By Shell on Dec. 16, 2019
"The days of the tinkerer have gone, to a certain level," says RACV Senior Vehicle Engineer Nick Platt. "Some cars actually require you to undo engine mounts to get to the oil filter, sometimes spark plugs require the engine to be removed to change them. With air filters, you risk foreign objects getting into the system and they can be quite tricky to do."
So, hands off your car? Not quite. If you want to ensure it's running at its optimum, slash a few hundred dollars off your annual motoring bill and give yourself the best chance of detecting potentially very costly issues, there's still plenty you can do. Just make sure you do your research first and don't overestimate your abilities.
"Your first port of call should be the owner's manual to see which kind of tasks are doable," says Nick. "If you're not comfortable doing something, you shouldn't be doing it - that's the general rule."
Can't find your owner's manual? Some brands allow you to download an electronic copy from online, others are happy to supply a replacement physical copy if you contact them directly. If your vehicle is older or rarer, you might have to resort to an independently published repair manual.
Tyres: 5-10 minutes
Running your tyres with the pressure too low or too high can shorten their life. Regular checks and adjustments are a way to stretch your dollar while maximising safety. Incorporate a condition check to help you identify wear issues or problems that could shorten tyre life or lead to a blowout.
Wiper blades: 10-15 minutes
Save some cash by changing these yourself. Traditional replacement blades can cost less than $20 each from reputable auto-parts stores. The Euro-style 'flex' blades fitted to many modern cars cost more but you'll still fork out less than a dealer will charge for the job. Just make sure you buy the correct replacements because they are increasingly vehicle-specific.
Light globes: 10-15 minutes
Traditional head- and tail-light globes are much like any bayonet-style globe and, access issues aside, simple to replace. LED lights and high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights require more specific - and sometimes costly - replacement 'modules' but are generally also quite straightforward.
Battery: 5-10 minutes
Loose connections and even small traces of residue can stop a battery performing properly, so regularly check the posts and terminals to make sure they have a good, clean connection. Often a quick removal, clean and refit can prevent an unnecessary battery replacement.
Fluids: 5-10 minutes
Windscreen washer, engine oil and coolant levels should be regularly checked and, when required, topped up. Just be aware that the engine should be completely cold before changing or topping up the latter. For more information on which oil or other lubricants to choose for your vehicle, go to Shell Lubematch.
For more general information, go to: www.racv.com.au/on-the-road/driving-maintenance/driving-maintenance-tips