In past posts, we have talked about the importance of regularly scheduled maintenance to protect your vehicle investment. Although routine maintenance is a necessity, it can add up very quickly. But there are several areas of vehicle maintenance that you can do on your own for a fraction of the price – all you need is a little know-how, a little time and a little cash for supplies!
Not all of the things listed below are able to be performed by every vehicle owner. Due to details like time/space constraints or lack of proper tools and general know-how, you may not feel comfortable tackling any or all of them, but even performing one or two of them can help you to save money in the long run. Here’s our list of vehicle maintenance you can do yourself, listed in order of difficulty, with 5 being the most difficult and 1 being the least difficult:
Oil Changes/Topping Off of Fluids – Probably the most involved item on the list in terms of time, space, and tools required, replacing the oil and checking the fluids in your vehicle yourself can seem a bit daunting. With so many different makes and models on the road, it’s best to do a little research about your vehicle’s needs. Items to look into include: proper grade of motor oil; amount needed to fill the engine; type and size of oil filter needed; and location of fluid reservoirs. An extremely important aspect to consider before undertaking this maintenance on your own is the disposal of the used motor oil. It must be disposed of properly due to EPA regulations and cannot be simply dumped down a drain. Difficulty Level: 5
Replacement of Hoses/Belts – Most hoses in vehicles are easy to locate and replace with simply a screwdriver and/or a ratchet set. Belts, on the other hand, can be more of a challenge as they will more than likely require the movement of other engine parts like the alternator or radiator fan. Again, a little research is needed to find the proper sizes, as well as the average useful life of both hoses and belts for your particular vehicle. Difficulty Level: 4
Replacement of a Battery – Replacing an old or depleted battery in a vehicle usually takes nothing more than a screwdriver and a ratchet set, but sometimes requires a little extra elbow grease to clean any corrosion off of the terminal cable clamps. In some newer vehicles, especially electric hybrid vehicles, there may require a few extra steps to replace the battery, so be sure to check out the requirements (i.e. size, voltage, etc.) before disconnecting the battery. Difficulty Level: 3
Replacement of Windshield Wipers – Probably the easiest item on the list, replacing windshield wipers is as simple as buying the correct size blades for your vehicle and snapping them into place. There are several different grades of wiper blades, so be sure to pick up ones that best suit your vehicle’s needs. Things to consider include: amount and type of precipitation in your area, driving conditions for everyday travel, and the durability type of the blades. Difficulty Level: 1-2
Vehicle Detailing – Maintaining the interior of your vehicle is almost as important as maintaining the mechanics and the exterior, especially for retaining resale value. Auto detailing companies charge a lot of money for something that can be easily done on your own. Investing in the cleaning products and your time is a small price to pay to maintain the integrity of your vehicle’s interior. Simple things like treating leather seats and dashboard and vacuuming floorboards and seats requires little more than some Armor All and a handheld vacuum cleaner! Difficulty Level: Varies depending on how detailed you want to get.
We mentioned earlier that all of these items required a little bit of know-how, but where do you go to find out how to maintain your vehicle? Great question! There are many resources available to you, but the first place to start is with the Owner’s Manual that came with the vehicle. This is where you will find all of the important information regarding your specific make and model and year.
From there, you can jump online and check out e-learning sites like eHow, wikiHow and How-Cast to get step-by-step maintenance instructions for your vehicle. In addition, there are a plethora of great blogs (like this one) that write reviews on different types of products, like motor oil and wiper blades.
As we said, with a little know-how, a little time, and a little cash, you can perform your vehicle maintenance at home! Have any other suggestions for DIY/home vehicle maintenance? Got an online resource that you use regularly for repairs? Let us know in the comments below – we always appreciate your feedback!