open the bonnet, undo the clips and take off the lid. Take out the old air filter and put the new one in, noting any specific direction or orientation.

The cabin air filter is usually located behind the glovebox.

Spark plugs

Many engines have their spark plugs conveniently located near the top (sorry Subaru and Porsche owners, this isn’t you). If you remove any plastic protective cowling, you’ll be able to get to these. You’ll need a socket set and preferably a torque wrench so you don’t overtighten them when you put them back in. Replace one at a time.

Battery

Keep your battery terminals free of corrosion with a wire brush. If your battery begins to give a weak start, it’s easy to replace. Undo the clamp, take off the terminals, put the new battery in and tighten up the clamp, then reattach the two cables.

Replace burnt out fuses

There’ll be a fuse box, usually under your steering wheel or tucked away somewhere behind a plastic plate which is clipped in. Fuses will stop things working, like the lights. Pull out the spent fuse and replace it with a new one.

Replace coolant

You can do this if you purchase a proper refilling tool. You won’t save much the first time you use it, but after that, you have the tool already, so you’ll reap the rewards. Drain the coolant like you would with oil. Check the instructions that come with the machine.

Replace gas struts

Over time, the gas struts that hold up the boot lid in a hatchback will lose their gas and the boot won’t stay up. You can purchase kits to replace them. Simply unbolt the old ones and install the new ones.

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

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