The following is a guest post from Carol Montrose.
I’ve tried #1 and #2 below, and my car knowledge stops there — how about you?
For most of the population, the inner workings of a car are a mystery on the same level as space travel to distant planets or what happens when you die. It’s something that a select few have knowledge of so that you don’t have to go through the process of trying to figure it out.
And yet, a car is just a machine (albeit a rather complex one) that has a finite number of parts that work in predictable ways. And anyone can learn to do simple maintenance and repairs on their own vehicle. In fact, it’s no more difficult than learning to clean an oven, load an iPod, or operate a universal remote control (it may even be easier than the last one).
So if you’re tired of paying beaucoup bucks for simple automotive services, here are a few tinkerings that you can try on your own.
- Wiper blade replacement. This is, quite possibly, the simplest car repair ever, and thank goodness since wiper blades that get a lot of use could require frequent replacement. All you have to do is remove the old blades where they meet the wiper arm (there is usually some kind of tab you have to push in to pull them off) and then snap the new ones in place. Sound easy? It is!
- Scratched paint. Your best bet to stop scratches and dings from turning into rusty headaches is to buff and paint them ASAP. You can probably get matching paint from your dealership (it comes in a small tube complete with a wand attached to the lid, much like nail polish) or find a comparable color match at an auto parts retailer. You’ll simply wipe the area clean and apply a coat of paint on the affected area, repeating as necessary.
- Oil change. This is a bit tougher for most people, since it does require basic knowledge of the engine, a few tools, and a willingness to get a little messy. You’ll first have to jack up the front end of the car and pull the plug on the oil tank, allowing it to drain into a pan (opening the top end will speed this process). Then replace the plug and remove and replace the oil filter. The filter can be difficult to reach and remove, but that’s probably the hardest part of the whole operation (and there are tools to help you). Next, pour in the new fuel, checking the dipstick often to make sure you add enough. Check for leaks under the car to ensure that you’ve sealed everything tightly.
- Brake pads. You’ll have to remove the tires to replace the brake pads, but from there it’s pretty simple. The brake assembly is housed in calipers, which you’ll need to open (by removing a bolt) in order to access the pads (this is for sliding calipers, which are more common than fixed). Once exposed, the brake pads slide out easily as they are only loosely clipped in place. Replace both the clips and the pads (apply grease as needed) and slowly ease the calipers back over the assembly, securing the lower bolt. Replace the tire and enjoy your new brakes.
- Tire change. You don’t need to call a tow truck insurance company, or roadside assistance when you blow a tire in traffic. Pulling off the old one and putting on a spare is probably a lot easier than you imagine, but you will need to keep some tools handy to do it (although they may already be in your car – in a trunk compartment or under the rear seat, for example). You’ll have to loosen the lug nuts with a tire iron, jack up the car (place a floor mat underneath if you’re worried about slipping), and then remove the lug nuts and tire. Then you just put on the spare, screw on the lug nuts, let the car down, and tighten the nuts. Voila!