Car maintenance can be a much-dreaded source of stress for many car owners. We tend to put off small maintenance jobs in order to avoid paying through the roof for a simple fix, getting ripped off, spending our Saturday morning waiting at the mechanic’s instead of sleeping in… or all of the above.
The result? Putting off small car repairs and upkeep can end up costing you big later on when your car is running on fumes and badly needs some TLC.
Instead of practicing avoidance, there’s a simple solution to your car maintenance anxiety. In roughly the same time you might spend waiting for someone else to perform these tasks, you can teach yourself how to do easy car repairs and upkeep from home. All for only the price of the materials and a little of your time.
Read on to see which easy tasks are worth DIY-ing and begin learning how, so you’ll never have to stare at that little “needs maintenance” light on your dashboard again.
Changing your wiper blades
This is an easy car maintenance task to complete by yourself at home, and it’s one that will save you a lot of money. Wiper blades should be replaced after approximately 6 months to 1 year, and if you’re looking surprised, that’s because people hardly ever change them that often.
Instead, we deal with streaky windows and inconsistent wiping — which can actually be dangerous — because mechanics charge premium prices for replacement blades and installation.
The exact set up of wiper blades differs from car to car, so you’ll want to get out that old owner’s manual and do a quick read before beginning. But the process is quite simple once you know how your blades are connected to the metal arms on the windshield.
The first step is to lift the blades and remove the old ones. Again, take note of how the old blades connect to the metal arms so you can put the new ones on in the same manner. On most models, there’s a tab on the underside of the wiper that you push to remove the old blade.
Then, you attach the new blades, taking care not to scratch your windshield or bend the metal arms. Make sure the new ones are on there good and tight before setting the blades back down on your windshield. You’re done!
Cost: New wiper blades cost between $10 and $20 at an auto parts store, but your mechanic could charge you upwards of $50 for premium blades as well as installation.
Replacing your air filters
This is one of the absolute easiest car maintenance jobs to perform at home, and it’s one that you’ll have to do roughly once per year (or every 12,000 miles). Sure, you can pay a mechanic, but with zero tools and your own intuition, replacing your air filter is as easy as 1-2-3.
The first step is buying a new air filter. You can check your owner’s manual, pop your hood, or ask someone at your local repair shop to help you identify what kind to get. After that, you’ll simply find your old filter under the hood of your car. It should be in a black rectangular box with metal clips on the sides. If you’re not seeing it, go back and check your owner’s manual right away.
Once you’ve located the black box, open up the casing and make a note of which way the filter goes, so that you can remove the old filter and place the new one inside, exactly how the old one sat. Close up the casing, ensuring you close the metal clips as well, and that’s it. DIY completed!
Cost: A new air filter costs about $10 at any big retail store while getting it replaced at your mechanic’s can cost over $30.
Changing your power steering fluid
There are disagreements about when it is best to change your power steering fluid, but the best bet is to check that owner’s manual once again or go with the recommended 2 years (or every 24,000 miles).
There are numerous handy DIY guides online that offer more detailed instructions, so you may want to spend a few minutes doing your own research based on the car you own, the recommended replacement fluid, and what method you’d like to use.
Some people use what’s known as the turkey basting method, which is incredibly simple — and yes, involves using a turkey baster to siphon the old fluid out of the reservoir — but again, the method you choose is up to you. No matter which one you pick, it’ll take you less than 30 minutes to master.
Cost: Most mechanics charge upwards of $75 for this easy DIY, while it’ll cost you roughly $20 for replacement power steering fluid…and possibly a turkey baster.