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Easy DIY car maintenance jobs
Step-by-step instructions for basic car care – plus those you should leave to the experts.
Spending more time at home presents an ideal opportunity to do some basic checks and maintenance on your car.
Regular checks will give you a good picture of the car’s condition, and any sudden change can be a warning of developing problems. Catching the problem early may prevent serious and expensive damage.
What you can and cannot do really depends on your skill and qualifications, but there are some jobs on a car most people with average skills and minimal tools should be able to do. We’ve put together a list of simple maintenance jobs you can do at home in your driveway.
Car care you can do yourself
Check tyre pressure (Level of difficulty: Easy)
All car makers recommend an ideal pressure for the tyres on their cars. These are listed on a placard on the car and usually found on the door jamb, fuel filler flap or glovebox lid.
It’s good to get into the habit of checking pressures regularly. The most usual problem is running tyres at too low a pressure, which causes heavy wear, poor handling and braking, and potentially blowouts.
For those without an air compressor at home, most service stations have free air lines with in-built gauges situated away from the petrol pumps, ideal for social distancing.
- Remove the valve screw-on dust cap situated on the outer rim of the wheel.
- Place the tyre gauge, which is integral to the airline, squarely on the valve and check the pressure.
- Inflate the tyre as necessary and check again.
- Refit the dust cap, making sure no dirt gets in, as this can cause leaks.
Some service stations have automatic systems that fill to the pressure you enter. These are great but be aware they are sometimes not well maintained.
Watch this RACV video on checking your tyre pressure.
Tyre wear (Easy)
All tyres have inbuilt indicators to show when they are worn too far. These are little rubber blocks that protrude from the low point in the tyre channels. When the surface of the tyre has worn down to be flush with the blocks, it’s time to replace the tyre.
If there is uneven wear, the wheel may need rebalancing or alignment. Either way, a specialist should check take a look at it.
Lights (Checking is easy; changing lights is more difficult, depending on globe)
Good lights on a car are essential and are a roadworthy item. The easiest way to check them is with another member of your household – one to work the lights, one to check them. If you can’t find a helper, do it on your own by switching on each light and walking around the car. To check the stoplights, position the car so you can see the lights’ reflection on a wall or the garage door.
There are several different types of globes and fittings used in a car. Your car’s handbook should tell you how to replace blown globes and what type to use. Bear in mind some simple tools such as screwdrivers and pliers will be needed to change globes.
It is good practice not to touch headlamp globes, since some may be susceptible to damage from skin oils. Use a tissue or gloves when handling them.
Windscreen washers (Easy)
Everyone should check their windscreen washers regularly, particularly if you’ve been using them a fair bit. The reservoir is usually under the bonnet in a well-labelled and accessible area.
- Top reservoir up with clean water and add some windscreen cleaning solvent as well to cut down greasy road film on the glass.
- Ordinary washing detergent is not suitable. It plays havoc with your wiper blades and paintwork, and can leave streaks and cause rust.
- The water jet from the washers should hit the screen in the centre of each wiper’s sweep.
- If the flow is not as good as it used to be, the jets can be cleared gently using a fine needle or pin.
- Most washer jets can also be re-aimed using the same needle.
- Oil from exhaust fumes and road grime builds up on the windscreen, so a regular wipe with a good-quality glass cleaner will help improve visibility and extend the life of the wiper rubber.
Replace windscreen wiper inserts (Mostly easy)
The rubber blades of wipers wear through use and exposure to sunlight. They should be checked frequently but it’s wise to fit new blades at the start of winter – blades that have had little use over summer may have deteriorated to a point where they’re next to useless anyway. Fitting new ones is easy.
The correct wiper inserts should be available at your local dealer or auto store. Instructions will be in the owner’s manual. It’s usually a variation on unclipping the old ones and sliding them out.
- The most common way is to lift the wiper blade clear of the windscreen.
- Push the end of the wiper rubber inwards (back along the blade) until the end can be lifted clear of the metal backing strip.
- The rubber can then be pulled out of the backing strip.
- Using this old insert as a pattern, cut the replacement rubber refill to the right length.
- To refit, the process is reversed with the rubber insert fed into the metal backing strip and slid along.
- Once it reaches the end, pull back the rubber and refit under the retaining clip.
- Lower the blade back onto the windscreen and repeat the process for the other wiper.
- Wiper rubbers should always be replaced in pairs.