Car Maintenance Checklist: 7 Basic Tasks Every Car Owner Should Know How To Do
If you’re looking to save some money, read this article to find out which simple car maintenance tasks you need to know!
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As any car owner will tell you, maintaining a vehicle isn’t cheap. Luckily, there are some things we can do to keep costs down. And, while every car has their own individual quirks, there are some areas of maintenance that are universal.
By knowing how to do a few simple tasks on your own, you can save yourself the cost of paying a mechanic to do them for you. Regular car maintenance can also save you from even more expensive problems down the line. So if you’re looking to save some money, read on to find out which simple car maintenance tasks you need to know.
Change Your Oil
How to change oil in your car
While you may have a ‘change oil’ light in the dashboard of your car, these aren’t always reliable, so it's best to keep track of it yourself or with the help of a maintenance app on your phone. Change your oil every 3,000 to 6,000 miles, or every 3 to 6 months. This will vary slightly depending on the age of your car: newer models don’t need their oil changed quite as often, so consult the user’s manual to find out your vehicle’s specifications.
How to do an oil change: While many people pay mechanics for this job, it’s actually very easy to do yourself.
To start with, you’ll need to put your car up on jacks so that you can get underneath it. Make sure your car has been parked for a while and that the engine is cool. Under your car you will have an oil drain plug (again, your manual will show you where this is). Simply place a pan under the plug, remove it and let the old oil drain out. Once it’s done, replace the plug and add your new oil to the motor. Use your dipstick to make sure you’ve added enough fresh oil. Pour the pan of old oil into the empty can and dispose of it responsibly; most mechanics or auto parts stores will be able to take it off your hands to be recycled.
Replace Your Air Filter
Another quick and easy task is to check on your air filter. A dirty filter can lower your car’s performance and increase your exhaust emissions. Once again, your car’s manual will show you where to find the filter, and checking or changing it is very simple. In most cases it just involves unscrewing the filter cover then sliding out the filter itself. A clean filter will be white or slightly off-white. If the filter is dark then it’s probably time to change it. Luckily, new air filters are cheap, usually priced at around £5 to £15, depending on the model of your car.
How to Change Spark Plugs
Based on the model of your car, you should be changing your spark plugs every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. This is another task that people often pay professionals for but that is extremely cheap to do yourself, so is definitely worth learning.
For this one you’ll need a wrench with a spark plug socket. These can be purchased for about £5. Don’t be intimidated by the need for tools – the process is still very simple!
Again, make sure your car has been parked for a while and that the engine is nice and cool. Next, find the spark plugs: these are easy to spot as they’re attached to your engine by thick, rubbery wires. There should be four, six or eight of these, depending on the model of your car. Take one wire and wiggle it loose from where it meets your engine; it should come off easily. Once the spark plug is revealed, use your wrench to remove the old plug. Screw in the new plug by hand and then tighten it with your wrench. Replace the wire and then move on to the next wire / plug. Make sure you change them in order and one at a time, so you don’t mix up the placement of the wires.
Replace Your Fuses
While you may not need this one on a regular basis, knowing how to do this will come in extremely useful if your car ever encounters any electrical problems.
Just like your home, your car has fuses that are designed to blow before electrical issues can damage the more expensive parts. If your car is having electrical problems, it may be as simple to fix as replacing a blown fuse. Your manual will tell you where to find your car’s fuse box. They’re usually housed in transparent plastic or glass, so that you can look at them closely to see if any are broken. Fuses are extremely cheap – less than a pound each – meaning that while you don’t have to routinely change your fuses it’s worth having a couple of spares on hand in case problems do arise.
Check Your Tyres
This is another easy one, especially for drivers in the UK as we have a coin that can help us.
In the UK tyres legally must have a tread depth of at least 1.6mm. You can easily check this with nothing more than a 20p coin. When your car is safely parked, wedge a 20p piece in between the treads of one of your tyres. If you can see the border at the edge of the coin poking up out of the tread, then your tyres are too worn and you should replace them. If the border of the coin is hidden in the tread of the tyre then it’s still good. You should check your tyres about once a month.
Flush Your Radiator
Your radiator will collect corrosion and sediment over time, so it’s a good idea to flush it out from time to time.
Again, your car’s manual will advise on this, but every 30,000 miles is a good rule of thumb. Flushing your radiator is similar to changing your oil, but with a couple of extra steps.
As with the oil, you’re going to want to start with a cool engine. Raise your car in jacks and place a pan underneath to catch the old coolant. Find the radiator drain under your car and let the coolant drop into your pan. Close the drain and then pour your radiator flush (around £10) into your radiator, filling the rest with water. Replace the caps and start the car, letting it idle for about 10 mins with your heating on full blast. Turn off the engine and let it cool down before draining the fluid in your radiator again. This time, fill your radiator with about a 50/50 mix of antifreeze (£10 to £20) and water, and you’re done.
Change Your Windshield Wipers
This is another easy task that can be done either without tools or with a simple screwdriver. Change your wiper blades when you notice they’re smearing the water on your windshield rather than clearing it away cleanly. If your wipers start making a squeaking or scraping sound you may also want to replace the blades before they scratch the glass of your windshield.
The easiest way to figure out how to fit your new blades is to look at how your current ones are attached. They will either use a simple pin or hook-and-slide design, or they may have a tab inside the wiper arm that you can press down with a screwdriver to release the blade. Most new wiper blade sets cost between £15 and £30, making this a cheap and easy way to improve your visibility in poor conditions while potentially saving your windshield from expensive scratches.
So there you have it! 7 simple car maintenance tasks that could save you a lot of money. Did we miss any out?
This article was brought to you by Quick Car Finance, a leading UK car finance company with a Trustpilot review score of 4.9/5.
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