Too many car owners see a problem with their vehicle and the first thing they do is call for a mechanic. In reality, there is no reason that some of these simple repairs can’t be carried out at home – or by the side of the road if you’re unlucky enough to have broken down. Beats waiting on the hard shoulder of a busy highway for the tow truck to show up…
Even kids are learning basic car maintenance thanks to Driver’s Ed courses at their schools, picking up skills such as changing tires, replacing spark plugs, and jump-starting a flat battery. If teenagers who haven’t even passed their driving test can take care of these easy repairs, then more experienced drivers have no excuses.
According to the AAA, the average auto repair bill for US motorists runs to between $500 and $600 per year, and a third of those motorists can’t afford to pay that bill without going into debt. Learning to carry out a few basic repairs on your car could save you a significant amount of money over the life of your vehicle.
Given that the auto repair industry in the US is worth $63 billion per year, your local mechanics will still be earning plenty of cash, even if you do learn to carry out some of the basic repairs on the list below.
20 Patch Up Dents In The Door
How often have you got a dent in your car door, and just ignored it, thinking that it is going to be way too expensive to get fixed if you take it your local body repair shop? Leave dents too long without being fixed, however, and the area can easily become affected by rust, creating a much bigger problem.
There are some quick fixes for dents in your car, however
If your plastic bumper has a dent, pouring boiling water over it can force it to pop back into place, while you can rig up your own suction tool to pull a dent out of the bodywork using a vacuum cleaner, a plastic pot, and some duct tape!
19 Leaky Radiator
Your car’s radiator is an essential component for keeping the engine cool and running as efficiently as possible.
In order to do this, the radiator is filled with coolant, which can sometimes end up leaking from cracks around the joints.
These cracks are easily fixed with a cheap sealant you can buy from any auto shop; all you need to do is remove the radiator cap and pour the sealant right into the radiator, before adding a mix of water and coolant. As this mixture makes its way through the system, the sealant will fix any cracks, stopping the leak.
18 Change Tail Or Headlight Bulbs
A blown bulb in a car is just the same as a blown bulb in your house, and most people wouldn’t even consider calling an electrician to change a light bulb at home.
If your stop light, turn signal or even your headlights aren’t working, then the first thing to check is that the bulbs simply don’t need replacing.
The housing for headlight bulbs is often located at the front of the engine under the hood, while stop lights and turn signals are located within plastic housing units that need to be carefully removed before the bulb can be changed.
17 Replace Faulty Seatbelts
Of all the safety features in your car, seatbelts are among the most important. There is a reason they are considered mandatory for drivers and passengers in most US states; they save 15,000 lives every year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If one of the seatbelts in your car isn’t working properly, it is important that you get that fixed as quickly as possible, and the job is not as difficult as you might expect. All you need to do is remove the broken seatbelt socket, using simply a screwdriver, and replace it with a new unit.
16 Fix A Broken Antenna
While most modern cars are installed with hi-tech in-car entertainment or at least a CD player, there are still a few drivers out there who rely on their radios for road-trip entertainment and traffic news.
Unfortunately for those people, the antenna which picks up radio signals is one of the most easily broken parts of any car – either accidentally, or because some passing idiot thinks it would be funny to snap it off.
The most common type is a fixed mast antenna, which is easily replaced by unscrewing what’s left of your old antenna, and replacing it with a new one, picked up from an auto repair shop for just a few dollars.
15 Change A Tire
Anyone can change a tire, so long as you have the right tools. If you are changing a tire on the side of the road, the most important thing to do is to make sure that you stay safe, and that your hazard lights are on to warn other road users.
Once you have removed the alloys, you need to loosen the lug nuts before lifting the vehicle on the jack.
That’s when you remove the lug nuts and the wheel, before placing the spare tire in its position and securing the lug nuts as tightly as possible. Once you have safely lowered the jack, you can drive on your way.
14 Flat Battery
Flat batteries are a real annoyance for drivers, mainly because you only notice them when you go to drive your car – and often when you’re in a hurry to be somewhere! Sometimes batteries just go flat over time, but on other occasions, you may have accidentally run the battery down by leaving the headlights on. This is another easy fix – so long as you have a partner or neighbor who also has a car. Get them to start the engine on their car and then use the jumper cables to attach their battery to yours, and you will soon be up and running.
13 Replace Engine Air Filter
Every engine needs air to run properly, and an air filter which isn’t working to its maximum capacity means that you also have an inefficient engine. Changing the air filter on your engine is one of those jobs which sounds way more complicated than it actually is; all you need to do is locate the air filter box, open it to remove the old filter, and slot the new one into place. The most difficult part is probably figuring out where your air filter box is if you’re doing this for the first time. You need to change your air filter at least every year or every 12,000 miles.
12 Touch Up Chipped Paint
Scrapes and dings are part and parcel of being a car owner. There isn’t one person who hasn’t come back to their car in a busy parking lot to find a mysterious scratch or annoying chip in the paintwork.
Most people just live with the damage, especially if it is only minor, mistakenly thinking that the only way to fix it is to get the whole car repainted.
All you need to do to touch up your chipped paint is an auto primer to prepare the surface, and then the right shade of auto paint in order to make the offending mark disappear completely.
