With the current economic times, we are all looking for smarter ways to tighten the belt on our budgets and car repairs, especially if your vehicle is out of warranty.
Most of us have been driving cars since we were in our teens. For many, it’s almost impossible to imagine living without a car. Most of us also know the frustration of a car breaking down when you need it the most. Well, what if we told you that some of the most common reasons for car problems have easy fixes you could learn to do yourself?
With all the knowledge in the world at our fingertips, with ‘how-to” do just about anything you can imagine, YouTube tutorial videos freely available, more and more people are saving money by doing things themselves, such as handling their own home improvement projects, building their own pools, repairing their own plumbing issues. In addition to handling your own home improvement projects, why not consider these top ten tips for DIY Car repairs.
A regular car service can be quite a costly exercise but maintaining your vehicle in good running order and replacing worn out parts regularly will help keep you on the road until you can afford to have a professional service done. Do remember that some manufacturer warranties become null and void the moment you use a non-accredited workshop for your car’s service, so be willing to take that risk or make sure it is past the warranty period if that’s the case. Make sure you know what types of services are necessary and the mileages when services are due. Having a comprehensive service history will increase your cars resale value if ever you decide to sell.
Before you set about doing a service or any minor car repairs to your vehicle, you must make sure you have the correct tools.
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Tools you’re going to need for your DIY Car repair:
The first thing you need to do, before you become your own mechanic is to get yourself a good tool set with ratchets, an oil filter wrench, a spark plug wrench/spanner, HEX key, Pliers and screwdriver set. Check out hand tools that you may need for your car repairs. https://www.aceauto.co.za/search?search=tools
You will also need a jack and axle stands as these ensure safety when working underneath the car. Always read the instructions on your owner’s manual on how and where the stands must be placed.
Another necessity is a fire extinguisher. Because you are working in an enclosed space with explosive fluids such as fuel and gas an extinguisher is a necessity.
These are necessary for when you are draining the sump.
This the easiest way to lift your car off the ground, just ensure that they are placed in the correct ‘jack points’.
These also a good idea as they stop the car from rolling either backwards or forwards.
A strong light source will help you see what’s going on in a dim garage.
Is a very handy tool to have when you’re doing filter changes, just ensure that when you remove the old oil filter the O-ring is also removed at the same time.
Before you begin your service, you can purchase a ‘Service kit’ specific to the make and year of your vehicle.
A service kit for your car repair will contain: Coolant, Air filter, Oil filter, Fuel filter, Brake fluid flush, Engine oil, Spark plugs.
Don’t forget to keep your Owner’s Manual handy and always make sure the car is completely cooled down before you begin any car repairs. Also making sure your car is on a level surface will help.
The following 10 tips will make doing your own car repairs a lot easier:
Diagnose car problems without going to a mechanic with an auto code reader. Simply plug it into the car’s computer system, then interpret the trouble code readout to see what repairs you might need to do.
Dirty oil and undesirable liquids collect in the sump, which is located at the bottom of the engine. Remove the sump plug and drain the oil into a tray. Most sump plugs use a washer to guarantee a tight seal; this needs to be replaced every time you remove the sump plug. Having a registered waste company remove the dirty oil is the environmentally responsible way to dispose of your dirty oil. Once the main gush of oil is over you can remove the oil filter; some motoring stores have a tool for this but pushing a screwdriver through the soft walls of the oil filter will give you the purchase you need to unscrew the oil filter. Let the oil drain while you go about the rest of the service. Once you have drained the oil you can throw away the filter. Be sure to replace the oil filter, sump plug and washer before refilling the oil. Most cars use just over four liters of oil. As there are different grades of oil, you need to find out which one your car requires. Be careful not to overfill your car by checking the level regularly with the dipstick. Once you have achieved the correct level, run the motor for a few seconds before re-checking the oil level.
To check whether your wiper blades need replacing simply press the washer button and see if your blades wipe clean. If they streak, it’s time to replace them. The auto parts store will have lots of economy blades but go with a reputable brand instead. They might cost more than economy blades, but their higher-quality rubber wipes better, has better UV protection and lasts longer. Lift the blades, as if you were washing your windshield by hand, and remove the old blades. Pay attention to how the old blades connect to the metal arms. On most models, you’ll see a tab on the underside of the wiper. Push the tab to remove the old blade. Be sure you have a firm grip on the wiper arm once you remove the old blade. If it gets away from you, it can hit the windshield with enough force to crack it.
Attach the new blades, being careful not to bend the wiper arms or scratch your windshield. Line everything up and make sure the new ones are secure and tight. If you get distracted or just can’t remember exactly how the new blades should fit on the wiper arm, don’t worry. The packaging for the new blades should have a general set of instructions and a helpful diagram.
The in-line-fuel-filter (found under the vehicle near the fuel tank or in the fuel line under the hood) is easy to replace. Make sure you get the direction of the fuel right otherwise the car will not run properly. Use mechanical jubilee clips to secure the fuel line to each end of the filter rather than the spring steel clip types as these can sometimes fail. The air filter is usually housed in a plastic box with clips and should be the easiest part to change. Again, you must check that it is installed in the right direction or your car won’t be able to “breathe” properly.
