March 31

Spring Clean: DIY Vehicle Maintenance


Much has been said about the money-saving aspect of making or repairing our own items. Most of the time, doing things yourself allows you to save a big chunk on labor costs.

However, the hidden benefits of doing things yourself can be even more rewarding than just being frugal. It’s fun to learn something new.

When it comes to vehicles, you may think that DIY is overly complicated and should be left in the hands of mechanical experts. The truth is that there are certain tasks you can handle — quickly and easily — regardless of your level of experience with DIY.

The trick is to know when and when not to DIY. Start with a small project if this is your first time. Seek help from people who have some experience fixing or making things on their own. That way, you’ll be able to learn faster.

Here are a few vehicle maintenance tasks you can easily manage on your own.     

1. Oil Changes

One of the most common maintenance tasks is changing oil.

But how often should you change it?

You might have read in some old owner’s manuals that you should change your engine oil every 3,000 miles. However, this advice is outdated.

Thanks to advanced automotive technologies, the majority of today’s cars require a standard oil change somewhere between 7,500 to 10,000 miles.

There are a few things you should keep in mind when changing oil by yourself.

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  • Always wait for the engine to cool down before getting started.
  • You will need to use a jack, so make sure you’re comfortable with handling one.
  • Hand-fasten the new oil filter tightly.
  • Fill the engine only with the amount of oil called for — do not try to overfill it.
  • Use the dipstick for double checking that you’ve added enough oil.
  • Turn on the engine for about 30 seconds for circulation and to spot any leaking.

2. Dirt and Stain Removal

Are you annoyed by those coffee stains on the passenger seat or the windshield clogged with dirt? Before visiting your local car detailing service, why not try using some of the items in your home? You’ll be surprised at what they can do.

When cleaning car upholstery, many people make the mistake of using more water than needed, thinking it will give them more of a desired outcome. This is actually counterproductive. Water increases the level of moisture in the car which causes damage to the fabric, leads to rust on the frame metal, and leaves your interior with a musty odor.

Dryer lint, dish detergent, or baby wipes can effectively save your seat upholstery from being harassed by stubborn marks. Likewise, a mixture of baking soda (¼ cup) and warm water (1 cup) can keep the toughest stains at bay.

How about getting rid of those blotchy, foggy spots on your windshield? Many professionals use a single-edge razorblade.

You may think that razorblades will only scratch the windshield. The truth is that modern windshields consist of two thin layers of glass and a rubber layer embedded in the middle which makes them invulnerable to a razor. The key is to keep the work surface wet by using glass cleaner. Keep the angle small and the blade flat. Avoid broad strokes and the windshield corners.

3. Changing the Air Filter

Air filters play a critical role in keeping dirt, dust, and air particles out of you car’s engine. For every 12,000 miles driven or at least once every year, you need a new air filter. It might sound a bit daunting, but this task will only take a few minutes.

An air filter change is often an “upsell” your mechanic might offer when you take your vehicle in for other maintenance. Generally, the additional cost is significantly higher than what it would be for you to buy and replace your own filter.

The air filter is a black rectangular box with metal clips located under the hood of your car. If you have trouble finding this, check the owner’s manual for more information.

Study how the old air filter fits inside the case to make sure that once you replace it with a new one, it looks exactly the same. Remember to close the metal clips on the side when you’re done.

Aside from replacing the air filter when the time comes, you may also want to clean it on a regular basis. It can get clogged up rather quickly which prevents air from entering the engine, reduces your gas mileage, and ultimately, costs you more money.

4. Battery Maintenance

The secret to a long-lasting and smooth-running vehicle is an efficient battery. This means your battery should receive regular check-ups. Don’t worry, it’s only a simple cleaning every few months to prevent frustrating battery problems.   

Remove the battery terminals. Again, if you’re stuck, follow the guidelines in the owner’s manual. Always remove the negative cable first.

Clean the posts with a wire brush and a generous amount of cleaning solution. We recommend using a professional cleaning product from your local auto parts store to help remove heavy corrosion from the connectors. If you’re not dealing with extensive corrosion, a mixture of baking soda and water would adequately do the job.

When you’re finished, rinse with water, dry the posts with cloths, and replace the battery terminals. Make sure that all cable connections are properly tightened. Otherwise, a weak electrical connection may not enable your car to start.

Improper maintenance on your vehicle not only costs you money, but it can also cause huge interruptions in your already busy schedule. In addition, it’s dangerous to drive a poorly-kept vehicle.

These DIY projects are much simpler than you might have expected. Not to mention, you can have lots of fun during the process. Twenty minutes to half an hour is all it takes to care for your beloved car and keep you safe on the road.


car maintenance, tune-ups, vehicle maintenance

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