While many vehicle maintenance tasks are best left to professionals, there are a number of basic tasks that every car owner should know how to do themselves. Being able to do these tasks can not only help to keep you safe while you’re out on the road, but also alert you if something isn’t working quite as it should. Read on to learn the ten most important car maintenance tasks you should be able to do yourself, and how some can signal engine trouble.
- Add Windshield Washer Fluid
Windshield wiper fluid is a year-round necessity, as it helps keep your view clear through rain, snow, and the occasional mud puddle. One of the easiest tasks that you can complete yourself, all this requires is for you to open the hood, locate the fluid reservoir (usually topped with a blue or yellow cap), and fill it up with the fluid of your choice.
- Replace Windshield Wipers
This is another important component to keeping your windshield clear of precipitation or debris, as old or worn out blades simply don’t work as well. Wipers are easy to purchase at an auto parts store, and are easy to install. Your vehicle will either have a small button you push to release them, or they will slide onto a hook at the end of the wiper arm.
- Tire Pressure
Improperly inflated tires can wear out more quickly, and lead to unexpected flats. All you need is a tire pressure gauge, which are inexpensive and easy to find. Simply remove your valve stem cap and push the gauge firmly over the end so that it doesn’t leak. Your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure will usually be located on a small sticker in your driver’s side door jamb. Make sure the pressure is as close as possible to give you proper grip while on the road.
- Know Your Spare
These days, not all vehicles come with full sized spares. Some come with smaller versions, often called donuts, and some come with a one-time-use inflation kit instead. Be sure that you’re familiar with what your vehicle has, and the proper way to use it if you get a flat.
- Check Oil Level
Checking your oil is perhaps the most important basic maintenance task, especially if your car is older or high performance. Make sure your vehicle is parked on relatively flat ground, and has been sitting for at least an hour to ensure all of the oil has drained back into the oil pan. Pull the dipstick out, wipe it with a paper towel or rag, reinsert it, and pull it back out. The oil should be between the two markings on the dipstick. Letting your engine run low on oil can cause issues with performance that can eventually lead to damage. Checking your oil also alerts you to possible oil leaks, even if you don’t see spotting on your driveway.
- Top Off Oil
If you find that your oil level is low when you check it, you will want to top it back off to prevent any engine damage. This will require a bottle of oil (check with your mechanic if you are unsure of what type to use), and a funnel. Locate and remove the engine oil filler cap, insert your funnel, and pour in your oil. Make sure to add small amounts and check the level on your dipstick to be sure that you do not add too much.
- Jump Start a Dead Battery
Being able to jumpstart your dead battery can save you from having to call roadside assistance for help. If you’re unsure of how to do it, check out our article from February explaining the process.
- Inspect Engine Belts
This may seem a little intimidating, but inspecting your engine belts is actually very straightforward. All you need to do is take a look at the belts to check for excessive wear, such as cracking across the grooves, heavy abbraisions, lengthwise tearing, or other obvious signs of damage. If you see any of these signs, make sure to take your vehicle in to have the belts replaced as soon as you can, as allowing them to continue to degrade can lead to a broken belt. If your belt breaks while you are driving, it can cause major damage to your engine.
- Check Coolant Level
Your coolant system helps ensure that your vehicle doesn’t overheat during summer, or freeze during winter. Take a look at your coolant reservoir, which will have “Max” and “Min” markings to show you where your fluid level should be. If it’s low, it needs to be topped off as soon as possible (be sure to check with your mechanic if you’re not certain which type to use). Persistent low coolant levels can indicate a leak, and should be inspected by your mechanic out as soon as possible.
- Inspect Exterior Lights
Your exterior lights play a huge part in your safety while on the road. They help you to see in the dark, and alert other drivers that you are turning, making a lane change, or braking. Checking your lights requires nothing more than a friend to help. Put your friend in the driver’s seat, and have them turn on the lights, use the blinkers, and press the brake pedal. If any of your lights don’t come on as they should, it’s time to change the bulb.
We hope that this article has helped you to learn about some of the basic maintenance tasks that you should be able to do yourself. If you ever have any questions or concerns about these maintenance tasks, give us a call and we’ll be happy to assist you.
Distinctive Auto Repair provides customers in Murfreesboro and surrounding areas with high-quality auto repair and maintenance services for both domestic and foreign vehicles. We are a BBB Accredited auto repair facility that is staffed with ASE-certified technicians who use only state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and equipment when they are fixing vehicles. Whether your vehicle is in need of a small job or a major repair, put your trust in our team of experienced and skillful auto technicians.