A DIY Car Maintenance Program

A DIY car maintenance program can prevent auto breakdowns during vacation, including diagrams of what to check under the hood: battery, wipers, brakes, shocks, tires, lights and exhaust.

  • 105-102-01i1
    [A] UNDER THE HOOD: Your battery will succumb unless you keep it clean and filled. Air, fuel and oil filters need attention, too. Check the antifreeze level and clamps, hoses and water pump bearings, and don't forget to inspect the alternator and accessory belts for signs of wear. modern ignition systems require minimal maintenance, but examine spark plugs and distributor parts. [B] WIPERS: Replace the blades if they're worn, and fill the reservoir. [C] BRAKES: Look for leaks or kinks in the brake lines; scraping or clinking noises should be checked. [D] SHOCKS: Worn shock absorbers cause your car to wallow and bounce. Look for a service center sale. [E] TIRES: Tread wear can tell a story if you know what to look for. If the rubber is in good shape, inflate the tires to the recommended pressure. [F] LIGHTS: It only takes a few moments to check headlights, taillights, etc. [G] EXHAUST: Get under the car and look for corrosion or looseness in the pipe, muffler or clamp components.
  • DIY check under the hood
    The biggest favor you can do your vehicle before a long trip is to change its oil and filter.
  • 105-102-01i2
    TRANSMISSION FLUID: If your car's equipped with automatic drive, refer to the owner's manual, then check the fluid level. Avoid overfilling or underfilling. DRIVE TRAIN: Worn universal or constant-velocity joints can pose a hazard. Check for excessive play in the drive shaft. More than a fraction of an inch is too much.

  • 105-102-01i1
  • DIY check under the hood
  • 105-102-01i2

A DIY car maintenance program can keep your car in top form and can prevent vacation breakdowns. 

A DIY Car Maintenance Program

With summer just around the corner, it won't be long before millions of Americans take to the highways in celebration of their annual vacations. Unfortunately, many of those travelers won't reach their destinations without suffering a mechanical mishap along the way.

A roadside breakdown is no joke, and you'll only be kidding yourself if you leave your fate to chance. By spending a Saturday afternoon doing your own DIY car maintenance checking commonly ignored components on your car, you'll be one up when you take those jaunts—or that special journey—you've been looking forward to all year.

These preventive maintenance steps don't have to cost a cent. Nor will they require a shopful of tools or the expertise of a seasoned mechanic. In fact, each procedure outlined below is one you can do yourself, even if all you know about cars is how to lift the hood or change a tire. A few essential tools will come in handy: adjustable channel-locking pliers, flat- and Phillips-blade screwdrivers, a utility knife and perhaps a seven-piece set of combination or socket wrenches (3/8 inch through 3/4 inch or 9mm through 19mm, metric). If you don't own any tools, consider buying some to keep in the car. You just might need them on the road someday.

It seems sensible to begin by opening the vehicle's hood . . . but it makes even more sense to start by opening your owner's manual to the section on service and scheduled maintenance. There the manufacturer itemizes service procedures by mileage intervals and indicates fluid capacities, oil and coolant requirements and a number of other things specific to your car. The manual often includes photos or illustrations that locate and detail each maintenance chore clearly. (See the car maintenance diagrams in the image gallery.)

Getting Down and Dirty

Once you've familiarized yourself, at least in theory, with the things that might need attention under the hood, it's time to make your move. Don't count on keeping your clothes clean; just wear something that can get stained. Remove any watches or metal jewelry that can conduct electricity, and dispense with belts or buckles that might scratch your car's finish. Tie up your hair (or wear a hat) if it's long enough to snag.

7/27/2017 5:36:36 AM

Really good article! Will save me a few pennys, but there should be something included in this about the importance of going to get your vehicle serviced and MOT'd. I know it can be difficult for people to trust mechanics sometimes, but literally all you need to do is look at reviews and sites such as https://www.whocanfixmycar.com/, who show everyone in your area who can do the jobs that you need doing.

10/2/2014 8:55:17 AM

Very useful article indeed. I myself know my way around cars, but a lot of our customers have trouble performing minor car maintenance activities, so I decided to write a post about it. I gathered the best articles on DIY car maintenance and yours is one of them, so congratulations about that. :) Here it is if you're interested: http://onestopcollisioncenter.com/top-16-posts-diy-car-maintenance/

8/30/2014 6:43:18 AM

Nice article. Car maintenance usually helps people to prolong the life of the car and to use the car for many years.It can also attract a higher selling price and can increase the fuel efficiency. So it is essential that car users must follow some maintenance tips which is useful to them. Some maintenance tips are there which a user can do it by himself.In those cases you don't need to contact any service center. But yes you need some major tips which you need to follow. http://www.euroautomotive.net/porsche-repair.html

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters