Taking your car to the auto body shop for every little fix can be expensive and time consuming. Save time and money with these simple mechanic hacks.
Owning a vehicle can be one of our most expensive privileges for licensed drivers. From initial price to maintenance to insurance, it’s important to find ways to save so you can spend your money on other things, like road trips and that drive thru food you can’t get enough of. Taking your car to a mechanic for every little fix can be costly and time consuming. You could pay a mechanic to have your car sit at the shop all day or you could do the simple fix yourself in minutes. You’ll be back on the road with the extra change to do something more fun than sitting in an auto body shop lobby.
Follow the simple steps below for common vehicle tune ups. However, if you ever feel unsafe making any of these adjustments yourself, please schedule a tune up with a professional mechanic.
1. How to change your oil and oil filter:
Cars are complex machines with many moving parts that create friction and thus heat when being used. The oil in your vehicle acts as a lubricant between parts in the engine while absorbing heat so that your engine can function without overheating. Mechanics recommend your get an oil change every 3,000 miles.
- You’ll need: Ratchet, oil filter wrench, oil pan, funnel
- Estimated cost: $20
- Total time: 45 minutes
- In order to change your oil, you’ll have to use a jack to get your vehicle off the ground. Always use jack stands when working under your vehicle so that you aren’t injured if the vehicle moves. Once the stands are in place, always wiggle your vehicle to make sure it’s secure before you start working.
- Never attempt to change your oil when your car is hot. Driving your car around is a great way to loosen up the oil in preparation for draining, but you should always park your car and allow it to cool completely before starting.
- Only recycle your old oil and filter at an auto shop or other oil recycling location.
- Get under your vehicle and locate the oil pan at the bottom of the engine. It should be relatively close to the bumper.
- Place a large, empty container under the oil pan and use a rag to unscrew the drain plug, which looks like a large nut or plug. You’ll have to work fast if you want to avoid oil spilling into your hand.
- With the old oil draining into the container, move to the hood of your car and unscrew the cap for the oil filler hole at the top of your engine.
- Unscrew the oil filter by twisting counterclockwise with your hand or a wrench.
- The filter will have oil in it so be careful. Drain the oil into a pan and set the olde filter aside.
- Open a new can of oil and use your finger to moisten the gasket on the new filter.
- Now go back underneath your car and screw the drain plug back on, using a new gasket if necessary.
- Going back to the hood of your car, follow the directions on the filter packaging in order to screw the new filter into the engine.
- Using a funnel, slowly pour one quart of fresh oil into the filler hole.
- Replace the oil filler cap and run your car for one minute. In this time, check for oil leaks from the drain plug and around the new filter.
- Turn off your engine and wait ten minutes for the new oil to settle into the oil pan.
- Check the oil level using the oil dipstick. When you remove the stick, wipe it clean before inserting again.
- If the dipstick doesn’t reach the full line, add small amounts of oil at a time and continue to check by repeating the past four steps.
- Remove the container from under your car and go for a test drive.
2. How to fix a dent:
If you’re in an accident with another car, you’ll most likely have to take your car to the auto shop. However, if you get a little ding from the trashcan or mailbox you probably don’t want to pay a mechanic for such a minor fix.
- You’ll need: dry ice or a hairdryer, can of compressed air
- Estimated cost: $10- $20
- Total time: 5 minutes
Hair dryer and air duster:
- Dry ice can be bought for as little as $2/lb at your local grocery store.
- Wearing protective dry ice gloves, simply hold the ice to the dent until it pops out.
- Heat the dent with the hair dryer for one minute
- Holding the air duster upside, spray the dent for thirty seconds
- Let sit for a few seconds as the dent pops out
3. How to change an air filter:
Your vehicle needs a new air filter every year or 12,000 miles. While a mechanic can change it for you during a routine check up, it can be done at home at little cost and time to you.
- You’ll need: a new air filter that fits into your vehicle. Check your car manual
- Estimated cost: approximately $10
- Total time: 10 minutes
- Locate your filter under the hood of your car. It sits in a black rectangular box outfitted with metal clips. Refer to your owner’s manual if you can’t find it.
- Open the case and inspect the filter. Take note of how it fits within the box and which side is facing up.
- Remove the old filter.
- Insert the new filter according to how the previous filter was fitted.
- Close up the casing by putting the metal clips back in place.
4. How to change windshield wipers:
Quality wiper blades are extremely important in order to drive safely. Obstructions like rain, condensation, ice, pollen, and streaking can cause accidents, so make sure you replace your windshield wipers every six months to a year. Wiper blades differ based on a car’s make and model, so while your replacement may require a few more steps, below are some basic instructions. Make sure to refer to your owner’s manual before starting.
- You’ll need: New wiper blades fitted for your car make and model
- Estimated cost: approximately $10-$20
- Total time: 15 minutes
- Lift up your blades as if you were about to wash your windshield and slide the old blades off, noting how the blades were connected to the arms. Most wipers have push tabs located underneath to pop off the blades.
- Attach the new blades based on how the old ones were fitted, being careful not to bend the arms or scratch your windshield.
- Secure and line up the wipers and then do a test run before you get out on the road.
5. How to replace spark plugs:
Typically spark plugs need to be replaced every 30,000 miles, but double check with your owner’s manual in case your vehicle is an exception. Spark plugs are small, but play the very important role of emitting electricity to start your car. Replacing the spark plugs may sound like advanced work, but it really only requires appropriate directions and patience.
- You’ll need: Ratchet or socket wrench, 12″ socket extension, spark plug socket
- Estimated cost: $10-$15
- Total time: 30 minutes
- Depending on how many cylinders your vehicle has, you’ll have an equal amount of spark plugs. For example, if you have four cylinders, you’ll be looking for four spark plugs
- Locate the spark plugs by looking for thick rubber wires.
- Your spark plugs are installed in a certain order, so it’s important to only replace one plug at a time. Remove the wire to the first plug. Do not remove all wires at once.
- Now with the wire off, remove the plug with your wrench and socket.
- Being careful to not over tighten, install the new plug in the old one’s place, using your hand to screw in at first and then your wrench to secure.
- Reattach the spark plug wire.
- Repeat the above steps for each plug, one at a time.
Besides keeping up with vehicle maintenance, you should also keep up with your auto insurance tune ups. Make sure to contact your provider after an accident, if you get married, or if you received stellar grades this semester. There are many opportunities to unlock discounts that you might not even know about so it’s a good idea to check in with your company or shop for new quotes on a comparison website, like Insurify.com. Insurify allows you to customize, build, and buy a policy online. It’s about as DIY as changing your own oil filter!