DIY Car Maintenance: Essential Checks Every Driver Should Perform

When your vehicle needs basic inspection or maintenance tasks done, it might be tempting to attempt the work on its own rather than visit an auto shop – however be wary – handling incorrect things yourself could lead to even bigger repair bills down the line!

These basic DIY car maintenance tasks can save money, whether they involve checking your engine light, low tire pressure or broken headlights.

1. Check Your Tires

Tires play an essential role in driving safety: They keep your car moving down the road, provide traction and stability, and contribute to its safety – but eventually wear out and require replacement; tire issues have been linked with 1 out of 11 crashes!

Use an inexpensive and readily available tread depth gauge to assess your tire tread depth, or place a penny upside-down in the tire tread and observe Lincoln’s head as an alternative method. If it reveals itself through, your tread is worn to an unsafe level and must be replaced immediately.

Before and after long trips, it’s also essential to regularly check tire pressure. Overinflated tires generate excessive heat, cause uneven wear patterns, and shorten their lifespan significantly.

2. Check Your Brakes

Brakes are an integral component of your vehicle, so it’s wise to perform a visual examination regularly. If the brake pedal feels soft or it takes extra force to stop your car than usual, this could indicate an air leak or hydraulic fluid issue that needs attention.

As your brake pads wear down to about 1/4-in thick, it may also indicate they require replacement.

To inspect your brake pads, all that’s necessary is a flashlight and a method for lifting and removing one wheel safely (a jack may do the job – just be sure to place it on jack stands!). Next, examine both the pad and rotor; if they appear smooth without deep grooves then your pads should be in good shape.

3. Check Your Oil

Engine oil is one of the most essential fluids for any car, as it helps drive both pistons and create spark for starting your combustion engine.

Before conducting an oil check, ensure your vehicle is on level ground and off. Allowing its engine to cool a bit will also allow the parts of your engine to become less hot, helping prevent burns while you test its levels.

As soon as the hood is open, locate and remove the dipstick from its tube and wipe it clean using a lint-free rag for an accurate reading. Reinstall and wipe again after inserting into pipe – your ideal engine oil level should fall between “full” mark or slightly below it.

4. Check Your Battery

Once upon a time, drivers were expected to spend as much time under their vehicles’ bonnets as behind them, getting to know each of them intimately and saving money through DIY repairs and maintenance. While this practice has fallen out of favour over time, it still provides an effective way of becoming better acquainted with your car and its needs.

Battery failure can be one of the telltale signs of trouble; dimming headlights are another common signal. To test its state of charge, disconnect it from your vehicle and use a voltmeter to monitor terminal voltage.

Your voltage should remain consistent at 12.4V; otherwise, clean your terminals using baking soda and water or automobile-grade lubricant solutions to remove corrosion that could break your connection. Doing this correctly will protect against further problems down the line.

5. Check Your Tire Pressure

Every car manufacturer provides their recommended cold tire pressure on a placard located inside the driver’s door jamb or within their owner’s manual. Invest in an inexpensive air gauge that is easily stored (rather than in your trunk or glove box, where it could get misplaced) for easy access when needed.

Remove one valve stem cap on one tire, press a pressure gauge evenly onto its valve stem until air escapes, and record your reading compared with what the vehicle manufacturer suggests.

If the reading exceeds what is recommended, if necessary you can “bleed off air” by pressing on the small pin in the center of your gauge for several seconds – this will allow for you to bring pressure closer to its target level without excessive wear and tear.

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