Basic Car Maintenance Tasks That Anyone Can Perform

  • By Lea Naiz
  • 26 Jun, 2017
Woman filling car reservoir with blue fluid in bottle

Replacing Your Car’s Windshield Wiper Blades

Once or twice a year, you’ll probably discover that your wiper blades need to be replaced. You can do this! First, read your car’s owner’s manual to make sure there’s nothing unusual about the process for your car. For most vehicles, the steps are simple. Lift up and remove your existing wiper blades (usually there will a tab beneath the wiper. Slide the tab to remove the blades.) Carefully attach the new blades the same way the old ones were attached. The wiper-blade packaging should include drawings and instructions showing you exactly what to do. Make sure they fit tightly. That’s it!

Replacing Your Car’s Cabin Air Filter

This filter should be replaced once a year. No big deal, considering that you can do it yourself in less than 15 minutes. Pop the hood of your car and look for a black rectangular box secured with clips. Open those clips and note how the filter is situated inside the box (especially which direction it’s facing.) Remove the old filter and install the new one in the exact way the old one was. Close the box, clip the clips, and you’re done.

Cleaning Your Car’s Battery Posts

If your car isn’t starting as easily as usual, or you’re tinkering under the hood of your car and notice residue (fluff, powder, etc.) on your battery posts, it’s time to clean the posts. First, remove the battery terminals (negative, followed by positive.) You may need to pry them off with a flat object.

Apply a commercial corrosion cleaner to the posts (or save more money by using Coca-Cola or a baking soda-water solution.) Use a wire brush or toothbrush to scrub debris from the posts. Rinse with water, dry with a cloth, replace the terminals, and mission complete!

Flushing Your Car’s Radiator

Over time, dirt and sediment will build up in your radiator. If they’re not removed, they can damage your car’s cooling system and necessitate a pricey repair. Flushing the radiator will prevent this. The recommendations vary according to vehicle, but your car’s owner’s manual will specify how often a radiator flush should be performed. (Usually, it’s needed every one or two years.)

Before you begin, collect the tools you’ll need (a Phillips screwdriver or wrench, cloths, funnel, coolant, radiator flush cleaning solution, and a container to hold the old coolant.) Additionally, don’t begin until your engine has cooled completely.

Your owner’s manual will show you where your radiator’s drain plug is located. Place the container for spent-fluid under the drain plug, remove the plug, and wait for the old coolant to empty completely. Replace the plug and remove the radiator cap. Place the funnel into the radiator opening, and pour the cleaning solution into the funnel. Next add water until the radiator is full and put the radiator cap back on.

Start your car and keep the engine running until the temperature reaches operating temperature. Crank up your car’s heater to maximum run the engine for 10 minutes, then turn off the car. After the engine has thoroughly cooled, drain the radiator the same way you did the first time. Refill it as before, but this time use fresh coolant. Take old coolant to an auto parts store for disposal – it’s poisonous! Never pour it into a storm drain or leave it where a pet can get to it.

As You Gain Confidence, You Can Graduate to More Challenging DIYs

The aforementioned maintenance tasks are ideal for novices, and a great place to build your confidence. As you become more comfortable under the hood, there are other opportunities to save money on maintenance tasks that are a bit more involved, but definitely do-able! These include replacing your car’s spark plugs, changing your car’s oil and oil filter, changing your car’s brake pads, and replacing your car’s fuel filter.

A Little Time and Effort Will Save You A Lot of Money

The price to have your vehicle maintained by a professional varies. By one estimate, you’ll save   $76 to $110   by changing your own wiper blades,   $40 to $100   by changing your own air filter,   $40 to $200   by flushing your own radiator, and anywhere from   $100 to $250-plus   on battery replacement by keeping your existing battery terminals clean. The more basic car maintenance tasks you can do yourself, the more you’ll save!

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