Do It Yourself: 5 Basic Car Maintenance Tasks

One of your wiper blades snaps off – do you know how to change it? Or a flat tire? Nowadays with road side assistance, it is surprising how little people can actually do themselves when it comes to simple car maintenance. But it is definitely good to know how to do some of these things so you don’t have to rely on anyone else for help – especially in an emergency situation. There are things you should leave to the professionals, but these 5 basic tasks are good – and relatively easy- to know how to do. So grab a notebook, take some notes and become schooled in simple car maintenance!

#1: Change a Tire. You’d be surprised at how many people cannot do this.  Always pull over to a safe location, set the parking brake, and loosen (without removing) the lug nuts before jacking up the car (always consult your owner’s manual for the proper placement of the jack). Spare tires should be placed only on the rear of the car. If you blow a front tire, move a rear tire forward and put the spare on the back. Mount the spare with the air valve facing out and replace the lug nuts, tightening them gradually in an alternating pattern. Here is a full video showing the process.

#2: Jump Start Your Car. Make sure both cars are turned off. Then grab your jumper cables and identify the battery terminals – check your owner’s manual if you’re not sure. Connect the positive (red) clamps to the positive terminals; throughout the whole process, don’t let the jumper leads come into contact. Attach one (black) negative clamp to the negative terminal of the working battery, and the other to an unpainted metal surface under the hood of the immobilized car, such as a bolt. Start the engine of the working car and wait five minutes for your battery to charge. Check out this video for full instructions.

#3: Check Your Fluid Levels. This one requires some assistance from your owner’s manual, as you will be dealing with the engine, but it is definitely doable! Engine oil, transmission fluid, wiper fluid and radiator coolant are all vital to your vehicle’s long life. Consult your owner’s manual for details on how to monitor them properly and how often to check. Always allow the engine to cool down before going under the hood.

#4: Replacing Wiper Blades. Your wipers should be replaced every six months. Or even more so after they have to work in overdrive during the winter. So keep an eye on them and when in doubt, replace! Here are full instructions for putting on new ones.

#5: Check Tire Pressure. Your tire pressure can impact how your car handles and its gas mileage. Check the recommended PSI (look inside the driver’s side doorjamb or in your owner’s manual) and wait until your tires are cool before removing the caps from the air valves. Firmly apply the pressure gauge to the valve, ensuring a solid seal between gauge and valve. If the pressure is too low or too high, use an air compressor (available at many gas stations) to add air, or depress the pin in the valve to remove air—and never overfill your tires.

That wasn’t so bad, right? But remember, if you are uncomfortable doing any of these things – ask a professional for help. As always, we are here to help with oil changes and keeping it clean!