Home car maintenance: do’s and don’ts

Ever thought of doing your own car maintenance? There are loads of little mechanical jobs that you can do yourself which can save you time and money in the long run. However, by the same token there are quite a few that you should leave to the professionals.

This guide will take you through some of the easy tasks you should be able to do at home, and will point out some of the ones that should be left well alone.

What kind of car owner are you?

Broadly speaking there are two main types of owner. First up there are those who head to the local mechanics at the first unknown clunk or squeak. On the other side, there are the people who are keen to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty when they think that something needs done.

Changing brake pads
Via Flickr

While one type of owner is no better than the other the fact is that if you’re willing to give some little car repair jobs a go then you can save a bit of time, and sometimes a lot of money. After all, despite the efforts of consumer groups there are a fair share of cowboy car mechanics out there.

Even if you have a garage that you know you can trust, learning a few car DIY basics can save you a lot in the long run. We’re going to have a look at some of the things you can quickly and easily learn how to do to your car, before looking at some of the jobs which you should really call out the professionals for.

Car DIY: The basics

There are a load of little things you can do yourself with little more than a few key tools, a bit of instruction and the willingness to get stuck in. We’ve picked out some of the best ones here:

  • Changing your brake pads: In terms of keeping you safe on the road there are few parts of your car as important as your brake pads. Keeping well-maintained, good brakes could keep you from ever having to test out that crumple zone or airbags so when they start to wear down, get them replaced.

Disc Breaks generally have a thing called a brake indicator attached to them which will make an unmistakable squeaking noise when the brakes are wearing down. If your brakes start getting noisy check them out – it could well be time for a change. When you’ve recognised this moment it’ll be time to get into the brake pad changing procedure itself.

changing car oil
Via Flickr under CC BY 2.0
  • Changing the oil and filter: This is another one of those jobs which have to be done every once in a while to keep your car running smoothly – but which you can easily do at home. Most people recommend you change your oil every 7,500 miles or so – or 3,000 miles for diesel engines. This could mean going through the job once or twice a year depending on how many miles you put in. It’s the kind of job you don’t want to drag out though. Keeping your engine running smoothly can help it work better for longer.

However often you need to do it, you’ll find that completing an oil change is an easy enough thing to do. You don’t need many tools and from start to finish the whole oil and filter changing job should take about 30mins to an hour.

  • Changing the bulb: Next up is an all too familiar job that can although pretty minor can cause no end of problems. When the nights are drawing it is keeping your lights in order is essential to both seeing and being seen on the road – not to mention the fact that if the police see you with a faulty light you will be forced to get it fixed.

    Car lights
    By Deborah Austin under CC BY 2.0

Fortunately it is a simple process and instead of shelling out at a garage you can fix it yourself for no more than the price of the bulb itself. And best of all, the whole process should take no more than five minutes from start to finish. That’s a small job that can save you big inconvenience.

  • General maintenance: Finally, if you stay aware and keep an eye on the little details of the way your car runs and if anything is going wrong get it changed quickly. From windscreen wiper blades to blown fuses, there are loads of little jobs you’ll find that are within your abilities to fix. Take the time to give them a try and don’t be one of the many people who are stumped by car troubles.

Some of the things you might want to leave to the pros…

Although there are a range of jobs that you can do yourself, there are some you should leave to professionals, and it’s important to be able to tell the difference.  An issue such as a chipped windscreen will invariably lead to a crack, so it’s important to know  when windscreen replacement might be appropriate. Meanwhile some jobs are just too big for people who don’t have access to a garage – for example if you are looking to re-paint your car.

In these cases, and in the case of any job which you don’t feel comfortable taking on yourself, you should definitely head to a professional who can take over the job and make sure it’s done right. For all the DIY tasks you can do yourself, give it a shot – they might just be easier than you thought.

Which kind of car owner are you?