Top 5 Car Repairs You Can Perform Yourself
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We all like to feel empowered. Especially when it comes to repairing our vehicles. The trick is to keep that feeling going and not get in over your head. Here are the top 5 repairs I feel the DIY can perform.
1. Oil Changes
Oil Changes have been the gateway drug into the repair world since automobiles have been invented. It’s the first thing I ever did as a kid. Even before I was able to drive I was helping my dad change the oil in our family’s fleet.
For the most part, oil changes aren’t difficult to perform. I would say the most important step is safely lifting and supporting the vehicle. I can’t stress the importance of this enough.
Once you’ve overcome that part, the rest is easy. Just drain the oil right? Yes, that part isn’t difficult, but finding the filter location can sometimes be the challenge.
I recently did some work on a Mini Cooper. The oil filter was a cartridge style, meaning it wasn’t the screw on metal can, but rather a paper filter that you need to insert into a sealed housing. Well, the housing on the Mini is black and hidden down under a bunch of hoses. You’d really have to know where it is to find it.
To combat this issue, check with your local parts supplier. They sometimes have the oil filter location information on file.
Lastly, please be sure to dispose of your used oil properly. Many times that same parts store can take in your spent oil. If not, check online for another source. We only get one planet people.
2. Tire Rotations
Another easy way into the auto repair world. You might consider it while you’re changing the oil. Once again, be sure to safely lift and support your vehicle. Never get under a vehicle that is only supported by a jack. Be sure to use jack stands or ramps.
One thing to note here is about directional tires. Some tires can only rotate in one direction. Meaning, you can only rotate them on the same side of the vehicle. Usually these tires are marked with “rotation” and an arrow on the sidewall. Keep an eye out for that. Otherwise, just do the standard “X” rotation pattern back to front.
Tire rotations are a great opportunity to inspect your vehicle. Be sure to look over the brakes and suspension when you have the wheels off. You could potentially spot a problem before it becomes a major issue like worn out brake pads or leaking struts.
3. Brake Jobs
Speaking of brakes, here's another job DIYers have been doing for years. Yep, be sure to safely lift and support the vehicle when working on your brakes.
Most modern vehicles are equipped with disc brakes. Disc brake pads are fairly easy to change out. Drum brakes can be a bit more challenging, but with the right tools and some practice, you should be able to overcome it. The good news is it usually takes drum brakes a long time to wear out.
I could go on and on about brakes. Perhaps in a future blog we’ll do just that.
4. Cabin Air Filters
Next is something so simple and often overlooked: cabin air filters. If you’ve had service done to your vehicle someone may have mentioned this service to you and it might have been expensive.The truth is, most cabin air filters are easy to replace. The expense is often the part itself.
Probably the best suggestion I can give here is do a quick search on YouTube for “Cabin air filter replacement for (your vehicle here)”. Personally, I’ve posted over 30 videos outlining these procedures. Several other people have also posted videos on this topic. I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult to find a guide for your vehicle this way.
5. Battery Replacement
For the most part, battery replacements are easy. The trick is determining that the battery actually is the problem. For this I suggest taking your vehicle to your local auto parts store. They often have a tester they can hook up to your battery right in the parking lot. I’m sure if they determine your battery is bad, they’d be happy to sell you one.
A couple of notes on this one. First, not all batteries are in a ‘convenient’ location. Some may be under the back seat. I’ve seen some inside of wheel wells. Manufacturers have gotten pretty good at hiding them lately.
Second, on newer vehicles it may be necessary to ‘register’ your battery after installation. Meaning, you need to hook up a scan tool and tell the computer you just installed a new battery. If you don’t, damage to your alternator may result.
Check the service procedure for your vehicle to see if your battery requires registration.
One last thing here. If your battery is weak, don’t charge it with the alternator. This can overwork an alternator and cause it to go bad. Be sure to charge a weak battery with a battery charger. On a trickle charge overnight would be best.
Well, I’ve shown you the path to automotive self-sufficiency. Conquer these repairs and you’ll be well on your way to saving money, and potentially a new career as a repair technician.
Thanks for reading!
Be Safe. Have Fun. Stay Dirty!
- Andy Somerville