Everyone who owns a car will know that there’s a lot of repair and maintenance work that goes into keeping it running smoothly. But not everyone knows the basics, let alone the more advanced tricks of the trade that keep your engine ticking over.
Not having even a basic knowledge of repair and maintenance can cost you time and money, especially if you constantly have to take your vehicle into the shop. However, there are several things the average person can do regularly at home, and with no real training or fancy equipment to keep their car in tip-top condition.
It’s all about knowing what to look for so that you can prevent major damage (which is often expensive to fix) before it becomes a problem.
There are a few factors you need to evaluate first—your car and your skills.
If you are mechanically minded, you can probably do a lot more in repairs and maintenance yourself. However, it’s important to remember that not all cars are as easy to work on as others. For some, you need to have the right equipment to work on a few things under the hood. In those cases, it’s best to let the experts do the checking and the work.
But if your car doesn’t require expert assistance and specialized tools, you can do the following to get clued about your car and keep it on the road safely.
Read the Owner Manual
The first thing you’re going to want to do is to get to know your vehicle properly. Take some time to read through the manual, paying careful attention to the specifications and the recommendations on servicing and maintenance intervals. The manual will also give you information on the recommended capacities and fluids for various systems within the vehicle.
It’s a good idea not to just passively read through the book while sitting in your living room. Instead, take the book out to your car and familiarize yourself with the actual parts of the vehicle while you’re reading about them. Pop the hood and look for the place to check the oil, the windshield washer fluid, the radiator, the spark plugs, and the battery. These are all things that you should be able to check yourself at home to ensure all are in good order.
Then, sit inside the cabin and go through the warning and indicator lights. This way, if a light comes on while you’re driving, you will know what it means and if you should stop immediately or if it’s safe to continue driving.
Invest In Basic Tools
You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment for most car maintenance. However, a set of standard, high-quality tools will never go amiss.
Start with standard screwdrivers, a set of different pliers, a ball-peen hammer, combination, and adjustable wrenches, as well as ratchets and sockets. A torque wrench should be next on your list, as well as a jack to lift your vehicle. Of course, clamps and vices are helpful when working on cars too.
Something else you should consider is a drop sheet so that you don’t get the ground covered in oil or grease. A large piece of cardboard from an appliance or delivery box works well because it’s absorbent and easy to discard after use.
Set a Schedule for External Checks
The next step you need to take is to make sure you know what to check and how often to check it.
For example, you should check tire pressure and oil levels once a month. Brake pads and power steering fluid can be checked once a year, but don’t forget to do so.
The user manual for your vehicle will give you recommended maintenance and inspection intervals, which you can use to build your own schedule.
Regular inspections of your vehicle are critical to maintenance. They help you spot areas of concern long before they can become major problems.
By inspecting the state of your tires regularly, for example, you can spot if there is uneven wear on them that could indicate that there is a problem with your suspension. Getting this seen by an expert as early as possible could mean you have to realign your suspension, rather than risking an accident because something breaks and a tire comes off or bursts.
Keep your Car Clean
Cleaning your car is a major part of regular maintenance. Dirt on the body can erode the paintwork and damage it. If dirt gets into the electrical systems, you could end up with problems there too. Weekly cleaning of your car gives you a chance to look over the entire vehicle to ensure that there isn’t any damage that could lead to something more serious such as chips on the windscreen or back window.
Doing a weekly wash and vacuum is essential to keep your car in the best possible condition. You should schedule deep cleans at broader intervals. This includes things like touching up chipped paint, replacing the air filter for the vehicle cabin, dusting the air vents, cleaning and lubricating the window tracks, and even using a carpet cleaning machine inside the cabin.
Know What the Weather Brings
If you live in an area that experiences extreme weather of any form, you need to know when that is likely to hit and what impact it will have on your vehicle. For example, if you experience snow or ice on the roads, you need to ensure that your car can withstand those low temperatures and keep on driving.
This means ensuring your tires are ready, your engine is in good shape, and you have the right tools for scraping ice or cleaning your windscreen for safe driving.
You should also know when your rainy season is and make sure that your windshield wipers are in good working order before the rain hits. Replace wiper blades at least every one or two years, and it’s an easy job to inspect and change them yourself.
Lastly, but not least, make sure that your car insurance is comprehensive enough and you’re covered for extreme weather events such as floods or storm damage.
Stay Informed & Stay on the Road
Knowing just a little about auto repair and car maintenance can go a long way towards a safe drive.
Reading your manual, getting familiar with your car, investing in the right tools, and always be prepared for whatever conditions while driving. This knowledge will go a long way towards keeping your car out of the shop and on the road.
Margot Mora is a content champion at NRMA, and she often covers topics that cater to business owners and entrepreneurs with a strong focus on legal finances, business management. Her free time is mostly spent doing extreme water sports and caring for her 2 fur babies, Perdy and Leo.