According to the AAA NewsRoom website, it will cost you an average of $8,849 per year to own and operate a vehicle. A large chunk of this dough goes to the professionals who do the necessary maintenance and repair jobs on your car. But what if, instead of paying hundreds of dollars and giving your car up for a day, you take over the maintenance work and keep the money?
DIY isn’t just a Pinterest fad. It’s an actual money-saving dynamic that can help you not only salvage a few hundred dollars here and there but also expose you to learning useful, practical skills.
The average person can do some of the simplest maintenance needs themselves, without even something as simple as a crash course in car mechanics. As proof, here is a handy checklist for all the easy maintenance chores you can do on your own with minimal out-of-pocket costs.
Replacing Air Filters
Car manufacturers recommend changing your car’s cabin air filter every 12,000 or 15,000 miles or longer. If you don’t change it, clogs in the filter can cause a smelly car interior and exposure to harmful allergens. So having it replaced is nonnegotiable.
The replacement can cost anywhere between $35 to $85 if you’re having it done professionally. But the truth is, the car filter itself only costs half that price, and if you do the replacement yourself, it won’t take you longer than 10 minutes to install.
Before you purchase a new unit, however, make sure your replacement piece matches the old one, or you’re going to be wasting money and another trip to the car-parts store.
Typically, you can find the cabin air filter under the hood or behind the glove compartment. To clean your air filter, simply go to where it is located (check the manufacturer’s manual if you’re not sure where it’s located). Release the latches, removing the old one and placing the new in exactly the same position as how the old one sat. Then make sure all the latches are in place before putting everything back together.
Record the date and mileage of your change so you’ll know when to do replacement again. Clean your new filters with compressed air from time to time to clear out debris and make it last longer.
Replacing Windshield Wipers
Ideally, your windshield wipers should be replaced every six months to a year or when you start to see problems with visibility. Sometimes, when the wipers start to make chattering or squeaking noises, smear, or streak or the wipers no longer make contact with the glass, it’s time to buy a replacement.
Like replacing air filters, putting new wipers shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. But before anything else, make sure you purchase the right wipers for your car model as each setup can differ from car to car.
To replace your wipers, identify the unlatching mechanism for your blades first so you won’t have an error in releasing the defective blade. After it’s released, clean the wipers first before putting on the new one.
See to it that you remove the plastic protector from the wiper blade’s rubber side, then latch the new blades in place. Just reverse what you did initially, and you’re done.
There are various factors to consider when computing for the cost of an oil change: the location, the model of your car, the brand of the oil, and the number of quarts of oil needed. In 2018, the average cost of changing synthetic oil is around $65 to $85.
You will have to have your car’s oil changed every 3,000 miles. On more efficient car models, some change every 5,000 miles. Regardless of when you decide to change, one thing is for sure: choosing to handle the change yourself will definitely save you time and a few bucks.
Here’s how to do it:
- Wait for the engine to cool before getting to work.
- Make sure your vehicle is on level ground to safely jack up your car.
- Find the oil pan, and release the drain plug.
- Drain all the old oil into a recycling container, and put back the drain plug.
- Now get back to your engine and find the oil filter. Use an oil filter wrench to take out the filter.
- Use motor oil to lubricate the rubber gasket on the new filter.
- Fill the new oil filter with new oil. Don’t put it full. Fill up only about two-thirds.
- Screw the new filter back in place.
- Now fill your engine with new oil. Use a funnel to make sure nothing is poured out. You can use a dipstick to check if you’ve put enough oil.
Battery Replacements and Connection Maintenance
If you’re experiencing slow engine cranks, notice bloating in the battery case, or simply think that your battery has been in use for too long, it may be time to consider a battery change. An optimal battery connection is essential in keeping your vehicle running efficiently. So always be on the lookout for these telltale signs that it’s time to update your batteries.
The whole battery replacement process can cost you around $50 and $100 if you hire a mechanic, excluding the batteries, which can easily cost around $40 to $200 depending on the brand, type, and performance.
Before you change your batteries, consult your manual first. Be sure the new battery is also fully charged before the installation; otherwise, you’ll risk overloading it. Gather your tools, then remove the battery’s shackles. Remove the terminals, and then put on the old battery.
To make your batteries last longer, it’s recommended to keep the terminal connections clean.
To change your battery connection, remove the battery cables first from your battery. Be sure to remove the negative cables first. By doing so, you remove the battery from the chassis of your car. When you remove your positive cables first and your wrench makes contact with any metal part of the vehicle, this can cause a short in the system.
Then, with a mixture of baking soda and water, clean the posts with the use of a wire brush. This mixture acts against corrosion. Use the wire brush as well to clean the battery terminals.
After all are cleaned, rinse the cleaning fluid used on the posts with a little water, and dry them with a rag. You may now replace your battery terminals.
Changing Spark Plugs
Spark plugs typically cost around $30, but if you hire the mechanic for labor, you will be paying anywhere between $100 and $200. While changing your car’s spark plugs may sound intimidating, the actual process is pretty simple, although you may have to employ a little bit of patience in the repetition.
You should be able to locate your spark plugs easily. Otherwise, the manual always comes in handy. You will find multiple wires, each of which you have to attend to separately.
First, remove the first wire that connects to your spark plug. Do not remove them all at once, and be sure to remove them in order.
Then, use the spark plug socket and the extension on the ratchet to remove the first plug. Next, simply install the new one by screwing it manually and tightening it with a wrench. Word of caution: do not fit it in too tight. After that, simply put back the plug’s wire, and repeat the procedure for the rest of the spark plugs.
If you want to be extra frugal and want your ride to last longer, follow these additional tips on vehicle maintenance.
- If you’re not confident about doing your own repairs, always opt to go to a professional. You don’t want to make problems even worse than they already are.
- Use fender flares to protect your car’s body from debris. Aside from giving your car an additional edge in terms of aesthetics, a fender flare is an often overlooked yet very practical addition to your vehicle.
- Have your emission system inspected at least once a year. Your car’s emission system does heavy-duty work in reducing the emission of harmful gases and reducing vehicle noise. To keep your running in top shape, a healthy emission system is necessary.
Tinkering with your car without professional assistance can be intimidating at first, but once you get used to it, you’ll breeze through each task with peace of mind knowing you’ve saved plenty in doing something you can complete by yourself in less than an hour.
Doing your own maintenance is also a handy skill that lets you get up close with your own vehicle, because sometimes it’s easy to leave the car when you don’t know what’s going on behind the hood.
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