11 Loose Exhaust Pipe
It’s very easy to identify when your exhaust or muffler has come loose. The loud noise as it scrapes along the road surface is a dead giveaway. There’s no need to panic, however, and there’s no need to call the auto repair shop. The most likely problem is that one of your muffler hangers will have broken; these are tough rubber rings that can be easily removed when worn out and replaced, before re-hanging the exhaust safely and securely in position. These new muffler hangers should keep your exhaust exactly where it needs to be for months and years to come.
10 Dead Alternator
The alternator is another part of your car’s electronics system, charging the battery and powering the electronics while the engine is running. A dead alternator means a dead car, and this one is a little trickier to fix than a flat battery. However, there’s still no reason that with a bit of guidance and the right tools, you can fix a problem alternator at home. The first thing you need is a voltmeter, like the one in the image above, to check your alternator’s output. If there is a problem, disconnect the battery and remove the alternator before replacing it with a new part.
9 Broken Wing Mirror
A broken wing mirror, another pitfall of leaving your car in a busy parking lot, can leave your car unsafe to drive. After all, if you’re a good driver, you should use your wing mirrors all the time!
If the mirror itself isn’t damaged but is just hanging off, then it is pretty easy to simply reattach it using retainer clips.
If the glass in the mirror has become broken, however, you may need to spend a few dollars buying a new part online. These new mirrors often come with their own retainer clips, making it simplicity itself to remove the broken mirror and affix the new one.
8 Replace Brake Pads
The idea of changing brake pads might seem a little intimidating to car owners who aren’t so experienced in auto repair. If you get brake pad repairs wrong, then the consequences could be pretty serious! However, if you have a little auto repair experience, or perhaps have a friend or family member who could check what you’re doing, then replacing brake pads is actually a lot easier than you might think. You will need a few specialist tools, along with the new brake pads, including a floor jack, a jack stand to keep the vehicle in the air, and a brake tool which adjusts the brake caliper pistons to the new pads.
7 Change Spark Plugs
Spark plugs are an essential part of your engine, delivering the electronic spark from the ignition system that starts up the combustion engine. Most spark plugs will keep going for around 30,000 miles, or you may notice problems with the ignition which indicate that one or more of them need to be replaced early.
This is a really simple job, even for auto repair amateurs.
Clean the area around the spark plugs to ensure no dirt or dust falls into the socket when you unscrew the old spark plugs, before screwing the new plugs into place using a torque wrench.
6 Fill Or Replace Washer Tanks
Some drivers don’t realize just how simple it is to fix problems with their cars. For example, if your windshield washer jets stop working, there’s no need to go rushing to your local auto repair shop. At least, not until you’ve checked the obvious causes first. It’s much more likely that your car has run out of windshield washer fluid than that there is any particular fault with the system. Check your car’s manual to find out where the wells are which store the windshield washer fluid, and simply refill them with fluid bought from the store or a home-made version made from water and dish soap.
5 Oil Change
Changing the oil in your car is one of the easiest auto repair jobs, and one of the few fixes that most drivers are happy to do themselves. Oil is essential to keeping your engine working well, preventing friction between the different moving parts. Over time, however, the oil becomes less effective, which is why you need to change it on a regular basis. The first thing you need to do is drain the old oil, by opening the plug in the bottom of the car (make sure you have a bucket handy to catch the old oil). It is then a simple task to replace the plug and pour in the fresh oil.
4 Change Blown Fuses
Light bulbs aren’t the only potential electronic problem that cars and houses have in common. Cars these days also have fuse boxes to help control all those electronic systems; and where there is a fuse box, there are fuses which can blow.
Before assuming that any electronic failure in your vehicle is going to be a major and expensive problem, it is probably worth checking that it isn’t just a simple case of needing to change one of the fuses.
Once you have located your car’s fuse panel, you can check to see if any of them need changing, and at that point, it is just the same process as at home.
3 Fix A Chipped Windshield
A chip in your windshield is another of those problems that seem minor – until it expands into a giant crack, forcing you to replace the whole windscreen. The quicker these small windshield chips are dealt with the better, but there is no need to take your car to a specialist repair shop when you can make an easy fix at home. You can buy windshield repair kits from auto shops or online that contain all the equipment you need to repair the star-shaped chips like the one above. These kits include a syringe containing adhesive, which fills the crack and prevents it from expanding cracking more widely.
2 Replace Broken Windshield Wipers
If your windshield wipers start to squeak or are failing to clear the glass properly, the chances are that you might need to replace the plastic blade on the wiper.
A new blade might squeak a little when it is bedding in, but at least you will be able to see where you are going!
Start by pulling the wiper itself away from the car, so that you access the small tab which releases the blade, before slotting the new blade into position. Wiper blades need to be checked regularly and may need to be changed as frequently as once a year, depending on weather conditions where you live.
1 Battery Maintenance
We have already seen how you deal with flat batteries, but there are several things you can do to keep your battery well-maintained, and hopefully prevent any problems in the future. Firstly, you need to keep the cables that run to and from the car battery clean, as well as cleaning any liquid or dust from the surface of the battery, as this can cause damaging corrosion. Check the water level in each of the battery’s cells, topping off with distilled water if they are too low, and use a hydrometer to check the electrolyte level in the cells too.
Sources: Driversed.com, cars.com, geico.com, bridgestonetire.com, myautorepairadvice.com