DIY car maintenance tips to boost your budget

This handy guide to DIY car care will keep you moving and save you lots of cash.

You don’t need to spend a small fortune on expensive servicing. With a few tools and a little know-how, you can save loads of cash with our handy guide to DIY car maintenance.

Make sure you’re not too full of hot air! 

Over-inflated tyres result in a less effective contact with the road. This can impact steering, reduce ride quality and your grip on the road and create uneven tyre wear. Under-inflated tyres also create problems including making the engine harder and using more fuel. The appropriate tyre pressure is printed on the sidewall of the tyre; make sure yours are correctly inflated for a smooth run on the road.

Change your wiper blades

You don’t need to pay your mechanic a small fortune to do this for you. A quick trip to your local auto parts shop and in 15 minutes you can have the job done. You should replace your wiper blades every six months or so, or whenever you notice they’re streaking. Wiper blade setup can differ quite a bit from car to car, so check your manual, but the process is pretty simple:

  1. Lift the wipers to remove the old blades.
  2. Pay attention to how the old blades connect to the metal arms.
  3. On most models, you’ll see a tab on the underside of the wiper. Push the tab to remove the old blade.
  4. Attach the new blades, being careful not to bend the wiper arms or scratch your windshield. Line everything up and make sure the new ones are secure and tight.

If you get distracted or just can’t remember exactly how the new blades should fit on the wiper arm, don’t worry. The packaging for the new blades should have a general set of instructions and a helpful diagram.

 Lights, action!

Blown a bulb on a headlight or indicator? Replacing it can be about as simple as it is for a lamp at home. Simply remove the blown bulb and pop into your local auto parts store or petrol station to grab a replacement, pop it in and you’re back in action!

Replace your air filter

The air filter is the part of the car that keeps dirt and particles from outside from getting into the engine when the engine sucks in air. It’s incredibly important to your car’s operation – a dirty filter can affect fuel economy and engine performance. The good news is, there are few replacements on your car that are this simple. You need a new air filter for your car every 12 months or so.

  1. First, find your filter under the hood of your car. It’s in a black rectangular box with metal clips on the side. Check your manual if you don’t see it as soon as you pop the hood.
  2. Open up the casing, and check out how the air filter fits inside it. Make a note of which way the filter faces.
  3. Remove the old air filter, and insert the new one exactly how the old one sat.
  4. Remember to close the metal clips when you’re done.

That’s it!

 Keep a check on your battery

A dead battery can be one of the most frustrating car problems, because it’s usually so simple to avoid. A good battery connection is essential for keeping your car running smoothly and efficiently – just a few specks of crunchy white residue on the posts can keep your car from starting. A simple visual check of the condition of your battery will tell you when you need to perform this cleaning process:

  1. Remove your battery terminals. Make sure you always remove the negative cable first. If they’re stuck, use a flathead screwdriver to pry them loose.
  2. Clean the posts. Many people swear by using Coca-Cola to do this, which works just fine, or you could grab a more professional product from your local auto parts shop. Generously apply the fluid to the posts, and clean vigorously with a wire brush.
  3. Rinse the cleaning fluid with a little water.
  4. Dry the posts with rags.
  5. Replace battery terminals.

Pop the hood every few months and take a look at the battery to see if it needs this simple cleaning.

Stay well oiled

Castrol suggests an oil change every 5,000 to 7,000km, and you can save time and money by handling this yourself. Before you start, keep in mind these precautions:

Never change your oil when your engine is hot. Park, wait for it to cool, and then get started.

  • You’ll have to jack up your car, so make sure you’re comfortable safely handling a jack.

Now that you’ve covered safety first, it’s time to get a little dirty.

Get under your car and locate the plug for the oil tank.

  1. Pop an old oil pan or bucket beneath, unscrew the plug and drain out all of the old oil.
  2. Once all of the oil is drained, replace the drain plug.
  3. Go back to the engine and remove the old oil filter with an oil filter wrench. (Be careful, because the oil filter contains some old oil as well).
  4. Lubricate the rubber gasket on the new oil filter with some new motor oil.
  5. Fill the new oil filter about two-thirds of the way with new oil.
  6. Screw in the new oil filter. Hand-tighten it only.
  7. Use a funnel to fill the engine with new oil.
  8. With a dip-stick, double check your oil level to be sure you’ve added enough.
  9. Dispose of the old oil filter and oil safely – check with your local council.

Changing your oil is probably the dirtiest job on this list, but it might be the most rewarding too!

 Flush your radiator

With normal wear and tear, your car’s radiator builds up deposits that can disrupt the cooling system. A radiator flush is a quick and inexpensive way to keep your system in shape. Check your manual to find out if you need to flush the radiator every one or two years.

  1. Make sure your car is completely cool before you begin.
  2. Check your manual to find the radiator’s drain plug. Pop an old bucket beneath it, unscrew the drain plug, and let the old coolant drain completely.
  3. Replace the drain plug and remove the radiator cap.
  4. Use the funnel to add a radiator flush cleaning solution and then fill the rest of the radiator with water.
  5. Replace the radiator cap.
  6. Start the car, and let it run until it gets to its normal operating temperature.
  7. Turn on your heater to its hottest position, and let the car run for 10 minutes.
  8. Turn the car off and wait for the engine to cool completely.
  9. Drain the contents of the radiator.
  10. Refill the radiator with fresh coolant.
  11. Be sure to dispose of the old coolant safely. Check with your local council.

Remember – temperature can be a dangerous issue when you’re working on your car, so make sure you give your engine plenty of time to cool before you start and before you drain the radiator. Don’t rush this, or any other job, and always err on the side of caution.