By Shell on May 17, 2022
There was a time when a little mechanical tinkering was the rule for the everyday motorist, but the increasing complexity and computerisation of today's cars means those days are behind us.
Some cars have even eliminated the humble oil dipstick, restricting a simple oil-level check to professionals with the correct equipment. But while getting into a car's oily bits is a job best left to experts, there are still plenty of small maintenance jobs you can tackle yourself, potentially saving a good chunk of money in the process. Here are five to add to your to-do list.
Changing wiper blades
These sometimes cost up to $100 or more to replace at a dealer. Getting a set from a wiper-blade specialist or motoring accessory store and fitting them yourself is an easy way to cut the cost. Different cars require different blades, so pre-purchase research is essential. Fitment is typically a simple slide-and-click process but if you're unsure, check your owner's manual or even YouTube, where you've got a good chance of finding a detailed tutorial for your car.
Changing lighting globes
Replacing these is another job you don't necessarily have to leave to professionals. While getting to headlight or tail-light globes can be fiddly, most aren't that much more difficult to change over than your average home-lighting globe. Again, you'll want to do your research to ensure you're getting the right globe and getting the changeover process right. If your car has LED or high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting, you might need to replace an entire failed lighting module rather than just a globe.
Tyres naturally lose pressure over time and under-inflated tyres decrease fuel efficiency. Over-inflated tyres, meanwhile, can wear faster. A weekly pressure check is the best way to ensure you're maximising tyre efficiency and life. It will also help you identify and rectify unusual wear or other problems that could shorten their life or result in a puncture or blowout.
While a growing array of cars don't let you check the oil, many still do and it's a relatively simple job. As well as telling you how much oil is in your engine, the colour and condition of the oil on the dipstick can tell you a lot about your engine's health, allowing you to identify sudden consumption or condition changes and seek professional help before more harm is caused. If you really want to keep on top of any developing mechanical issues before they potentially become money pits, add brake-fluid, power-steering fluid, transmission-fluid and coolant checks to your regime. Your owner's manual will tell you where the relevant dipsticks or reservoirs are and how to check the levels.
Cleaning or changing battery
Many modern cars require a 'reset' with a professional tool after a battery disconnection or their various electronic systems can go haywire. If your car is a little older and there are no warnings about battery disconnection in your owner's manual, some basic battery maintenance could pay for itself. If you're already checking fluids, taking the time to check the battery's posts, terminals and clamps are clean and securely connected while the bonnet's already up will ensure you're maximising its efficiency and lifespan.
Drive something older?
If your car is less than contemporary, more in-depth DIY maintenance jobs such as oil, filter and spark-plug changes are likely to be within your grasp with the right tools and a semblance of care and patience. Whether it's the owner's manual, a book or an online resource, the information is out there to do the job.
Even a simple mechanical task, however, can end up requiring costly professional intervention if you mess it up, so if you've got any doubts, leave it to the experts.