I’m going to up front about this. I am not a car guy. If a vehicle gets me reliably where I need to go without smoke or strange noises, I’m good. I’m still driving the 2000 Ford Focus I bought right after college. However, I also like to learn new things and I’m a bit on the frugal side so I try do things myself if I can.
Here are XX simple things even a non-car guy (or gal) can do themselves to both save money, learn a new skill, and keep your vehicle well maintained.
1. Change Your Wipers
Especially here in New England the varied and harsh weather can takes its toll on your wipers. When should you replace them? When they aren’t doing their job anymore! Replace the blades as soon as they start to streak or squeak or make it difficult to see the road. How often will depend on where you live but once annually is a good rule or thumb.
Most cars today use what’s called a hook-type wiper blade. This is a reference to how the blade attaches to the wiper arm. There are various styles of blades themselves, but as long as the connection is a hook-type, it’s a pretty simple task to remove the old ones and attach the new ones.
2. Check and clean your headlights and brake lights
Check that your lights are working at least once a month. If one is out, it’s best to replace both at once. Depending on the car and positioning, it can sometimes be a little tricky to replace these yourself. Not impossible, but not as easy as changing a light bulb in your house!
Another dead simple tip is to just scrub down and wash the lights, especially the headlights, to clear up any junk, bugs, and debris that might be lessening the lights effectiveness.
3. Check Your Battery
You know it’s going to happen at the worst possible time, probably in freezing cold weather, right? A couple simple steps will help you stay on top of your car’s battery life. First, know most batteries last 5-7 years. Mark it down in your car manual or put something in the glove compartment. Do this for all big car repairs and maintenance. you think you will remember but you won’t. You can check your battery’s charge using a multimeter, available at any auto supply shop or online.
A second simple thing is to clean the battery terminals every 6 months or so. Just remove the connectors from the terminals and then use a wire brush and a paste of baking soda mixed with distilled water to gently scrub the terminal to achieve a shine and remove dried acid build-up.
4. Check the fluids
Three easy and accessible fluids that you can monitor yourself. Check your oil level at least once a month and add more if it’s low. Have it changed as recommended in your car’s manual.
Second, check the coolant level at least twice a year. If it’s low, get it into the mechanic, there could be a leak.
Third, especially heading into the winter, check and top off your wiper fluid.
5. Know Your Tires
Check the tire tread depth (just use the penny test) and air pressure once a month. The proper air pressure will be listed on the tire’s sidewall.
Poor tread is dangerous in snow and wet weather while underinflated tires leads to poor gas mileage and wearing out your tires more quickly. You might as well light some money on fire!
In summary, there are a number of relatively easy automotive maintenance tasks that you can save money on by doing yourself. These five simple maintenance routines will get you started and keep your vehicle running longer. Not only that, there’s an intrinsic satisfaction that comes with fixing something with your own two hands, even if it’s a simple task.