Routine Car Maintenance You Can Do Yourself

By Frank Canna

headlight02When it comes to keeping your car running like new, why wait until things become a problem? The simple solution to saving money and avoiding costly car repair bills is to get out there and do your own routine maintenance. Think about it. The small price you pay in advance will usually end up paying you big dividends in the long run. And when you take care of things before they become a problem, you are sure to have fewer surprises in the future.

There is nothing worse than being broken down on the side of the road, especially when the problem was caused by something as simple as an under inflated tire. You see, most car problems don’t just happen, they are sometimes the result of neglected routine maintenance.

Replacing Worn Out Wiper Blades

wiper02Does your car suffer from the rainy day blues? If it does, you may want to consider changing those worn out wiper blades. Windshield wiper blades are one of the easiest things you can replace on your car. Yet, not many people think about the wiper blades until they are driving down the road on a rainy day. That’s when it becomes apparent that there is a problem. Your wipers begin to chatter and you begin to see streaks as each wiper blade sweeps back and forth. Those are the most common telltale signs that something is wrong. Rather than wait until it’s raining to find out there is a problem, a visual inspection of the wipers every few months will surely reveal any cracks and other breakdowns in the rubber blades.

You can figure that under most driving conditions, your wiper blades will usually need to be replaced about once a year. Of course, when your car is garage kept and doesn’t see the extremes of the UV rays of the sun, you may get additional life out of your blades. Either way, the friendly folks at your local auto parts supply store will help you choose the correct wiper blades for your car and sometimes they’ll even install them free of charge. You can either replace the entire blade assembly and that’s what I prefer, or you can replace only the rubber inserts.

Why not change those old worn out wiper blades now? That way, the next time it rains, you can sit back and enjoy the sweet sound of those new wiper blades as they gently glide back and forth to the beat of the music.

Replacing That Clogged Air Filter

air-filterNext on the “do it yourself” maintenance agenda is replacing that old, clogged up air filter. The air filter in your engine compartment has two major functions. The first is to keep out dirt, dust, and other airborne contaminants from being sucked into your engine, while the other job of the air filter is to guarantee that your engine is constantly being supplied with plenty of fresh, clean air.

The air filters found in today’s car are usually rectangular in shape. You can check your vehicle owners manual for the exact replacement number, although your auto parts supplier will be able to supply you with the correct part based on the year and model of your car.

Replacing the air filter is not that difficult. Of course, replacing the air filter is a bit different than replacing those wiper blades, simply because you can’t see the filter because it’s positioned inside a rather large plastic housing. Usually, a screwdriver is the only tool you will need to remove the housing cover. Once the cover is removed, and you begin to remove the old filter, you will want to take note as to the positioning of the new replacement filter. Once the new filter is seated within the housing, you simple reinstall the housing cover and the job is complete.

When you install that new air filter, don’t be surprised to find out your engine is running smoother and that you are saving money at the pump because your car is getting better fuel mileage.

Changing a Burned Out Headlight

headlight01Another easy to do money saving tip is to replace any burned out running lights yourself. After all, why pay someone else to do something as simple as changing a light bulb?

Okay, so you notice that one of your headlights is not working and you haven’t got a clue as to how to go about replacing it. Well, the first thing you need to do is simply raise the hood of your car and take a look at the rear section of the headlight housing. In most cases, you will usually find that with a quarter of a turn, the bulb assembly can easily be removed from behind the headlight housing.

Before you touch anything, just follow the wires and then take a close look at how the bulb assembly is mounted into the housing. It’s usually pretty simple. When in doubt, always ask for assistance. If you are not sure, never force anything. Now-a-days, everything is made of plastic and it is way too easy to break something that could end up costing you more than is necessary.

Once you have established it is a job you can handle, then all you need to do is stop by your local auto parts store and purchase the replacement lamp. Again, your owner’s manual will almost always have the replacement number. However, with the year and model of your vehicle, the people at the parts store can certainly do the rest.

Replace That Old Battery

battery02Although we hardly ever give it a thought, car batteries, like most other batteries, only last so long before they need to be replaced. Fortunately, almost all car batteries are clearly marked so you will have a reasonable idea of how long you can expect your battery to do its job and not let you down. This life expectancy is identified in terms such as a 60 or 72 month battery. What this means is that you can expect to get normal use out of your battery for up to 60 or 72 months, depending on which battery is in your car. After that, your battery is living on borrowed time.

The best advice is to figure out the age of the battery in your car and then compare that to the designated life stamped on the battery. If your car is relatively new, then the battery, in most cases will be as old as the car. However, after your car is beyond five or six years old, battery replacement should be something to put on your list of things to do. And it is especially smart to consider changing out that old battery long before it decides to leave you stranded.

One of the biggest obstacles you will face in doing the job yourself is the heavy weight of the battery. That alone is something to think about before you get started. Basically, there are only two electrical connections on a car battery. They are the positive and negative terminals. The positive terminal is indicated with a plus sign and the negative with a minus sign. Likewise the positive wire is usually a thick, red rubber coated cable, while the negative cable is always black.

When you disconnect the old battery, I would suggest removing the red, positive cable first and then the black, negative cable. And when you install the new battery, it’s best to attach the black, negative cable first and then the red, positive cable. Be careful. You do not want any chance of creating a dead short caused by your tools accidently contacting both terminals while the cables are still attached. Make this mistake just one time and you will see sparks fly and you will quickly gain a new respect for electricity.

When you buy that new battery, it’s a good idea to always hang onto your sales receipt. All car batteries come with a warranty and you never know when something out of the ordinary just might happen. It is always a good idea to keep your sales receipt in a safe place.

In summary, we are all keeping our cars a lot longer than we used to. That in itself is one good reason to take care of your car.

Look for more tips about routine car maintenance you can do yourself in next month’s issue.

Happy Motoring!

Frank Canna has been in the detailing business for more than 20 years and is the owner of Mirror Finish Detailing, Williamstown, NJ. He can be reached at or canna@verizon.netYou can also connect on Twitter @MirrorFinish
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