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Repairing and maintaining your own car isn’t the lifestyle most people buy into. Take into account, though, that with your own two hands and a couple of tools, you could keep your car in good condition, on the road and save yourself a whole bunch of money in the process. You generally don’t need a mechanic for any minor jobs on your car, unless you’ve done something drastically wrong to it. There are several things you can fix and maintain all by yourself, and a basic service, for instance, is well within the average person's capability.
Of course, before we begin, it's very important to note that performing many jobs on your own car could land you in a lot of hot water with your insurer. Always, always, always check with your insurer or broker before deciding to undertake any DIY car projects.
In this two-part guide, we'll walk you through each and every step to performing said basic service, but first, what do you need to get started?
According to manufacturer guidelines (and many insurance or warranty conditions), your car should be serviced after a certain amount of mileage or time has passed. Here are some tell-tale signs that your vehicle may be long overdue:
The Engine Warning Light: the most obvious sign that something has gone awry with your engine. Most modern cars use this to tell you that it’s time for a service. It’s liklely nothing to panic about just yet, but it is advisable to service it as soon as possible.
Smoke or Steam Coming Out From Under the Bonnet: another obvious sign that something is terribly wrong. Steam is generally white in colour and could indicate a problem with your radiator, such as overheating. Best idea? Pull over and let your car cool down. Blue or dark smoke, on the other hand, indicates a bigger problem. It’s better to pull over and have your car towed to its destination. Blue smoke is generally caused by burning oil, and obviously, this can lead to a number of bigger problems. It could be due to piston wear, worn valve seals, piston rings, worn engine oil seals, head gasket failure or an intake manifold gas leak.
Vibrating / Pulling Brakes: this could be due to a problem in your steering, suspension or, most likely, worn brake discs or pads. If your tyres are wearing unevenly, this is a good sign that you’re in trouble. It’s not at all safe to drive like this.
Strange Noises: cars make strange noises every now and then, and the cause of which could be any number of things. Here are some common sounds:
The basic service is the most common and easiest type of car service to perform by yourself. This typically involves an oil and filter change, a top up of key fluids in the engine, and a check of key components.
If you were to take your car in to a mechanic or garage, they might also check your brakes and suspension and recommend any additional repairs. These establishments also offer full, major and manufacturer's service options, and each of these build on the previous level, take a lot more time to complete, and cost a lot more money. As previously mentioned, certain tasks will undoubtedly require the expertise and equipment of a qualified mechanic, but for the purpose of this guide we will only be looking at the barebones basic service.
So, for a basic car service, you’ll be carrying out the following maintenance tasks:
Always make sure you have all the correct parts before you take your car apart. You don’t want to be that person. Any basic car part that needs replacing can be found at your local autospares store, such as AutoZone or Midas, and they will be able to help you out if you know the exact model of your car.
On that note...
It's often been said that most DIY projects only require a hammer, a saw, a first-aid kit and a good lawyer. Performing your own car service requires a much larger inventory than that, unfortunatrely, but almost certainly works out far more affordable.
When starting from scratch, the initial layout for good quality tools may be quite expensive, but its an investment that could serve you well for the rest of your life.
It’s important to use the right tool for the right job, however, so to save you time and money, we put together a list of pretty much everything you would need to do the most basic repairs / services on your car:
In Part Two of How To Service Your Own Car, we'll give you a step-by-step guide on how to perform your own basic car service.
There are a great number of resources, how-to guides, general purpose videos and sources of diagnostic assistance online for almost every common car problem, but in order to ensure that you have a firm idea of what you’re doing, it's important to read through the job directions or watch the walk-throughs several times before diving in.
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