Whether you’re an avid traveler on the road frequently or just use your car to commute to work, you should know a few basic repairs.
Most serious problems can be left to the mechanic, but if you get stuck on the side of the interstate, you might be able to get yourself back on the road, for cheap. Here are a few things to learn:
Brake Pad Replacement
When it comes to basic car maintenance, few things are easier than changing the brake pads. Honestly, you should be able to do all four in under an hour. Grab a lug wrench, pliers or multitool, a wrench set, and the jack that comes with your car. Start by removing the wheel and the hardware keeping the pads in place. Remove the pads and install the new ones. With the caliper in the correct position and new pads in place, all you have to do is restore the hardware and wheel.
Correction, there is something easier than changing the brakes—changing the battery, even in larger vehicles like an RV. While many shops will go ahead and install the battery for you upon purchasing it, you can easily do it yourself. A few wrenches are all the tools you should need. Just remember to remove the negative cable first when taking out the old battery. When installing the new one, the negative cable should go on last. Doing it any other way could potentially short circuit the positive terminal.
Replacing a Headlight (or Taillight)
Popping out a headlight cover is fairly simple. Depending on the car you might need to loosen up a few screws with a multitool but there’s no heavy lifting involved in changing a light. Considering you could spend more than $100 taking it to a garage, you should save yourself time and money and do it yourself. A two-pack of bulbs runs less than $10 and changing one should take roughly five minutes. Buy a manual for your car and it’ll show you step-by-step how to get it done, which usually just involves popping out the cover and unscrewing a bulb.
Spark plug replacement can be incredibly costly when done by a professional. At home you’ll spend maybe $40. Replacing them is simple and requires a spark plug wrench you can find at any automotive store. It’s usually a matter of just popping out the old ones and plugging the new ones into place, though in some cars you might have to remove a few extra parts to reach them. Either way, your manual will show you the process and help save you tons of money. Just make sure to follow the directions for your car as many spark plugs need to be removed and installed in a specific order.
If you find your car overheating during a long road trip, the cause might be something as simple as a coolant leak. Easy to stop and simpler to repair, there’s no reason to freak out if one occurs. Pop open the hood and seek out drops of green, yellow or orange liquid emanating from a hose or small piece of plastic. An exterior hose leak takes less than five minutes to fix. Simply unclamp the hose from its position and replace it with a new one. You shouldn’t have to remove anything complicated to reach it and this’ll help you get home.
Wiper blades should be replaced every six months to a year, depending on the car and amount of use. Doing so is an easy task that doesn’t usually require tools. Simply lift the old wiper blades away from the car and pop them out from their base. Then slide the new ones in and they should easily clip into place. The tab where they come together is usually located on the bottom of the wiper and metal arms. Once you’ve attached the new blades, place them back down and make sure they don’t scratch the window. Turn on the car and give them a few practice swipes to ensure they work as intended. Fill up your washer fluid while you’re at it.