A List of Simple Car Maintenance You Can Do Yourself


Preventative maintenance is the key to maintaining the value of any late-model automobile. Like a rudder on a ship, all the power in your vehicle is held in place by the tiniest things in the world.

If you fail to replace these small items or fail to carry out technical service as required by the manufacturer, you could be looking at the major collapse of your automobile. Nevertheless, carrying out perfect maintenance can be expensive and difficult on luxury automobiles that are over-engineered and require a special tool for just about everything. You should always consult a factory manual, use OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts to maintain your warranty, and consult an expert if you are not certain about any repair or maintenance routine.

1 - Air Filters

Once you purchase cabin and intake air filters that fit your vehicle, you have the replacement half finished. Air intake filters are meant to be replaced quickly and are often located near the battery in a large plastic air box that has large tubing connected to the throttle body of the engine. In some vehicles, there may be a plastic engine cover that has to be carefully pried off to locate it. The air box is opened up with simple pressure clips that can be lifted with your fingers or a small screwdriver. A cabin air filter is usually located near the windshield under a plastic cover on the passenger side of the engine bay. This may have a retaining bolt and housing that slides off. After checking the condition of the new filter or installing the new one, you simply secure it in the housing by following the removal instructions in reverse.

2 - Windshield Wipers

Installing windshield wipers is another super simple job. You simply lift up each windshield wiper, one at a time, and look at the U-shaped metal prong that retains the plastic clips. You may need pliers or a screwdriver to release the plastic retaining clip while pulling it downward from the metal bend it is secured by. Your new windshield wipers should come with new clips that fit the U-bend or other fastener designs. Bring each one into the auto parts store to compare size for an exact fit. The driver's side is usually slightly longer than the passenger's side.

3 - Battery

The battery is one of the easiest things to change on your vehicle. Although some vehicles have them retained in a virtual bulletproof housing (e.g., Volkswagen), you can usually locate the retaining bracket and remove the battery with a small socket set. Before you touch the battery, you want to loosen and remove the negative (black) battery terminal clamp. You should then follow with the red clamp. After lifting out the old battery by its handle, you simply lower the new battery in, and install it by following the reverse steps. The only distinction is that you may want to coat the terminal posts of your new battery with dielectric grease before you retain the clamps.

4 - Brakes

On most vehicles, it is not that difficult to change the brakes. They sell a small metal worm gear press that allows you to replace the brake pads by resetting the caliper after the old brakes are removed. If you have a suitable hydraulic jack, appropriately rated jack stands, and a decent toolset, it is easy to do this job in a few hours. You simply remove the wheels and the two large bolts that retain the caliper housing to the knuckle. Remove one brake pad and use the other as a cushion to reset the hydraulic caliper with the special worm gear tool. Then, simply replace the pads and shims with the new set, and reinstall the caliper over a new or resurfaced rotor.

5 - Oil

If you have a hydraulic jack, appropriately rated jack stands, a funnel, a 13mm-15mm box wrench, and a plastic catch bin for the old oil, you can change the oil yourself. You simply loosen the oil filler cap, situate the oil catch bin near the oil pan drain plug, and remove the plug. Add a new washer to the plug, if necessary, and torque by hand until tight. Use a strap wrench to get the filter off and to tighten it once it's removed. Finally, you add the appropriate volume of oil and rev your engine a bit to recheck it a few times on the dipstick.

6 - Tires

If you have a hydraulic jack, appropriately rated jack stands, a breaker bar, and the correct (typically 17mm-24mm) sized socket, you can change tires if they are already mounted on new wheels. Simply loosen the lug nuts with the wheels on the ground. Lift up each wheel to remove them fully. Install the new wheel, and retorque the lug nuts finger-tight. Lower each wheel and finish tightening with a torque wrench by using a torque pattern.