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Car DIY: maintenance jobs you can do yourself

When it comes to looking after your car, there are many tasks you can tackle yourself without professional help

Man holding wrenches in front of a car with an open bonnet

Though many may want to turn to a mechanic to keep their car ticking over, there are many maintenance jobs that are straightforward and easy for drivers to undertake themselves.

Making constant trips to the garage will only rack up costs, so by investing in a good tool kit, and with a bit of research you’ll be able to save money and ensure your car remains in good condition between bigger services and its MOT. If you’re after tools, parts and accessories, then eBay has an ever-increasing range of car products to choose from, including showrooms for many well-known brands.

Want to know where to start? Here are some of the car DIY jobs you can do yourself.

Cleaning and general car care

This might seem like an obvious one, but cleaning your car is something that can easily be neglected. It can be hugely beneficial in terms of improving your vehicle’s resale value and longevity, plus you’d be surprised just how much dirt and grime accumulates on wheels and the car’s exterior.

If you’re looking to undertake a really thorough clean, then it’s worth investing in a pressure washer – a quick blast of water is an effective way to remove as much initial dirt as possible and give you less work to do later on. From there, a good wash with a dedicated car shampoo and a sponge or mitt will help you shift remaining dirt, to minimise the risk of scratching, use two buckets; one with the car shampoo, and a second with fresh water for cleaning your sponge or mitt. 

Drying your car is equally important; using a chamois leather cloth will help you avoid leaving streaks on the body. But whenever you’re cleaning or drying your car, take things slow and steady, and make sure any cloths, sponges or mitts are free from grit.

Detailing is next, so once your car is clean and dry a clay bar will pick up anything remaining before a polish and wax can be applied.

You may also want to consider using a special automotive glass cleaner for your windows, whilst a cordless vacuum cleaner with attachments will work wonders in the interior. Don’t forget to give your registration plate a good clean, too. Going out on the road with illegible plates could result in a £1,000 fine.

Cleaning car headlights with soap and water

Changing a bulb

Having a full set of working headlight bulbs is essential. Even if they’re not broken, it’s worth investing in a brighter set, especially as the nights draw in.

There are plenty of bulbs on the market; Auto Express’s recent product test recommended Twenty20’s plus 150 per cent bulb, the Philips RacingVision GT200 and Osram’s Night Breaker Laser.

Changing a bulb is fairly straightforward. First, it’s worth scanning around online as you may be able to find outlets that let you enter your registration details to pull up a list of compatible bulbs for your car. Then consult your vehicle handbook to locate the headlight housing and lift off the cover to disconnect the old bulb, being careful when detaching the power wires. Make sure you’re wearing gloves when installing the new bulb (oil from your skin can cause damage to the glass), then secure the bulb’s cover, close the bonnet and test that it’s working.

Replacing the wipers

If your windscreen wiper blades are getting noisy and starting to leave smear marks across the glass, then it’s time for a change. This is a simple task, will save you money and help give a clearer picture of the road ahead.

Most modern vehicles use ‘aero’ blades, higher quality products that use aerodynamics to hold onto the screen as you drive, and give an even wipe. You’ll find instructions on how to install the new wiper blades on the packaging, and if you’re looking for Auto Express recommendations then the Bosch Aerotwin and Michelin Stealth Hybrid wipers are worth a look.

Changing the air filter

An air filter stops dirt and other contaminants from getting into your engine and wreaking havoc.

However, replacing it is a quick job you can do yourself by opening up the bonnet and locating the air filter inside its casing. From there just replace the filter with the new purchase (these can cost as little as £10) then close the casing and secure the clips or screws.

Checking your oil

Oil is critical in protecting your engine from damage. A complete oil change can be a messy job, and for most drivers it’s something to leave to the professionals. But checking your oil and topping up if necessary is a more frequent occurrence.

You might be able to monitor oil levels on your dashboard, but if you need to get under the bonnet then arm yourself with kitchen towels or old rags, gloves, a funnel and a bottle of engine oil and get ready to top up. Make sure your car is level and the engine has cooled, then locate the dipstick and wipe it clean. Look for the maximum and minimum level marks then replace it and draw it out again to see where the oil mark sits.

If it’s below halfway or hovering near the minimum mark then find the oil cap in your engine bay and top up by pouring the oil in via the funnel. Let the oil flow down into the engine then check again with the dipstick. Too much oil can damage your car so if you’re uncertain then add a little at a time and keep checking to see where you’re at.

It’s important to ensure you choose the right grade of oil; once again, check your car’s handbook.

Oil being poured into an engine

Checking the coolant

Your coolant, sometimes called antifreeze, is the key to keeping your engine from overheating in summer or freezing in winter, so it’s worth checking the levels regularly to make sure you have enough to offer protection. Most modern cars will have a coolant reservoir. To check the levels, let the engine cool down completely then locate the reservoir in the engine bay (your vehicle handbook will be able to help here).

On one side of the reservoir there will be a minimum and maximum mark to indicate where the level of the coolant should be – use these to check the level of the fluid. You can also buy a hydrometer to make sure the antifreeze has the right mixture of coolant and water, such as the Draper 35807 antifreeze tester.

Checking your tyres

Your tyres are in constant contact with the road, so they’re understandably susceptible to wear and tear. Checking tyre pressure is a good habit to get into – keep them properly inflated and you’ll increase the lifespan of the tyres and get better performance from your car. Plus, properly-inflated tyres will mean your car is much safer on the road.

Investing in a reliable pressure gauge – like the Ring RTG4 or Draper 01071 – will mean you can monitor pressure levels and act if it’s too high or too low. A tread depth gauge is also a worthwhile investment – by law a tyre must have more than 1.6mm of tread depth across the central 75 per cent of its width. Sealey offers a good option that combines both pressure and tread depth gauges.

A flat tyre or puncture can be a real pain – cars will either come with a tyre repair kit or a spare wheel, and though you might want to be asking the professionals to take care of full change, for those thinking about doing it themselves we have a full guide here.

Visit eBay to buy the car parts, accessories and cleaning supplies

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