For many, car maintenance can be a scary and complicated process that must be left to experienced professionals. The only problem most of us can solve ourselves is moving that pesky gas gauge from “E” to “F”. Thankfully, maintaining important components of your car is easier than you think. Before you take your car to the mechanic or dealership, here are five simple car maintenance tips.
If you’ve been to Jiffy Lube or any other oil change service, the technician will often ask you if you want your air filter replaced. But how do you know if that is even necessary? What does the air filter even do?
Your car’s engine needs an exact mixture of fuel and air in order to run correctly. The air filter prevents dirt and other debris from entering the system and potentially damaging your engine. You should change your air filter out every 12 months or 12,000 miles (whichever comes first), and here is how:
1) Open your car’s hood and locate the black box with metal clips on the side (refer to your owner’s manual for the exact location).
2) Open the casing and remove your filter.
3) Inspect your filter. If you notice a lot of dirt in between the folds, it may be time to replace it.
4) Install a new filter. You can buy an exact replacement for about $10 at any auto parts store.
In any electrical system, fuses represent the weakest connection in a signal’s pathway. If any electrical current generates too much heat, the fuse will melt (or blow) before the wiring does, saving you from a costly rewiring process. You can easily find and replace your car’s fuses yourself:
1) Locate the fuse box. This is usually located near the driver’s seat (refer to the owner’s manual). The fuse box usually provides a diagram of what each fuse is connected to, as well as its respective amperage (e.g., 10 amps, 7.5 amps, etc.).
2) Remove the bad fuse. Some fuse boxes also provide a tool to help you extract bad fuses from the circuit breaker. However, you can just as easily take one out using some needle-nose pliers.
3) Install a new fuse. Just remember you have the right amperage. Fuses are extremely inexpensive, and can be found at most gas stations.
You’ll find few problems more annoying than defective windshield wiper blades. Worn out wiper blades can have several causes: exceedingly dry climates can cause the rubber blades to become brittle or even crack, ice on the windshield can wear down wiper blades, and environmental factors like pollution and UV light can take a toll on your blades. Replacing your blades is a simple process:
1) Identify the blade sizes your car uses. Some car models employ a longer driver’s side wiper blade, and a shorter passenger’s side blade. If you are unsure of the exact sizes, you can consult the owner’s manual or call your local dealer (such as the Los Angeles Honda dealer).
2) Lift the blades as if you were washing the windshield by hand. Pay special attention to how the wiper blades attach to the wiper arms.
3) Attach the new blades. Often, most packaging for new blades contain installation instructions.
Anytime you run an electrical current through two different metals, and that connection is exposed to the air (as with car battery terminals), over time you’ll likely find a buildup of corroded material that can interfere with that connection. This corrosion can actually prevent your car from starting, and drain your battery faster than normal. There are a number of ways to fix this problem:
1) Disconnect the battery and remove the corrosion with a wire brush. This is good for quick fixes, but keep in mind it is only a temporary repair. While you can purchase professional cleaning agents for this job, you can also remove the corrosion effectively with Coca-Cola, or a baking soda solution.
2) Dry off the terminals, then coat them in grease or Vaseline. This will protect them from oxidation and prevent further corrosion.
3) Make sure all components are clean and free of debris before reconnecting your battery, then reattach the power cables.
While changing your own oil is one of the more involved and time-consuming do-it-yourself jobs, it is a very handy skill to develop and can pro-long the life of your engine (should you require a replacement engine, why not consider a used engine). Jiffy Lube says you should change your oil about every 3,000 miles, but if you’re using full-synthetic oil, you can get away with changing it about every 6,000 or so. Before you begin, make sure that your engine is cooled down, as any oil that comes into contact with the hot metal engine block could start a fire. You’ll also need to jack up your car to do this effectively:
1) Locate the oil pan under the car, and unscrew the drain plug. This will allow all the old oil to drain into your oil pan.
2) After screwing the drain plug back into place, go to your engine and remove the old oil filter (this requires an oil filter wrench).
3) Lubricate the new oil filter gasket with new oil, then fill it 2/3 full with new oil.
4) Insert the new oil filter.
5) Using a funnel, fill the engine with new oil. Use the dip-stick to determine that you’ve added the correct amount. Then close everything up.
6) Discard the old oil filter and oil (most gas stations will recycle your old oil for you).
Performing car maintenance yourself is a great way to familiarize yourself with your car. If you find that you have to take your car in to a mechanic’s shop, don’t be afraid to ask questions about ways you can take care of your car in the meantime. Any honest mechanic will be happy to share his knowledge. Plus, the more you know, the more money you can save down the road.