If your car has a headlight that puts out about as much light as a flashlight with weak batteries, we’ve got two simple fixes for you. All you’ll need for the following fix is an adjustable wrench and a wire brush. Most dim headlights are caused by a corroded ground wire. Just trace the wiring harness from the back of each headlight assembly and see where it connects to the vehicle body. Give the connection a few strokes with the wire-brush.
Another possibility is that as headlight filaments age, they deposit a gray/brown film on the inside of the bulb (See Photo). Over time, that coating can reduce visibility by almost 300 ft. If your headlights aren’t as bright as they used to be, yank one of the bulbs and look for gray or brown residue on the glass. If you find any, replace both bulbs now and get back to seeing more of the road.
Always get the exact spark plugs for the make and model of your car. The gap in your spark plug should be set by the manufacturer and needs adjustment, so you won’t have to worry about “gapping” the plugs, because they’ll come pre-gapped. Treat spark plugs with the utmost care. It’s best to buy a spark plug spanner, especially one with a rubber insert that holds the spark plug in place while lowering it into the engine cavity. Do not over-tighten the spark plugs as this may break them. Be sure to replace the spark plug leads in the same order they were when you unplugged them. You should be able to locate your spark plugs fairly easily, because they’re attached to thick rubbery wires. You’ll find either four, six, or eight plugs, depending on how many cylinders your car has. Remove the wire to the first spark plug only. Do not remove all of the wires at once. Your spark plugs are installed in a certain order, which you need to maintain. Use your spark plug socket and extension on your ratchet to remove the first spark plug. Install the new spark plug, screwing it in by hand at first and then tightening it with a wrench for a snug fit. Do not over-tighten. Re-attach the spark plug wire. Repeat these steps for each spark plug, one at a time.
You need a new air filter for your car every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. You can pay a mechanic and give up your car for a day, or you can replace your air filter at home in about ten minutes. First, find your filter under the hood of your car. It’s in a black rectangular box with metal clips on the side. Check your owner’s manual if you don’t see it as soon as you pop the hood. Open up the casing and check out how the air filter fits inside it. Make a note of which way the filter faces.Remove the old air filter, and insert the new one exactly how the old one sat. Remember to close the metal clips when you’re done. You can extend the life of your new air filter by hitting it with some compressed air to clear out any debris.
The thermostat is usually located near the top of the engine under a “gooseneck” housing attached to the upper radiator hose. If yours isn’t there, consult your car manual to locate it. Pry off the gooseneck. Then remove the car thermostat from the engine or the inside of the gooseneck. In most cases, the cause of an overheating or no-heat condition in your vehicle is a faulty thermostat. And since the thermostat price can cost from between R200 to R600, it makes more sense to replace it than to spend hours diagnosing the problem. If that doesn’t fix it, at least you’re only out about two hours learning how to replace a thermostat. Pick up a new thermostat and gasket, as well as RTV sealant, fresh coolant (to top off the system) and hose-clamping pliers at an auto parts store. And while you’re there, ask the clerk for the torque specs for the gooseneck bolts. Then gather up your metric sockets, a plastic scraper and a drip pan. Slide the drip pan under the engine to catch the spilled coolant. Here’s how to change the thermostat: Remove the two or three bolts that hold the gooseneck in place and remove the thermostat. Next, clean both the engine and the gooseneck sealing surfaces. If the parts store gave you a plain gasket, coat one side with RTV sealant (self-adhesive gaskets don’t need sealant). Then install the thermostat and gasket. If the old thermostat used a rubber O-ring instead of a gasket, lubricate the new one with fresh coolant before you insert it. Reinstall the gooseneck and top off the coolant. You will need rags, a socket/ratchet set, a pair of hose-clamping pliers, a plastic scraper and a drip pan.
Scratches are the absolute worst. Even the tiniest scratches are visible from a distance and can kill the overall appearance of your metal monster. Unfortunately, it may cost you thousands to get them removed in a body shop. But you can save the money and the frustration with a simple DIY job. The steps include determining the depth of the scratch, lightly sanding the scratch, cleaning the area, applying rubbing compound, polishing the area with the rubbing compound, washing the area, and finally waxing the area to seal the repair. That’s it. You’ve just saved yourself a lot of money.
Car batteries tend to die on us at the most inconvenient times. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, your best bet would be to find roadside assistance and/or call a tow truck. But if you’re home and your battery shows signs that it might need replacement, the DIY replacement method is quite easy. The steps include removing any covers from the battery, disconnecting the negative cables, moving the clamp away from the battery post, doing the same for the positive cable clamp, removing all screws, replacing the old battery with the new one, and finally reconnecting the cable clamps. Make sure you label the cables before you remove them.
Some people use DIY to save themselves money and some people use it as a healthy way to escape from the stress of every-day life. They tap into skills they didn’t even know they had and pushed the limits of their creativity and what they thought they could do. Some people are more mechanical than others, but everybody can learn new skills and having the right tools and equipment definitely makes the tasks of minor car repairs less daunting. Mechanics are known to have a high level of self-reliance so if you find this is trait you possess then why not teach yourself new skills? Detecting problems and doing car repairs on your own car will not only give you an enormous sense of achievement but it will have the added bonus of saving you time and money.