Basic car maintenance isn’t nearly as scary as you think. Not only will DIY car care tasks save you money, you’ll also learn about your vehicle's inner workings and expand your general automotive knowledge. You may even enjoy it!
Of course, there are limits to what you can do on your own. If you need to invest in advanced tools, it’s probably best to see a mechanic. Sometimes, even oil changes are best left to the professionals. But as the cost for labor can ranges anywhere from $40 to $200, it's definitely worth learning some simple car maintenance techniques.
Does Your Warranty Cover Maintenance?
Some manufacturer warranties are all-encompassing and include basic maintenance — even Ferrari throws in oil changes. When the manufacturer warranty lapses, more and more people opt for vehicle service contracts, which include a set number of oil changes and tire rotations.
While you can certainly rotate your tires and change the oil on your own, these seemingly basic tasks can become messy, time consuming, and expensive without specialty tools and knowledge. If you decide to DIY, be sure you read up on what to do, otherwise you'll end up having to go to a mechanic anyway.
Most Common DIY Car Maintenance Jobs
Many of these jobs are easier than you think. You don't even need tools beyond a screwdriver or simple wrench:
- Check tire pressure regularly and correct accordingly
- Check the oil, water, and coolant levels
- Replace windshield wipers
- Change a bulb in your head or tail lights
- Clean and change fuel and air filters regularly
You can easily make a habit of taking care of these basic tasks. In addition, be sure to check to see if there is a recall out for your vehicle. Start with these, and you might find you have a knack for mechanics, which can save you a lot of time and money.
Advanced DIY Maintenance Tasks
You can also try your hand at some more advanced mechanical upkeep. These require more tools and car knowledge, so don't try these unless you've really done your research:
- Brake pad replacement
- Check and replace perished hoses
- Spark plug cleaning, gapping and replacement
- Radiator repair and replacement
- Minor dent repairs
The Basic Auto Repair Tool Kit
The general rule is that older cars are easier to work on than newer machines, which are largely computerized. With modern cars, you'll likely need a fault reader that plugs into the OBD port. This doesn't just tell you what's wrong with the car, but it helps you clear phantom faults that can sometimes spring up while you're replacing parts. Fault readers used to be specialist equipment, now you can find basic versions on eBay and Amazon for less than $30.
Some people have garages full of toolboxes and every sprocket set, but they never see the light of day. A streamlined kit is more manageable and less intimidating to a newcomer. Owning every tool won't make you a better mechanic. Instead, focus on achieving more with less and only invest in new tools when you really need them. Start with these:
- Socket wrench
- Adjustable wrench
Essentially, that's all you need to get started with basic maintenance. Don't invest in big brand name tools until you're sure you're going to use them — they cost more, generally because they come with a lifetime guarantee. If you don't use your tools much, budget brand tools will be just fine.
Protect Your Vehicle
Whether you decide to DIY your car maintenance tasks or not, it's extremely important to keep up with your car's maintenance. Not only will maintaining your car keep it running for longer, it will also ensure your vehicle is safe while it's on the road. Don't let the cost of upkeep stop you from doing these basic tasks.
Protect My Car can take the hard work off your hands with an extended warranty, which covers cars up to 10 years old with less than 125,000 miles for major mechanical failures. Get in touch for a free quote today and start saving.