Gone are the days when you could do all of the maintenance on your vehicle yourself. Modern cars require expert mechanics and complex computerized diagnostic tools in order to be maintained safely and effectively. This change has occurred for two main reasons. Firstly, newer cars are simply more complex than their metal ancestors. Complicated electronics and specialist parts are not suitable for being replaced or worked upon at home. Secondly, car manufacturers want to protect their profits and safeguard themselves from legal action. If only approved dealers can work on a vehicle, then manufacturers will be able to ensure that only their parts can be used. Homecooked maintenance can also make a vehicle more dangerous in certain circumstances. Companies want to dissuade dangerous modifications so they cannot be held responsible for damage or injuries caused by their vehicles.
Despite this, there are some maintenance tasks that you can complete safely at home with only the smallest degree of mechanical knowledge. Many of the tasks listed in this article are relatively simple but can increase the service life of your vehicle and improve overall safety. Here is a very brief guide to the kind of work you can do on your own car.
Change The Air Filter
Changing the air filter attached to your engine is one of the simplest maintenance tasks around and can have a surprising impact on vehicle performance. Petrol and diesel engines are internal combustion powered. This means that fuel needs to be ignited in order to provide motive power to pistons. Fuel cannot ignite without a supply of oxygen. For this reason, all internal combustion engines take in air, which is then mixed with fuel before being ignited. Your air filter stops dust, insects, and other environmental particles from being ingested by the air intake – which ensures that the correct ratio of fuel to oxygen is achieved.
The air filter on a car will gradually become clogged with particles. This process is quicker in dusty environments. Replacing the air filter enables a smoother flow of air into the engine. Air filters are cheap and shipped by most auto parts delivery companies. Once installed – usually in an easy-to-reach clip-sealed box – you will notice improvements in engine power and fuel consumption immediately.
Change The Oil
Engine oil circulation is an absolutely essential part of any internal combustion engine. If oil is not regularly changed in a car, it will overheat easily, parts will be worn down more swiftly, the car will produce more harmful emissions, and engine performance will suffer. Oil is the lifeblood of your car. Old oil collects dirt, making it less effective. Luckily, car owners can change their oil with only minimal engineering experience. Because oil changes often require the jacking up of a vehicle, extreme care should be taken. Carefully follow instructions for jacking up your specific vehicle, and always use axle stands for an extra layer of safety. Make sure to wash your hands after coming into contact with oil.
Most vehicles have an oil lug nestled just underneath the engine. When this lug is unscrewed, old oil will spill out. Make sure to use a large container like a washing up bowl to collect the oil. Once the oil has drained from the tank, it needs to be refilled. Engines have very specific oil requirements. Make sure to consult your vehicle manual in order to confirm the kind of oil you will need to use. Modern synthetic oils are suitable for a wide range of vehicles. Vintage cars only take conventional oil.
Fitting A Spare Tire
Fitting a spare tire is one of those emergency maintenance tasks that every vehicle owner should be familiar with. You should always carry a spare wheel and tire in the boot of your car or attached to your truck cab. Spare ‘space saver’ tires are often unsuitable for high speed driving and should only be used as a stopgap solution. Although compressed air and electrically powered tools are used by professional engineers, you only need simple hand tools to change a tire. The only tools you will need are a lug wrench and a jack.
The first thing to do when you notice that you have a flat tire is to pull over somewhere safe. Loosen the lug nuts on the offending wheel. Jack the car up on its axle stands. Unscrew the lug nuts entirely and then gently wiggle the wheel free. Place the spare wheel onto the axle and partially tighten the lug nuts. Lower the car before tightening the lug nuts all the way. Before getting back onto the road, test your brakes. Never take to the road without a spare tire, lug wrench, and jack.
Most modern cars have headlights that are available from third-party dealers. No soldering or complicated wiring is necessary at all when changing a modern car headlight. Simply find the connecting wires, disconnect them and remove the old headlight module. Place the new headlight into the slot and reconnect the wires. Hey, presto! Always make sure to purchase headlight bulbs from reputable sources. It is important to get headlight bulbs that produce the same color light as your existing ones. If you can’t find a headlight that matches your existing color, then you will need to change both sides to avoid clashing tones. In the United States, it is completely legal to have two different colored headlights, but it is not recommended.
Cleaning Battery Terminals
If your car keeps losing power or failing to start, there is a chance that the culprit may be corroded or poorly connected battery terminals. Before cleaning battery terminals, it is important to remove the battery from the car. Use a wire brush to remove corrosion. Do not use any kind of astringent chemicals, as these can – on rare occasions – interact with the chemicals inside the battery. Reconnect your terminals securely and apply insulating caps.
If you don’t fancy a trip to your local mechanic, these are some simple jobs you can perform on your car yourself.
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