When you take out a loan to buy a new car, one of the things that you should always factor into your budget so you can find the right amount for the weekly/fortnightly repayments is the maintenance of your car. It would be nice to think that cars never broke down or gave any mechanical trouble, but this isn’t the case.
A number of people wonder if they can save a few dollars on their car maintenance by doing their own car repairs. The answer to this question is yes and no. Some things can be done by a handyperson with a good set of tools but other things require an expert. If you attempt to do expert-only repairs, there is a high chance that you will end up causing more damage, which will leave you facing a bigger bill from the mechanics.
So what bits of repair and maintenance are smart moves that you can do yourself to save the cost of labour?
- Changing the oil. Just make sure that you drain the oil out of the right compartment if you have an automatic transmission so you don’t leave the gear system without lubrication. Get this wrong and you wreck the engine. Also remember to put the plug back in the hole you drain the oil out of before you pour new oil in. If you don’t do this, you’ll waste a lot of perfectly good oil and some of your money.
- Changing the air filter. Another fairly simple task that every driver can learn how to do rather than handing their car over to the mechanic.
- Changing the fuel filter. Another comparatively simple task.
- Changing the spark plugs.
- Changing fuses. You will need to consult the manual (or look online) if you don’t know where the fuses are kept, but this can be the solution if one of your lights decides to die.
- Replacing the drive belt: Take a good look at it before you take it off, noting where it goes as well as how worn it is. Take photos if your visual memory isn’t brilliant. You’ll need a few tools and this is more of an intermediate level task.
- Replacing the brake pads. This is a bit more advanced but you can still do it without needing a trade certificate in auto mechanics. You will need to take the wheel to do this.
- Replace your windscreen wipers.
- Cleaning up corrosion around the connection points on your car battery. Remove the wires first using insulated pliers, then use a wire brush to get the corrosion off. Put the wires back on where you took them off from.
- Replacing the bulbs in your lights. You probably shouldn’t do this with more modern LED units but old-style lamps can be replaced. Cue jokes about changing lightbulbs.
The more you tinker around with your car, the more you will be able to do, especially on older cars that were more mechanical than electrical/electronic.
What about the things that you shouldn’t touch? You should never attempt the following unless you really know what you’re doing:
- Anything to do with the electronics or computer componentry. If it involves wires or circuit boards, leave it alone.
- If you haven’t got the right tool for the job, don’t improvise. Borrow the tool from a mate, buy yourself one (although this could end up getting expensive) or bite the bullet and get down to the mechanics.
- Anything you don’t have the right spare parts for. You are not MacGyver, so don’t try interesting improvisations involving bits of string, coat hangers and bits of metal