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Basic Car Maintenance 101: 9 Repairs You Can Do Yourself

By admin / March 8, 2019
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Car repairs can be expensive.

They can be even more expensive if you use a bad mechanic who misdiagnoses the problem or forgets to replace a bolt, meaning you have to go back and dish out more money.

They can be even more expensive if you encounter a shady mechanic who uses an old part or creates a new problem on your vehicle in hopes that you will bring the car back and pay him to do the same thing all over again.

Instead of spending a lot of money on car maintenance and worrying about the quality of the work being done, let alone it getting done at all, why not use someone who you know you can actually trust…yourself. 

Check out these 9 easy car repairs and maintenance you can do all on your own with a brief how-to for each one.

A Quick Note On Safety

Before engaging in any of the below repairs, make sure to have the proper eye and ear protection that may be needed depending on the task.

Especially if working under the hood in and around the engine compartment, make sure the engine is off and cooled down.

Lastly, if working under the vehicle or planning on lifting the vehicle with a car jack, make sure the car is in park and on a level surface.

1. Replace Your Battery

Is your vehicle’s voltage gauge is reading a low voltage–under 13.7 volts while running? Perhaps you’ve noticed progressively dimming headlights or you’ve occasionally needed a jump-start. 

If so, there’s a good chance you’ll need to replace your car battery.

As long as you can lift between 30-50 lbs, just follow these steps and get your battery replaced in under 10 minutes.

  1. Pop the hood to gain access to the battery.
  2. Identify the positive and negative battery terminals.
  3. Using a small wrench, disconnect terminal clamp from the negative terminal first, and then disconnect from the positive terminal. Make sure to mark which is which so you don’t cross-connect the wires to the wrong terminals.
  4. Remove any clamps or screws keeping the battery held in place.
  5. Replace the old battery with the new, cleaning the terminal clamps to ensure a good connection before putting the new battery in.
  6. Replace any clamps or screws meant to hold the battery into place.
  7. Connect the positive terminal first, and then connect the negative terminal.

2. Replace Your Alternator

This repair is a little bit more complex and may take a little more elbow grease to get done. Still, it’s a great bit of car maintenance to learn to do yourself or help a friend with. 

Follow these steps and get your alternator replaced in less than an hour.

  1. Pop the hood and locate your car’s alternator.
  2. Disconnect your car’s battery before working on the alternator by disconnecting the negative (-) cable from its terminal.
  3. Start on the alternator by removing the main power cable which runs from the battery to the alternator. 
  4. Disconnect the smaller wire which attaches to the alternator via a clip-in plug.
  5. Using a wrench, apply pressure to the belt tensioner until the serpentine belt has enough slack that you can pull it off of the alternator pulley.
  6. Remove the bolts holding the alternator in place.
  7. Replace the old alternator by putting the new one in the exact position as the hold one. This will ensure wire and bolt connection all line up.
  8. Screw the mounting bolts back in.
  9. Apply pressure to the same tensioner used to take the belt off. When there is enough slack again, slip the belt back over the new alternator’s pulley.
  10. Reconnect the main power cable and the clip-in plug.
  11. Reconnect the negative cable back to the battery terminal. Close the hood and be on your way.

3. Change Your Oil

Keeping up to date with your oil changes is one of the most important ways to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape and running into the years to come.

For this process, you’ll have to start by opening your car hood and identifying the location if the engine oil filler cap. Loosen or remove this cap.

After this, you’ll need to get under your vehicle and locate the oil filter and the oil drain plug which is attached to your car’s oil pan.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to drain the oil from your car’s oil pan into an oil drain pan. After this, remove the oil filter and also let that drain into this pan.

Once all the oil is drained, replace the drain plug and screw on your new oil filter.

After this, go back under the hood of your car and fill your engine with the amount of oil recommended by the manufacturer, as found in your car’s manual.

Read more here on how to go about choosing the right type of oil for your vehicle.

4. Clean or Replace Your Air Filter

This is one of the simplest bits of car maintenance anyone can do to keep your car running efficiently.

To do this, just pop the hood and find the air filter compartment. To remove the top off of it, there will either be a small clip that just has to be popped off with a screwdriver. Otherwise, there may be a small screw holding it together.

Once the top is removed, take out the old filter for inspection. Give it a good blowing with an air gun or wash it out with water. 

If it needs to be replaced, simply reverse the two steps needed to remove the old one.

5. Replace Your Spark Plugs

If your engine isn’t firing quite right, changing your vehicle’s spark plugs is one of the first lines of defense to address.

To get this job done, you’ll want to disconnect the battery again as if you were replacing the alternator, as outlined above.

Then, locate the spark plug wires–thick rubber wires that run to usually four, six, or eight plugs in your engine.

Simply pop the connections off of the top of these plugs and, using a deeper spark plug socket, carefully unscrew and remove these spark plugs.

After this, you can install the new plugs which have the proper spark plug gaps according to manufacturer recommendations.

More Easy Car Maintenance Repairs You Can Do Yourself

Here are some more simple repairs and bits of maintenance you can do on your own that can take less than just 15 minutes.

6. Replace Your Headlights

To start this, just pop your hood and locate the bulb holder. Disconnect the wiring harness connected to this holder and then remove the bulb. The bulb could be held in place by either a clip or lever, or could be a screw-in type of bulb.

After removing the old one, just replace it with a new, clean bulb the same way. Reattach the wire harness and you’ll be good to go.

7. Replace a Blown Fuse

You’re driving along and suddenly you notice your car audio stops working. Or, perhaps you’ve noticed one of the interior or exterior lights has gone out. 

It may not be a problem with the actual mechanism affected. It could simply be a fuse.

To check this problem, find your car’s fuse box. Your manual will usually tell you where to locate it. 

Once you’ve found it, pop the cover off. There should be a fuse diagram under the cover or on the side of the box. Find the affected mechanism on the diagram and then pull that fuse out. 

If you see that the fuse looks black inside, or there’s a gap in the metal inside, you’ll need to replace the fuse. 

Just replace the fuse with one that has the same number on top of it (indicating the amperage) as the old fuse and that should solve your problem.

8. Replace Your Old, Cracked Windshield Wipers

Another important repair anyone can make for the sake of safety is to replace your old windshield wipers. 

To do this, just pull your wipers away from the windshield. Once you’ve done this, locate the small tabs near the bottom of the wiper arm. Push in the tabs (you may need a small screwdriver to do this) and slide the wiper arms off.

Simply slide the new wiper arms into the same position until the tabs click back into place. Then carefully pull the wipers back against the windshield.

9. Rotate Your Tires

Each of your car’s tires wears in its own unique way. To keep these tires wear patterns equal to keep any one from wearing out too quickly, you’ll want to periodically rotate your tires.

Firstly, you’ll want to use a lug wrench to go around and break the lug nuts (meaning get them loose, but without removing them) from each wheel.

Once you’ve done this you can jack up the car and safely set it upon four car jack stands.

Since the lug nuts are loose you can remove these and then remove the tires also. 

To properly rotate the tires, you’ll want to swap them with the one in their direct opposite position. For example, the front right one would swap with the rear left one.

Once you’ve done this, you can screw in the lug nuts as tight as they go before spinning the wheel. Just set the car down, tighten the lug nuts according to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, and be good to go for another 5000-6000 miles.

Become your Own Most Trusted Car Mechanic

By doing your own car maintenance, you will be able to trust the quality of work done (or know who to blame if it goes poorly). You’ll also save money while feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Eventually though, no matter how well you maintain your vehicle, it comes time to part ways with it. If that time is coming soon for you,  find out how to save money when shopping at a dealership with these great tips.

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