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Vehicle owners may be tempted to forego maintenance because they see it as an extra expense. However, regular car service is necessary because it can help you avoid more expensive repairs and breakdowns in the future. Not changing the oil regularly, for example, can lead to engine damage or cause your car to run less efficiently.
Other maintenance tasks, such as changing brake pads or aligning wheels, can help you maintain control of your vehicle and avoid potentially dangerous situations on the road. Luckily, some repairs and maintenance projects fall into the DIY realm. With the correct tools, anyone can learn to perform these jobs instead of paying someone else to do them. Even if you have to go to a mechanic, you can use handheld diagnostic tools to define the problem beforehand.
Here are 10 maintenance and repair tasks that you can perform by yourself if you have the right tools for the job.
Brake pads can cost between $35 and $150. However, garages can charge $300 or more to replace them. You want to perform this maintenance task on time because if the brake pads get worn to less than 1/8 of an inch, they can damage the rotors, which will lead to more expensive and complicated repairs. Brake pads are surprisingly simple to replace. Since you need to remove the tires, you require a lug wrench and jack. You will also need a set of standard wrenches.
The actual process of changing the brake pad is as easy as sliding the old brake pad out and clipping the new one in place with fasteners provided in the package. The brake pad box should also include a packet of grease, which you apply to ensure that the brakes are properly lubed and don’t squeak.
Battery replacement is a simple process. This project is necessary because you do not want to be stranded somewhere or even have to jump your car at home when you are late for work or an appointment.
Car batteries themselves cost between $75 and $125, on average. However, mechanics can charge up to $100 more to replace them. The replacement process simply involves removing the cables, securing the new battery, and reattaching the cables in the proper order.
You change your oil with a racket, wrench, and funnel. You will have to take precautions, such as ensuring your car won’t move during the process and not changing the oil if you drove in the past two hours (it will be too hot).
Conventional oil needs to be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, though synthetic oils can sometimes go 7,500 to 10,000 miles between changes. Quality synthetic oil can cost $20 to $30, but most garages charge twice that amount for a lube change. One thing to consider is that you also need to replace the oil filter when changing the oil.
Spark plugs can last for up to 100,000 miles, though you may need to clean them occasionally. The process of removing spark plugs is easy, and you can handle it with a specialized spark plug wrench. In some cars, it helps to have the assistance of an inspection camera, which you can use to see into the small space where the plugs are located.
Spark plugs can cost as little as $16, but mechanics can charge $40 or more to replace them. The simplicity and potential savings of spark plug replacement make this job an ideal DIY candidate.
Windshield wipers are essential because they help you see in bad weather. If they are frayed, broken, or bent, it could lead to a dangerous loss of visibility. There are several types of windshield wiper designs. Those with a pin or a hook-and-slide design are very easy to replace. You unfasten the old blade and then secure the new one in place without any special tools.
Straight-end connector wipers require you to depress a tab inside the arm using a screwdriver. Unless there is an issue, you do not need any additional tools. Windshield wipers cost $12 to $16, on average, and you can save on labor costs by performing this simple job by yourself.
Headlight and tail light bulbs are essential for nighttime driving and signaling other drivers on the roadway. State driving laws typically require you to replace these lights when they stop working. Failure to do so could result in a traffic ticket.
Headlight or tail light prices can vary, but the average for a halogen bulb is $15 to $20. As long as there is no damage to the casing or wiring, you can change the bulb yourself with a wrench or screwdriver.
Tire maintenance is vital because it affects your vehicle's safety, fuel efficiency, and overall performance. Checking your tire pressure requires a pressure gauge but does not demand special knowledge. Most gas stations offer air for filling under-inflated tires. You can fix a smaller tire puncture with puncture repair kits that cost $10 to $20 and includes everything you need to patch your flat.
You will need a stable tire jack and lug wrench to rotate your tires, which you should do every six months or 6,000 miles. You need a sturdy jack stand to raise your car safely. However, tire rotation does not require special tools or technical knowledge.
An engine air filter keeps dirty air from entering your engine, while a cabin air filter removes dirt and dust from your car’s HVAC system. A dirty engine filter will cause your engine to run hot and operate less efficiently than usual. If the situation gets too bad, the motor could overheat. Meanwhile, a dirty cabin filter lets dust into the car’s interior and allows dirt to build up on the heating unit, ruining its efficiency.
Changing an engine air filter every 30,000 to 45,000 miles involves removing screws that hold the filter housing in place, lifting out the old filter, and sliding in a new one. A similar process applies to the cabin air filter.
The radiator is vital because it helps keep engine temperature low. You need to flush out your radiator regularly to avoid buildup, which could cause it to lose its effectiveness. You can flush the radiator with a specialized cleaning product, a garden hose, and either a screwdriver or wrench to remove the drain plug.
Radiators may also leak. If you cannot find and plug the leak in a hose or other accessible area, you can try a radiator leak sealant liquid, which coats the radiator and stops small, slow, or inaccessible leaks.
If you see a check engine light on your dashboard, it may be because of a coolant issue. If you locate your car’s OBD port, you can connect a digital diagnostic reader to confirm this problem. Coolant not only keeps your car from overheating, but it also protects it from freezing in the winter.
You should check your coolant levels regularly to avoid overheating or freezing. Mechanics suggest changing the coolant every 30,000 to 50,000 miles because it could eventually cause corrosion. The process simply involves draining excess fluid and pouring in fresh coolant.
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