Every time you need to get somewhere quickly is exactly when you’ll run into car trouble. But have no fear! Most common car problems are things you can fix with just a few small tools and you can actually save some money by performing these by yourself.
If you can follow basic instructions in your owner’s manual or repair book, you don’t have to be mechanic to perform these simple tasks. So, here are the top 6 most common breakdown issues and ways you can avoid and repair them yourself:
There are several reasons why a battery will fail to perform, including old age, corroded terminals, extreme driving conditions or if you just left your headlights on and drained the battery over the night.
Replacing your own battery will save you some bucks. Follow your manual’s instructions and wear eye protection. Don’t attempt the installation if you have any doubts about how to disconnect the old battery and connect the new one. It’s also a good idea to carry jumper cables or a jump box in your trunk in case of an emergency.
A pair of jumper cables can get your car started in a matter of minutes. You just need another running car with healthy battery and simply connect the positive lead to the appropriate terminal on the empty battery, connect the negative lead to an engine ground or the chassis (NOT the negative battery terminal) and start your car.
#2 Flat Tire
Often, a flat tire is the result of running over a nail or object that punctures the tire. Of course you can always replace your flat tire with the spare donut in your car, but if you keep a can of tire sealant in your spare tire well, you can temporarily repair the full size tire and inflate it all at once and be on your way. Tire sealant not only covers up the puncture, but it also inflates the tire and allows you to get the car safely to your local mechanic for further repair or replacement.
#3 Headlight Bulb
Replacing your headlight bulbs is easy to perform and normally requires no tools and can be done in a few minutes, especially if you keep a spare pack of bulbs in your glove box.
Every car may differ slightly, so be sure to check your owner’s manual for specific instructions. It’s a bit more complicated if you have sealed-beam headlights, but most halogen headlights have easily removable bulbs behind the lens.
To change headlights on most cars, open your hood and, from the back of the lamp assembly, remove the rubber boot that protects the headlight. Unplug the wire harness and release the clip that holds the bulb in place. Be sure not to touch the glass part of your new bulb with your finger, as the oil from your hand can cause it to burn out prematurely. Replace the bulb in reverse order.
#4 Windshield Wipers
To maintain a safe and clear view through your windshield, you should replace your wipers once a year. For most cars, you only need to replace the rubber blade itself and then reuse the wiper assembly that holds it in place.
To replace the blade, slide the small clip that attaches the blade to the wiper arm down and discard the old blade. Now install your new blade into the same groove, making sure it clicks into place. Easy peasy..
#5 Air Filter Change
Installing a new air filter is literally a “snap”. Many cars have an air filter housing that is secured by clamps that unsnap in seconds. Depending on driving conditions, air filters should be replaced every 15,000 miles (25,000km). Do it more often if you frequently drive in dusty conditions or on dirt roads.
The air filter compartment is one of the first things you see when you pop the hood. It’s either right on top of the engine or off to the side on some fuel-injected motors. After removing the old filter, clean the inside of the compartment. Voila, in a matter of minutes, you’ll save few tens of dollars.
#6 Oil Change
This one is the hardest of all 6 and it takes a little more time than other but it can be still done fairly quickly and without getting too dirty. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended mileage for oil changes and the type and quantity needed. The cost of premium oil is more than offset by the extra protection it provides your engine. When you change the oil, replace the filter at the same time. You’ll also need some basic tools including an adjustable wrench, filter wrench (for older cars) and a sealable container to catch the used oil.
Check your oil level frequently, using the dip stick in the engine compartment. If you ever notice oil leaks under your car, bring your car to a mechanic.
If you notice a strange noise or smell, get the car to a mechanic as fast as possible. If you can spot a problem early enough, you can fix a small problem that would have developed into a huge one.