With colder weather quickly approaching, taking necessary precautions to prepare your car for snow, bad roads, and the change of seasons is an important step to keeping your car running smoothly.
Instead of taking your car to a costly mechanic, save a buck by doing some general maintenance repairs at home. You don’t have to be a car expert or even mechanically inclined to know how to do basic repairs on your vehicle.
1. Oil Change
Tools: Ratchet, oil pan, funnel, oil filter wrench
Time: 30-45 minutes
You’re supposed to change your oil every 5,000 miles, but before you start, take a few safety precautions:
- Never change the oil while your car is still hot. Driving around the block may loosen up the oil and make it easier to change, but park, wait for your engine to cool down, then get to work.
- You will most likely need to use a jack to get under your vehicle, so be sure you are comfortable using a jack.
Changing your vehicle’s oil is the messiest job on this list, so be prepared to get a little dirty!
- Using a jack, get under your car and find the vehicle’s oil pan. It should be easy to find.
- Unscrew the drain plug and drain all of the old oil into the oil pan.
- When all the oil is drained, put the drain plug back in place.
- Under your car’s hood, locate the oil filter and remove using your oil filter wrench (there will be some oil on the filter, so be careful).
- Lubricate the rubber gasket on the new oil filter and fill the new oil filter 2/3 of the way with new motor oil
- Screw in the new oil filter and tighten by hand.
- Using your funnel, fill the engine with new oil.
- Double check your oil levels to be sure you’ve added enough by using a dip-stick.
- Discard the old oil filter.
Most gas stations will recycle old motor oil, so check the gas station closest to you.
2. Changing Your Wiper Blades
Time: 5-10 minutes
This is very important as we enter colder months and start getting frost on our vehicle’s overnight and even some ice! Wiper blades are rubber, so they experience wear and tear a lot more frequently than other external parts. Keeping your blades fresh and new for winter months will increase your visibility and make you a safer driver.
Changing your wiper blades varies between cars, so if you are unsure how to do this, always check your owner’s manual first. But for the most part, this is a pretty simple task.
- Lift your windshield wipers and carefully remove the blades.
- While doing this, pay attention to how the blades were attached.
- On most vehicles, there’s a tab on the bottom of the wipers – push to remove the blade.
- Attach the new blades, being careful not to bend the metal frame of the wipers, and make sure they are secure.
(If you can’t figure out how to do this, most wiper blades packaging come with installation instructions.)
3. Topping Off Your Fluids
Time: 15-20 minutes (for all levels)
One of the easiest maintenance tasks to perform on your vehicle is topping off your fluid levels – windshield washer fluid and antifreeze especially for winter.
Windshield washer fluid is as simple as lifting the hood of your car and locating the container and using a funnel, pouring windshield washer fluid into the container until it reaches the “fill” line. If there is no clear indicator, leave a few inches at the top.
Antifreeze is important for your engine so it doesn’t overheat. Locate the reservoir and loosen the cap. Allow the pressure to release before fully unscrewing the cap. If the coolant level is low, add the correct coolant to the reservoir (not the radiator itself).
4. Replacing Your Vehicle’s Air Filter
Time: 10-15 minutes
It’s recommended that you change your vehicle’s air filter once a year, or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. This only takes about 10 minutes to do by yourself, making it a quick fix that shouldn’t go overlooked.
- Find your filter under the hood of your car. It is a rectangular box with metal clips on the side (if you can’t locate it, check your owner’s manual).
- Open the cover and remove the old air filter, taking note of how the filter fits inside the casing.
- Replace with the new filter and close the cover using the metal clips.
These 4 tasks can be done easily in your own driveway and will save you a boatload of money (auto mechanic costs can add up!). If ever you are unsure or uncomfortable working on your vehicle, read through the owner’s manual or call your local mechanic. Most auto shops will be able to help you determine the best brands and types of fluids for your vehicle, what wiper blades fit your make and model, and what size air filter you need.