Summer is here, which means heat, water, and driving to get there. Most summers, I feel like we are always in the car, going somewhere to explore a new place or check out a festival. All that driving means more wear and tear on our vehicles. The last thing anyone wants to happen is to be stuck on the side of the road somewhere in the hot sun. And then what if you don’t have cell service? Thankfully, there are many vehicle maintenance items that can be done yourself. Even preventative maintenance, so items can be taken care of before something goes wrong and leaves you stranded. Here’s my list of a few basic ones, that no one needs to be a mechanic to take care of.
I don’t know about you, but it seems like most time I get pulled over, it’s to tell me I have a brake light or tail light out. Do random walks around your vehicle to make sure all the lights are working properly. These can sometimes be a little harder to replace, but not impossible and once you’ve done it once, it’ll be easy next time. Lookup the bulbs you need online or at the auto parts store. Might as well change both brake lights out at the same time, as it will save you time later on. It may take some work to get to the location of the actual bulb, but it won’t require any tools you probably don’t already have.
Check you fluids and make sure they are at the proper level. If you need help finding them, your vehicle’s manual should give you a hint as to where they are located.
Located near the radiator, if the fluid is below the minimum level, then fill with a 50/50 mixture of water and anti-freeze.
2. Power Steering Fluid
This is usually located near the windshield and should be between the minimum and maximum line.
3. Brake Fluid
Keep fluid between the minimum and maximum line. If it continues to be low, have your brakes checked.
4. Windshield Wiper Fluid
Keep this one full. It’s always important to have a clean windshield!
Check the oil level with the dipstick and if the oil is low, add more. If the oil is dirty, thick, or a dark color, it’s most likely time to change it. Remember to completely change it out per your manufacturer’s recommendations
Changing Your Oil
This is the most common one people think of when they think DIY car maintenance and it’s not as hard as you might think. You’ll need a few tools, but it’s nothing crazy and just about anyone, including women, can do it. Most cars will need to be jacked up (our truck has a lift, so we can easily do it without a jack), drain the oil into a pan underneath, change the oil filter if needed, replace the plug, and add new oil. That’s the gist of it anyway. Have someone help you the first time or watch YouTube videos for easy instructions. Check your vehicle’s manufacturer recommendations for how often the oil needs to be changed.
Many people don’t think about this one, but it’s important to keep up with it. The air filter is the engine’s first line of defense. A clean air filter improves airflow and prevents dirt and dust from entering and damaging the engine and can also increase acceleration, horsepower, and improve overall engine performance. If you get your oil changed at a shop somewhere, many time they’ll ask if you want this replaced. My guess is they ask you this every time, whether it needs it or not, so if you do it yourself, you’ll know when to replace it. It also only takes about five minutes.
How To Change Your Air Filter
- Locate the air filter under the hood. It looks like a big, plastic box or similar container. Many are located near one of the wheels. Ours was located kinda center right and was more oblong in shape.
- Loosen the nuts or fasteners to remove the cover.
- Remove the old air filter.
- Use a rag to wipe down any dirt and grime built up in the housing.
- Insert the new filter and replace the nuts or fasteners.
We’ve had some major downpours lately and I’d hate to be caught in one of those with bad wiper blades. These are also pretty simple to change yourself. Most stores (including Walmart) have places to look up the exact size you need for your vehicle.
If you’ve had your current battery a few years, you can take it to an auto parts store to have the voltage checked. Our car wouldn’t start the other night, after having absolutely no previous issues. Thankfully, we were at a friends house and he jumped us, but what if we would have been somewhere and no one was around to help? It was the battery. The husband bought and installed a new one with no issues. If you are going on a trip, it never hurts to check it.
Ensure your windshield is clean and free of cracks. Most cracks start as a chip, so get those taken care of right away. In many cases, your insurance may waive the deductible to have the chip repaired, so it is no out of pocket cost to you.
Hose and Belts
This is more preventative maintenance. Check them to ensure there aren’t any cracks. If there are, have them replaced before they completely break and leave you stranded.
The last thing I want is to be on the side of the road with a flat tire. I hate even driving over something that makes me think I popped a tire. It’s automatic anxiety (kinda like when I accidentally ran over a curb yesterday and immediately freaked out that I had a flat and the husband would have to drive 50 miles to come fix it for me. The tire was fine though.). Inspect the tires for leaks, bubbles, dry rot, screws sticking out, or just about anything that could cause issues. The tread can be checked with a penny. Put the penny between the tread, upside down, If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.
What maintenance do you do on your vehicles?