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Auto Maintenance: What can you do yourself and when to call a pro

Performing your own auto maintenance has its advantages. No need to squeeze time into your schedule to take your car to the shop. You can also save money. But is it a good idea to do your own automotive maintenance?

Some vehicle repairs are definitely best left to professionals, but you can safely perform a few simple fixes yourself. When undertaking any of the following DIY auto repairs, always consult your auto manual.

Replace windshield wiper blades

To ensure safe visibility, replace windshield wiper blades every six to 12 months. It’s time to change the blades when they start making noise, leave streaks and harden and crack.

Buy the blades designed for your auto’s make and model. In addition to consulting your auto manual and the blade package for directions, note how the old blades are attached prior to removing them.

Lift the wipers and carefully remove the old blades from the metal arms. Most models have a tab on the underside of each blade that you push to remove the blade. When attaching the new blades, be careful not to bend the wiper arm. Ensure that the new blades are secure once installed.

Change the air filter

A new air filter is required yearly or every 15,000 miles [1]. If you travel dusty roads, change the air filter more frequently.

To locate the filter, consult your auto manual. Pop the hood and look for a plastic casing with clips or screws. Unclip or unscrew the casing and inspect the filter. If the filter is coated with dust, it’s time to replace it.

Purchase a new filter designed for your auto. When removing the old filter, note which way it faces. Insert the new filter in the same manner. Secure the filter in its casing with the clips or screws.

Fix minor scratches

Prevent minor scratches on your vehicle from rusting and becoming a bigger problem by fixing them. From your dealership or auto repair shop, get a paint touch-up kit containing the paint color of your vehicle.

There are several simple steps to the process [2]. First you treat the scratched area with sandpaper. Then you prime the treated area; let it dry and cover with the paint. Finish the process with a clear coating that protects the paint.

Change the oil and oil filter

Change your car’s oil every 3,000-5,000 miles. Determine the type of oil and oil filter to use by consulting your auto manual.

Avoid changing the oil [3] when the engine is hot. If you’ve been driving, let the car cool for 30 minutes prior. If the engine is cold, run the car for five minutes. You’ll need to be able to jack up your car on jack stands so you can get underneath it.

Start by unscrewing the oil pan drain plug and emptying the old oil into an empty container. Remove the old oil filter and install a new one.

Next, pop the hood and use a funnel to refill the engine with new oil. Run the engine for a few minutes until the engine oil light goes out. Check the oil level with a dipstick to make sure there’s enough oil. If not, put in some more. Recycle the old oil by bringing it to a gas station.

Replace a flat tire

Most cars come with a flat tire kit, which consists of wrench, jack, and spare tire. Always change a flat tire in a safe location, such as well off the road or in a parking lot. For added precaution, turn on your hazard lights.

Before changing the tire, prevent the car from rolling by putting on your parking brake and placing wheel wedges in front of the front tires.

Remove the hubcap or wheel cover and loosen the lug nuts. Under the flat tire, elevate your car about six inches above the ground. Unscrew and remove the lug nuts and flat tire. Mount the spare tire on the lug bolts and tighten the lug nuts by hand. Lower the vehicle and tighten the lug nuts again with the wrench as tightly as possible. Replace the hubcap.

Auto maintenance tasks best left to professionals

For your safety and to protect your vehicle, certain auto repairs should be completed by professionals [4]. Tasks such as replacing brake pads can be difficult for the average car owner to complete. Most people don’t have diagnostic equipment that ensures a vehicle is functioning properly. Incorrectly installing a car part could damage your auto and end up costing you much more in repairs.

Other repairs best left to automotive experts include replacing the car’s battery, alternator, radiator, and transmission and diagnosing and fixing electrical problems.

Simple DIY auto repairs can save you money and time. If you do attempt a fix and find that it’s too difficult, remember that an experienced auto technician is only a phone call away.

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