Keeping your car maintained and serviced will help you save a lot of money long term on car repairs that come about often as of neglect of keeping the car in good working order. Preforming the maintenance yourself, will save you even more cash! But where do you start and what do you need to do? And most importantly can you do it yourself? Well read on to find out!
Locate your car owner’s manual. If you don’t have one (perhaps you have misplaced it or bought a second hand car that came without it) do a search online and you will almost always find one you can purchase, if you have a common model vehicle then check your local library, they often have a large number of manuals. Your car manual will show you simple things that may not at first be obvious, like where your oil filter is, where the radiator cap is etc. The owner’s manual will also inform you as to what type of engine oil you should be using amongst other things.
Car maintenance check list
Below is a list of preventative maintenance tasks we can easily perform ourselves. Refer to your car owner’s manual for help in locating any of the areas below as well as for suggested methods of replacement and maintenance.
- Visual inspection – take a look around and under your vehicle for any signs that something may be amiss, in particular pay attention to any leaks your car may have.
- Coolant – Keeping your coolant topped up is vital to your cars continued smooth operation. Checking the level of coolant is as simple as removing your radiator cap and checking that you can see the fluid. If your vehicle has a coolant reservoir it will have a full line. Coolant can be bought from any garage or even department store.
- Engine Oil – Of all the fluids in your vehicle this one is the most vital to ensuring it runs smoothly. Remove your oil dipstick and check the level (there is a scored mark on the stick to indicate the fill level). Add oil if it’s low continually rechecking the dip stick. Make sure the engine is cool (wait 30 mins or so after driving) as a hot engine effects the viscosity of the oil and may give a false reading. Frequent low oil levels are due to one of two things, the car is burning oil, or the engine is leaking oil, either way you will need to get your car to a mechanic for further diagnosis and repair. Ignore this check at your peril, low oils levels can nuke your engine.
- Power steering fluid – Check the power steering reservoir and keep the fluid level topped up to the full marker.
- Transmission fluid – Check the power transmission fluid reservoir and keep its fluid level topped up to the full marker. Your owner’s manual will point out exactly where these reservoirs are located under your bonnet.
- Tires – This is an easy one check the tread on your tires, inside the grooves of your tires are cross bars of rubber, is the tread of the tires has reached the “bar” then it’s time to get your tires renewed. To ensure you get even and wear and the most life out of your tires, rotate the front with the back after a few months of use. You will need to make sure you have a quality scissor, floor jack or low profile floor jack to do this task
- Lights – Get someone to stand outside the car and check all your lights as you turn them on and off, including indicators, break lights, hazard lights as well as headlights, both high and low beam. Replace globes if any are not working. If all headlights or all the dash lights are out, check your fuses and replace the faulty one, consult your car owner’s manual to find out where the fuses are located and what each one does.
- Check battery – under the bonnet you will find your battery, visual inspect the battery and use a cleaning brush to remove any signs of corrosion around the battery terminals. Remove the small caps that line the top of the battery and shine a torch into the opening, make sure water covers the cells you will see inside. If the water level is below the level of the cells then pour distilled water into the hole until it does (unless you have a dry cell battery in which case you can ignore this step). Repeat for each cap.
- Wiper fluid – Always keep an eye on your wiper fluid level. Using wiper fluid as opposed to plain water is a good idea as tap water may corrode the metal jets.
- Window Wiper Blades – If your wipers aren’t preforming as they should, they will need to be replaced, this is an easy task, just take your time working out how to put the new blades on as it’s a little tricky the first time. To purchase new wiper blades, seek advice at your local auto store, let them know what make and model your car is and they will point you in the right direction.
- Oil and Oil filter – around every 5 months give your car a complete oil change and change the oil filter as well, changing the oil is pretty simple you just need to locate the drain point, so you will need a good garage floor jack and some stands so you can get under the car. You should also change your oil filter, this is really easy but you may need a special clamp like tool to remove it, you can find these tools at any auto store.
- Air filter – Following your manual check your air filter, if it looks dirty and clogged up, swap in a new one, its a very simple task and will help your car run more efficiently.
- Spark plugs – if your game enough pull your spark plugs and check the gaps using a feeler gauge (the correct gap size and removal steps will be in your car owner’s manual) you should check each plug for a spark. This is only really necessary if your car is running “rough” and doesn’t sound like its firing on all cylinders.
- Fan belts – check your belts for any slackness or wear, particularly if you suspect you can hear them (often a high pitched whirl)
Performing the tasks above will save you a lot of money, just in manual labor costs alone. If you have any doubts about preforming your own car maintenance or are unsure if you have a serious problem or not please seek the advice of an auto professional.
Check out the video below from Popular Mechanics