Vehicles have gotten more complicated over the years, but it's for the better. This advancement has led to better fuel economy, more power, and higher reliability. At the same time, it’s made it harder for the average person to maintain, diagnose, and repair their own cars. Here are a few basic DIY repair steps that every car owner can use, no matter their skill level.

1. Tire Pressure

It just takes a few minutes to check your tire pressure. A decent tire pressure gauge shouldn’t cost more than a few bucks, and a tire inflator is a great investment. Having proper tire pressure is safer for you and your family on the road, helps the tires last longer, and improves your fuel economy.

2. Tire Inspection

All tires will wear out eventually, but there are few warning signs other than sudden loss of traction when on the road. Check your tire tread depth at least once a month. A tire tread depth tool is very inexpensive, to check all four tires it only takes a couple minutes. If you do need to replace your tires, always do it in pairs or all four if any get below 2/32” (4/32” in snow or rain).

3. Check Fluids

There are a few fluids critical to the function of your car under your hood, and how to check them is in your owner's manual. It shows how to check and adjust your engine oil, brake fluid, engine coolant, windshield washer fluid, and transmission fluids. All you need is a few minutes a week and a rag. You don't want to just “top off” brake fluid, unless it goes below the LOW mark, and make sure you always use compatible fluids for your vehicle.

4. Spare Tire

Tires last a while but construction debris can cause punctures, and getting stuck on the side of the road with a flat is something no one wants to deal with. If your vehicle has a spare tire and tire changing tools, you can get back on the road quickly. The tools needed in that kit should be a jack, wheel chock, lug nut wrench, warning triangle or flares, and a pair of work gloves. Practice once or twice in your driveway until you get used it is always a great idea.

5. Replace Fuse

With so many components and electronic devices in our vehicles, circuit protection is coming up more and more. If something doesn’t work, such as a headlight or power socket, it could be from a blown fuse. Your owner’s manual shows where the fuse blocks are and which fuses power which devices. Replacing a fuse takes only a few minutes and the fuse tool is usually right there in the fuse block with spare fuses. Always replace your fuses with the same rating or lower to prevent damage.

6. Replace Bulb

Bulbs don’t last forever, and they can burn out when you aren't expecting them to. If a headlight or taillight blows, you might find it hard to see at night, or others might think your turn signals or brake lights. Thankfull, many bulbs are user-replaceable, often with just a screwdriver. It’s a good idea to replace headlight bulbs in pairs. To extend the life of any bulbs, do not touch the glass part of the bulb, but if you do, make sure to clean it with alcohol before you install.

7. Replace Wipers

Wiper blades help you see in all kinds of weather. Over time, the rubber wiper blades can wear and degrade, causing poor visibility and streaking. Waiting too long to replace the blades could lead to permanent windshield damage. Fortunately, replacing wiper blades only takes a second, and can be done by hand or with a screwdriver.

8. Jump Start

The battery and charging system work together to give you the power to start your vehicle. Batteries though still only last four to six years, and people make mistakes. You could be stuck unless you know how to jump start your car. Jumper cables require a second vehicle for help, or you could purchase portable jump boxes and handy if you're ever in an area without a lot of other people.

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9. Air Filters

The engine needs to breathe clean air, and it's air filter makes this possible. It can fill up over time with dust, dirt, road debris, bugs, and leaves. That's why changing the air filter is very important, especially for those with allergies. A dirty air filter can usually be replaced in just a few minutes by hand or with a screwdriver.

10. Oil Change

Changing your oil is a little more involved but saves you cash, and get you to know your car better. Changing it on your own requires car ramps or a jack and jack stands. It's important to never put any part of your body under a vehicle supported only by a jack though. All you need is those and a few tools and supplies. A drain pan, funnel, nitrile gloves, and rags go a long way toward keeping things clean. Make sure to recycle used oil at your local shop or auto parts store who know how to dispose of it safely.

11. Tire Rotation

Another task that might be more in depth, but needs to be done every 8,000-12,000km. The easiest way is to lift one side of the vehicle, swap front and rear tires, then repeat. Then use torque wrench to tighten the wheel nuts in a star pattern.

12. Tools Needed

Most of the tools we've mentioned can be found at your local auto, home improvement, or even at a big-box store. You don’t have to buy the most expensive stuff, but tools that are comfortable to use and safe.

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The Bottom Line

DIY repair is great for a few reasons. It gets us back in touch with our cars, the machines we rely on everyday. Secondly, it can save you money, as you can choose the quality of the parts you use and you supply your own labor. In case you get stuck during your DIY repair, or you are uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to give us at the Finch Auto Group a call. After all, what good is saving money if you can’t be sure your vehicle is safe and reliable!

Plus, with the free vehicle pick-up and drop-off available at Finch locations across London, getting your vehicle serviced has never been this convenient.