Many people settle into a route of convenience when it comes to the maintenance on their automobile. They take their car to the dealer or to a car servicing business every 5,000 miles or so, generally following their manufacturer’s recommendation, and they just pay that business to take care of car maintenance for them.
Here’s the thing: not only are you paying a pretty penny for labor in those situations, you’re also paying a premium for the materials involved. They’re not going to charge you bargain basement prices for things like oil and filters, after all.
Here’s another thing: most of the tasks that the car maintainers do are things you can easily do yourself at home.
In fact, your owner’s manual shows you how to do most of them. The manual also tells you exactly when those things need to be done.
It’s really difficult to estimate a true dollar amount on how much you’ll save by doing your own car maintenance, but over the lifetime of a car, I will virtually guarantee that your savings will be in the thousands of dollars even if you just stick to the most simple maintenance.
Here are five maintenance tasks that almost anyone can do for themselves on their car. Each one will save you some bucks.
Check Tire Pressure and Refill Air
All you need for this is a small air gauge which you can get for a buck or two at any automotive parts store. Keep it in your glove compartment. This procedure will save you several cents per mile that you drive plus greatly extend the life of your tires.
The process itself is simple: find out what your car recommends for maximum air pressure in the manual, then head to a gas station that provides free air (almost all of the stations around here do so). Pull up next to the pump, then check the pressure on each of the tires using the gauge. This is easy – just unscrew the little valve cap on each tire, then press the gauge firmly onto the valve until you don’t hear a hiss. The gauge will give you a pressure reading. Most likely, it’ll be lower than what’s recommended, so fill it up with air for a minute or so and check again. Keep doing this until you hit the right number. Then repeat the process for the other tires.
Do this once a month. It’s easy, helps to keep your tires in good shape, and having full tires maximizes your car’s fuel efficiency.
Change Oil and Oil Filter
This will cost you about $20 for the oil and the oil filter. Compare this to an oil change place which will often charge you $30 just to change the oil and even more if you’re changing the filter, too. You’ll also need an oil filter wrench and a pan to collect the old oil in. You’ll save about $10 to $20 per oil change, which should happen every 3,000 to 5,000 miles depending on your car and the oil you use.
This great video shows you the whole process. Mostly, it’s a matter of unscrewing the old filter, screwing in the new filter, removing the drain plug, allowing the oil that comes out to pour into your oil collection pan, putting the plug back when it’s done, and then adding fresh oil. The individual steps are so easy my seven year old could handle it.
Change Air Filter
This only requires a new air filter (about $15) and takes a couple of minutes at most. It’s incredibly easy to do. This should be done according to the schedule in your owner’s manual. I’ve had car shops offer to do this for me for $30 or $40, so you’re saving $15 to $25 doing it yourself.
All you have to do is pop open the hood, figure out from the diagram where the air filter is, pull it out, and put the new one in its place. Your manual will have diagrams making this incredibly easy.
Change Windshield Wipers
This is another very easy task, one that takes perhaps five minutes to do. New blades cost $15. Car shops will sell you this full service (including the new blades) for $30 or so.
All you have to do is lift up your windshield wiper, locate the tab on the bottom that holds the blade in place, and flip it. Remove the blade, put the new blade in its place, and click the tab back into place. That’s it. If you’re unsure of the specifics, your manual will explain it in detail, as always.
Replacing a Headlight
Headlight replacement is usually as easy as replacing a windshield wiper, except you have the additional step of unplugging it much like you unplug something from a wall socket. You just unplug the bulb, pull a tab to release the headlight, put the new headlight into place until it clicks, and plug it back in. That’s it.
Different cars have different variations on this, but the basics are the same for every car I’ve looked at. It’s incredibly simple and places will happily charge you $20 for this work.
These are five of the easiest tasks you can do on your car to take control of your own maintenance and save money. Once you’ve mastered these and feel confident, your auto manual will outline many other tasks you can take on. Most of them are only a bit more complicated than this, and most people can handle their full automotive maintenance on their own without paying someone to do it. This relieves them of the cost of labor and gives them the ability to shop around for parts and fluids.