Let’s face it, unless you’re just a big fan of cars and how they work, it can often be a bit intimidating to do any kind of maintenance on your vehicle. Not every bit of maintenance involves futzing around under the hood and even bits that do are easier and more accessible than you think. There are websites and tools (beyond your garden variety wrench and screwdriver sets) that you can take advantage of that let even the most inexperienced of us provide a respectable level of care and maintenance. Check out our list to see how you can best care for your car, even if you’re not a mechanic.
1. Wash your car
You may ask yourself how this is a vital bit of car maintenance. Washing your car has nothing to do with how well it runs, obviously. Even a Ferrari caked in mud and dust is still a Ferrari. But regularly washing and waxing your car helps protect it against degradation. Keeping the body clean and the paint job in excellent condition not only helps maintain the car’s resale value, it helps you to both prevent and spot wear and tear on the vehicle such as if there are any scratches, dents or even slowly forming rust spots.
2. Read and watch
It used to be that in order to learn about car maintenance, you had to either learn from someone who already knew what they were doing, or go to a trade school to learn. But now, thanks to the internet, information is more prevalent and easily accessible than ever. Which means there are numerous resources right at your fingertips so that you can learn this stuff on your own time and dime. Websites like AutoMD and YouTube channels such as Expert Village are perfect resources for anyone looking to learn about how to best care for their vehicle on their own.
3. Get some tools
You can’t do the right job if you don’t have the right tools. Making sure you’ve got some basic tools on hand is essential even for some of the most basic and easy car maintenance. You can pick up a set with a couple screwdrivers, some adjustable wrenches,pliers and even a socket set for a relatively small amount of money. But wait, don’t just stop with that tool set. There other implements you can pick up that can help dramatically when you’re not looking to spend a lot of money taking your car to a repair shop or dealership. For instance, we’ve all panicked when the CHECK ENGINE light blips up on our dashboard. But before you go drop nearly $100 just for a mechanic to tell you the light came on for some insignificant reason, go online and buy a diagnostic tool yourself. That’s right, you can do the same kind of diagnostic check that a mechanic would and for often less than half the cost of what they would charge you. So if it turns out you just need a new gas cap, you won’t have to hand over a Benjamin just to find out.
4. Change the air filter
Aside from washing your car or changing the windshield wipers, this may be the easiest bit of car maintenance you can do, especially given the benefits it produces. For one, having a regularly replaced (every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first, is what’s recommended) helps ensure that your air conditioning system isn’t getting clogged with dirt and dust and other bits of debris. Secondly, it helps your engine perform properly. A dirty filter means that dirt and other particles are getting sucked into the engine, which can result in some performance problems. And finally, we all need as much relief at the gas pumps as we can get these days, and regularly changing your filter can help keep your car’s gas mileage at its most efficient. Changing the filter is incredibly easy to do, takes ten minutes at most and a filter can be replaced for about $10.
5. Hazy headlights
We’ve all had it happen. You have your car for a good long stretch and the headlight cover becomes foggy and hazy which dims the projection of your lights onto the road. One shouldn’t need to describe or explain why this is a Bad Thing and why you should take care of it, so there you go. That said, you don’t have to replace the entire cover assembly, but instead just invest in a cleaning kit that can range from about $9 to $25. It’s an easy fix and while some kits take longer than others to take effect, it’s well worth the time, money and (minimal) effort.
6. Change your spark plugs
This last bit is by far the most technical of the maintenance suggestions here, but it’s by no means a difficult task. Especially if you’ve taken advantage of tip No. 2 and done some reading and watching of your own. Changing the spark plugs is as simple as using a socket wrench or ratchet wrench and pulling the spark plugs out of their sockets and replacing them. Just make sure you don’t pull them all out at once. Pull them out and replace them one by one, as the plugs must remain in their current exact order on your engine. Also, be sure not to overtighten them once you replace them with the new plugs. The benefits to this are excellent, too, as it helps ensure your engine is running at optimal performance and it can have a very noticeable effect on your gas mileage.