Your car is one of the most important possessions you own, and so you may worry about somehow destroying your car if you do the wrong thing. Far too often, those of us who were not taught how to deal with cars in our youth never really learn, and end up taking it to a mechanic for the smallest repairs.
But fixing a car is not that frightening nor difficult, and there are all sorts of repairs which you can do with just the tools in your garage. And on top of it, there are all sorts of guides on the Internet, complete with video, which detail how to make repairs. Here are 5 repairs in particular which every person should know how to do:
1. Change a Flat Tire
The fact that 40 percent of Americans are either not very confident or clueless about their ability to change a flat tire represents some sort of failure in American society, because that is about as basic as it gets.
The good news is that since changing a flat tire is such a basic repair, there are plenty of guides on how to do it, and all you really need is a lug wrench and a jack (in fact, I should just note now that you need a wrench for almost all of the below repairs, so get a good 6-inch adjustable wrench now). The one thing I would note from personal experience is to routinely check that your spare tire is inflated before you get a blowout. Also remember that once you have gotten the spare tire on, take your car to a mechanic immediately. You want to drive on that spare tire as little as possible.
2. Jump Start Your Car
If you live in a colder climate or left your lights on for too long, you may have jump started your battery in the past. But given how rarely you may do this, it is easy to forget what goes where.
Connect the red jumper cables on both the battery providing the charge and the dead battery. Meanwhile, connect one end of the black jumper cable to the car providing the charge, but stick the other end to another metal surface nearby.
Above all else, safety first. Keep both cars off until the cables are connected. If your car is not jump starting after five to ten minutes, see if a bigger vehicle like a van can provide the charge instead.
3. Clean Your Battery
Your car will suffer from corrosion and rust. While that looks unsightly, corrosion can prevent the battery’s power from flowing through your engine and keep your car from starting.
The good news is that you can clean off the battery’s corrosion with common household items like baking soda or Coke (though try not to use Coke). Remove the battery cable ends and then sprinkle baking soda and water on top of the battery terminals. Baking soda, which is a base, will neutralize the battery acid. Then brush it off with a toothbrush, let the battery dry, then put petroleum jelly on top of the terminals.
Cleaning the battery should be done once a year, but will only take a few minutes. Also check the battery itself while you are cleaning it for leaks or cracks.
4. Change Your Brake Pads
If you have already done the repairs mentioned, you may be looking to try something a bit more difficult. Even if you are not, changing your brake pads will still save you a great deal of cash compared to a mechanic. If you have ever had to brake the car really suddenly, the brake pads are what causes the squealing noise. But if you hear that noise routinely, then it may be time to switch out the pads.
Your brake pads are located behind your car, and you will need to use a jack to get your car up before you can access them. For cars with good ground clearance, like the Ford F-150, this might not be necessary. Then remove the wheel from your car, remove the bolts attached to the caliper (that is the hook-like thing attached to the brake rotor), and then slide the old brake pad out and put the new one in.
5. Replace an Air Filter
In an internal combustion engine, the air filter prevents dust and other particles from getting into your engine. The filter should be replaced every three years, as it gets brittle with age.
Fortunately, this is one of the easiest car repairs of all, and only requires you to order a new air filter and get a screw driver. The air filter is generally a plastic box that is right next to the engine. Open the box by unscrewing it, take the old filter out, and put the new filter in. Make sure that the new filter is facing the same direction as the old filter was.
If you are looking for more details, Wikihow has an excellent guide complete with GIFs on what you should be looking for. It will take about an hour, but is a sign of a job well done.
Featured photo credit: Matthias Rip via flickr.com