Even if you’ve never changed a tire or an oil filter, there are DIY steps you can perform to reduce trips to the mechanic and save on repair costs. These minor maintenance tasks can often prevent accidents like overheated engines and tire damage. Many of these maintenance projects won’t get your hands too dirty and require minimal skills and tools.
Monitor Tire Pressure and Condition
If nothing else, reviewing your tires to make sure they are roadworthy can prevent accidents ranging from tire disintegration to the inability to brake. Making sure tires are properly inflated can save on gasoline costs.
- Inspect your tires to see if there are objects like nails embedded in them that can cause air leaks. Many can be removed and patched. There are easy to use kits for this purpose.
- Check the tire tread by inserting a quarter or penny head-down. If any part of Washington’s head sinks in, the tire is fine for now. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires. You can also look for treadwear bars built into many tires. They sit below the tread on new tires and come closer to tread levels with use. Once they are even with the tread — head online and look for deals for high-quality tire brands like Firestone and replace your worn tires promptly.
Check Your Car’s Fluid Levels
Back in the day, you’d pull in to a gas station and some guy would come running out to fill up your tank. He (it was almost always a he) would also pop the hood and check the oil and washer fluid levels.
Today, it’s almost impossible to find a full-service station, unless you live in Oregon or New Jersey, the only two states that ban self-service gas stations. So in addition to pumping your own gas, you need to check the levels of various fluids that keep your engine, transmission, brakes, and steering working efficiently. Find the owner’s manual and get familiar with what’s under the hood. Then grab a rag and pop that hood open.
Start with the easy stuff:
- Oil, transmission and power steering fluids are measured on dipsticks. Oil and transmission fluids are measured on dipsticks that stick out from the engine (oil) and transmission.
- The oil stick is usually well-marked and topped with a loop. Carefully draw out the dipstick, wipe, reinsert, and remove. Look carefully to see if the levels are within marked areas on the dipstick.
- Check transmission levels when the car is warm and has been running; be sure to leave it in park. New transmission fluid is red, and turns brown with time. Color is only a concern if it’s pink, which means water has leaked in. Most automatic transmission fluid lasts for 100,000 miles.
- Power steering fluid is measured on a dipstick attached to the power steering pump cap. First, turn on the engine and move the steering wheel around. Turn the engine off before removing the cap to check the fluid level on the dipstick.
- Monitor reservoirs that hold antifreeze/coolant, brake fluid and wiper fluid. These fluids are in translucent plastic reservoirs that are marked for the optimal levels.
- Be sure you fill low levels with the right fluids in the correct reservoirs.
- Look for icons that indicate their purpose; the wiper fluid reservoir usually has a blue cap.
Inspect and Measure the Car Battery
Only 30 percent of car batteries sold today reach the four-year mark, according to automotive self-help guru Chris Fix.
Take a look at your battery every week during very hot months when they are more likely to be stressed. Look for cracks in the case and bulges and check the cable connections and clamps for corrosion. Clean them off with a wire brush and add a little petroleum jelly to minimize corrosion.
Many auto part stores will do a free battery strength check for you. Or you can purchase a multimeter to measure battery and alternator strength.
Author Information: Ruth Ann Monti provides copywriting and content development for all things webby. Her interests include content development and SEO topics and small business issues, including technologies that support them.