5 tips for DIY Maintenance

Five maintenance tasks any driver can do.

3y ago
3.5K

Regardless of whether your car is old or new, it is a good idea to keep it well maintained and regularly serviced. This ensures that your car is safe and reliable when you need it, but it also has the added advantages that it will likely also be more efficient, will enjoy a longer service life and ultimately greater resale value when you and your pride and joy eventually part ways.

While you’ll most likely have most of your regular servicing and any significant repairs done by a reputable workshop, particularly if you have a newer car, there are a few maintenance items that you can DIY and probably should – particularly if you are about to embark on a road trip. Standing by the roadside in snow storm while waiting for a tow truck is not much fun; so I’m told.

So, here are the 5 most important DIY maintenance tasks which any driver can do:

1. Check the engine oil

Even if your car is relatively new, it is still a good idea to regularly check the engine oil. It becomes even more important as your car becomes older and more prone to oil leaks or burning oil. If the oil level is too high or too low, it can cause big trouble for your engine and that’s expensive trouble for you. To check your oil level, ensure the car is parked on level ground and give the oil a good 5-10 minutes to drain back into the sump for an accurate reading. Remove the dipstick, wipe it clean with a rag, and push it back all the way into the tube. Remove again and check where the oil level comes to. If it’s between the high and low indicator marks (sometimes identified by a short textured section towards the bottom of the dipstick) your oil level is ok. If the oil level is too low, add more oil, about 100-200ml at a time and give it a few minutes before checking again. Take care not to overfill.

Check the oil level is between the marks

Check the oil level is between the marks

2. Check the coolant level

Your car’s coolant is really critical to the effective operation of your engine. Your engine will not last long without it. The good news is that it is easy to check. Your coolant reservoir is typically a semi-transparent plastic bottle, usually mounted on the side of the radiator or fairly close by. It is marked with ‘high’ and ‘low’ levels to indicate if the system contains sufficient coolant. If the engine it hot, it should be closer to the ‘high’ or full mark. If the engine is cold, it may be closer to the ‘low’ mark, which is ok, provided the level is between the two marks.

Check the coolant level is between the Full and Low indicator marks

Check the coolant level is between the Full and Low indicator marks

Never open the cooling system while it is hot. Opening while hot runs a serious risk of burns as well likely spilling coolant as the system is still under pressure. If removal of the radiator cap is required, it is a good idea to cover the cap with a large cloth or rag in any case, just as an added precaution.

Do NOT open the radiator cap while the engine/coolant is hot

Do NOT open the radiator cap while the engine/coolant is hot

3. Check your tyres

Regularly check the state of your tyres. Check that they have sufficient tread (at least 1.6mm), that the tread is wearing evenly and that they don’t have any visible damage, such as cuts, deep abrasions or punctures from sharp objects such as screws or nails. It is also a good idea to routinely check the tyre pressure, as incorrect pressure often leads to poor fuel economy and increased tyre wear. The correct inflation pressure for your car is on the tyre placard, usually located on the driver’s side door jam. Don’t forget to also check the spare!

Regularly check tyre pressures

Regularly check tyre pressures

4. Keep it clean

A regular wash will not only keep your car looking good, but it will also help it to look good for longer. In addition to aesthetics, a large build-up of grime can obscure visibility of lights, registration plates and through windows, which is a safety concern.

There are some things you can do to help keep your car clean, like not driving it. But more practically, you can try parking under cover, avoiding unsealed roads, and not parking under power lines or trees for the birds to do target practice on your paintwork. If you do get birdie poop, bugs or road tar on your paintwork, it is best to clean it off as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to remove and the greater the risk of permanent damage to the paint.

A build up of grime can obscure visibility

A build up of grime can obscure visibility

Wash your car with a dedicated car wash detergent rather than regular household cleaning fluids which will strip off the wax and often have a high salt content. You should also apply a fresh coat of wax every so often in order to keep the paint protected and looking good.

5. Maintain good visibility

Not only should you keep your car, mirrors and windows clean, but check your windscreen regularly for cracks. A small crack or chip in your windscreen can quickly spread and become a large crack, so it’s important to address the problem promptly. If you act immediately you may be able to stop the crack from spreading by using a windscreen repair kit. If unsure you should consult a professional and have the windscreen repaired or replaced.

Check the condition of your wipers and wiper blades to ensure they are all in good working order and repair. Replace perished blades to ensure good visibility in inclement weather and top up the washer reservoir.

Check your wiper rubbers to ensure they are in good condition

Check your wiper rubbers to ensure they are in good condition

These few tips are easy for any driver to do and can have great benefits for your wallet, safety and comfort. If followed, they should ensure you get a good service life out of your car and potentially avoid some inconvenient break-downs coupled with expensive repairs. Happy motoring!

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Comments (9)

  • Keeping a Jeep clean and windshield free of bugs and cracks is an impossibility with a Jeep. Very through, entertaining and practical article however.

      3 years ago
  • I'm glad you didn't mention checking that all the lights work and replacing bulbs as required because, at least in Canberra and south-east NSW, this apparently doesn't fall into the category of being important nor "easy for any driver to do" ;-)

    Two brake lights out, only one to go...

      3 years ago
    • Well, depending on the what car it is, changing globes can be anything from a minor DIY task to a major undertaking requiring specialist skills and equipment. I once knew a guy with a VW Polo TDi, headlight globe replacement required removal...

      Read more
        3 years ago
  • Hi congratulations - your post has been selected by DriveTribe reviews Ambassador for promotion on the DriveTribe homepage.

      3 years ago
  • Dear , this your publication hurts :)

    It was today I started working on "Knowing Your Car" article, which was supposed - amongst others - to touch upon the DIY maintainance. But you were first to raise the topic!

    Now, speaking seriously, thank you for the article. I discovered some new things for myself.

      3 years ago
    • Thanks for the comments Ost. And sorry for stealing your thunder.

        3 years ago
  • Great article! I'd suggest one more thing & that's right before winter checking your coolant to make sure its not diluted and will withstand freezing temperatures. Testers are cheap and easy to get at most auto parts stores. Thanks!

      3 years ago
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