9 Easy jobs you can do to help maintain your car
And save a little money in the process
No matter your level of mechanical knowledge, there are plenty of little jobs you can be getting on with to help maintain your car. These jobs range from the wonderfully easy through to those that require a few tools and bit more time.
Removing all the salt and dirt build up on your car is so important if you want it to stay looking beautiful. You don't have to spend hours on end every week shampooing, polishing and waxing but a good wash every 2-4 weeks is a good start in the winter.
You don't need to polish your car every time you clean in - in fact you shouldn't - just do it when the inclination takes you. For most people that means whenever there's time available for all that buffing or, of course, just before a car show.
If you wax your car semi-regularly it'll protect your paintwork so add it into your cleaning schedule. If you're really serious about your car, get a clay bar. This will remove any impurities from the paint.
Keep your tyres at the correct pressure
While having under - or over - inflated tyres might not cause too many ongoing problems, you will use more fuel, wear your tyres unevenly, and the handling of your car will be impacted. A home pressure gauge will only set you back about £5-£10, well worth it if you want to avoid the charge to use the air machine at a petrol station every time you want to check.
Take your wheels off
Sometimes, it's good to get your wheels off and have a really good clean inside as well as giving your brakes a wash - a wheel brush and some water is usually enough here. Occasionally brakes can get clogged up with salt, dirt and brake dust which can cause uneven wear, so it's good to check before it becomes a problem and you need a new disc.
Replace bulbs as and when they need it
One of the most basic jobs you can do to keep your car in tip-top condition is to replace bulbs when they need it. Not only will this help you to avoid an MOT failure but you'll save money on labour too.
Keep the radiator topped up
This is essential to keep your car from overheating. Make sure your radiator fluid doesn't go below the minimum line. It's easy to top up using half anti-freeze, half water. If you're unsure, check your car handbook.
Change your air filter
Air filters are really cheap and usually changed as part of a service. Again, check your car's manual for the recommended mileage but it's usually somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000 miles.
Credit: Chris Billman
Open up your bonnet, find the air filter box - these come in all kinds of shapes and sizes - and undo the clips. The old filter should just slide or lift out. If you're not sure if it needs replacing, hold it up to the light, if you can't see through it then it's time to get a new one.
Replace your spark plugs
If you find your car is stumbling while idling or there's a delay on acceleration, your spark plugs might need changing. While this can be a fiddly job, it's actually quite simple and doing it yourself means you'll save on labour.
The position of the spark plugs varies from car to car, Google is your friend.
You'll need a spark plug socket wrench, feeler blades, and torque wrench for this job. First, make sure your car is turned off and cool so you don't risk burning yourself or getting a shock. Then you'll need to remove the HT leads and any other obstacles in the way.
Credit: Aidan Wojtas
Locate your spark plugs and use your socket wrench to remove them. Then use the feeler blades or a gap setting tool to check the electrode gap of the new plugs, if you need to. Check your handbook for details.
Put a smear of copper grease on the ends of the new spark plugs and screw them into place. You can do this by hand if you can reach but it's sometimes easier to start them off by sliding a length of flexible hose (such as a garden hose) over them and twisting.
Finish them off with a torque wrench, you can check the correct torque in your handbook.
Change your oil
If you have a jack and some stands then it's easy enough to change your oil and filter yourself. You'll need an oil pan, some rags, a socket wrench and an oil wrench.
Give your car a quick run around the block to loosen up the oil then give it a little time to cool. You'll need to jack up your car and secure it on some jack stands, so make sure you're on level ground.
Credit: Robert Couse-Baker
Slide under the car and locate the oil plug. Position your oil pan underneath and use your socket wrench to undo the plug. Be careful here as the oil could be hot. Let the oil drain into the pan until it's just dripping. Replace the plug and do it up by hand, use the socket wrench for a final quarter turn to tighten.
You can now fill your oil as you normally would - check the handbook for the right type of oil, if you're unsure. Turn the engine on to let it circulate then check the levels, adding more if needed.
Change your oil filter
Keep the oil drain pan underneath the car and locate the oil filter. Loosen it with the filter wrench then remove it by hand. This can be messy, which is why you need that oil pan to hand.
Before installing the new oil filter, apply a little motor oil to the new gasket. This will prevent the gasket from sticking, cracking or causing an oil leak.
Finally, install and tighten the new oil filter by hand. It usually only needs about 3/4 of a turn.
What regular jobs do you carry out on your car to keep it looking good and running perfectly?