It wasn’t too long ago that drivers spent as much time under the bonnet as they did behind the wheel, getting to know their car intimately and saving decent money by doing their own repairs and servicing.
For many people that’s a good thing; after all, that’s what mechanics and service intervals are for. But if you like to tinker there are still a few useful maintenance tasks you can do yourself to save some money while being more in tune with your car’s workings and needs.
While doing your own servicing could void the car’s warranty you should be able to do individual tasks when the need arises, though it’s best to check the warranty contract and with the car manufacturer first.
Before doing any work always consult your owner’s manual and have the necessary tools and consumables ready. It’s also a good idea to invest in an appropriate maintenance guidebook for your car. Also, check YouTube or internet forums specific to your car for helpful advice from fellow enthusiasts.
Here are some jobs you can do yourself that could spur you on to bigger things.
Wiper blade assemblies vary between cars so consult your owner’s manual and the wiper blade packaging.
Whether its headlight or taillight globes or interior lights this is an urgent but relatively simple task that could save a bit of money and hassle. The most important thing about changing globes is knowing how to access them, so it’s best to consult a manual, specialist internet forum or YouTube first to avoid frustration or damage.
The air filter prevents dirt and other particles from getting into your engine where they can cause poor efficiency, decreased performance or even permanent damage.
Meanwhile, a clogged air filter allows less air in which affects your car’s fuel efficiency. They are checked during services but not automatically replaced so it’s worth inspecting them yourself from time to time. In most new cars air filters are in black boxes with metal clips on the side.
Some cars may have more than one air filter, and if you live in a dusty environment you may need to replace your filter more frequently than normal.
White powdery residue is one of the eight tell-tale signs that your battery may need replacing but you should be able to prolong its life with some TLC, a wire brush and corrosion removal fluid. Be sure to disconnect the battery before you start.
Replacing a battery is usually a matter of disconnecting the negative terminal followed by the positive terminal, then unbolting a retaining bracket, but some cars may require a special procedure. Doing it incorrectly could impact your warranty too, so tread carefully.
Oil and oil filter
This is one task that could have warranty implications so check your local service department. Some manufacturers have propriety tooling for undoing sump plugs and oil filter housings, meaning only authorised repairers with specialised equipment can do it.
If you are able to replace the oil and oil filter yourself you’ll need an oil filter wrench, oil pan and funnel.
Only do this when the engine and oil have cooled down and when finished pour the old oil from the pan to the empty oil bottle and dispose of it and the old oil filter appropriately. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for which grade and type of oil to use, and ensure the oil filter is designed to be used with your car’s engine.
Flushing the radiator
Depending on the car it’s a good idea to replace the radiator coolant every year or two years – your driver’s handbook should tell you the correct frequency.
This task requires radiator flush solution, coolant, a funnel and receptacle to take and dispose of the old coolant. As with changing oil make sure the car engine has cooled down and don’t use ordinary water instead of coolant as the impurities can corrode or block the radiator cells. Coolant also has anti-freeze in it, which is vital if you drive in sub-zero weather on occasion.
Dispose of the old coolant carefully and wash any spillage away so animals don’t drink it.
This is an easier task than it appears; you just have to do it carefully doing one plug at a time. As well as replacing the spark plugs you might need to change the plug leads as well – if your car has them. Note that it may be quite difficult to gain access to the plugs on some cars depending on their engine layout – especially on boxer engines and V-format engines.
Ensure you have the correct plugs and cables for your car and appropriate tools such as a ratchet socket set with a 30cm extension and spark plug socket. It’s also a good idea to have a feeler gauge to measure the spark plug gap even if using ‘pre-gapped’ plugs as knocking the base of a spark plug could affect the spacing needed to create a spark.
Replacing brake pads is probably the most complex DIY car maintenance tasks on this list and requires tools such as a G-clamp, shifting spanner, hammer and secure car jack.
This is one task that shouldn’t be attempted without an appropriate maintenance manual and, if you get to a point where you’re not sure of things, be sure to consult an expert. Brakes are critical to your car’s safety and roadworthiness, so don’t attempt this one if you’re not sure of what to do.