Theoretically, you can fix and replace virtually anything in your car if you are so inclined. Car maintenance (and debating car maintenance) is, after all, a time-honored American pastime in and of itself. If you check www.carparts.com, you’ll have all the tools and components you need to perform any repair you can imagine.
However, just because you can access info online or buy any tool or part you need, doesn’t mean you’ll immediately have the know-how to do any repair yourself. The answer to whether or not you should go DIY on your repairs all depends on your car, the availability of parts, and the general difficulty of servicing the components you need to be fixed.
Vehicles made since the 90s may also be generally more difficult for the average car owner to service themselves, as modern manufacturing has greatly reduced the proportion of user-serviceable parts. More systems are digitally controlled and require the use of specialized diagnostic equipment to service properly.
Arguably, this is mostly for the better. Cars have never been more reliable than they are now, and there is much less of a need to maintain them as regularly as we used to.
Of course, not everyone has a new car and we’re not all so lucky to have one that is in perfect running condition. If you have an older vehicle, something that’s a bit temperamental, or if you simply enjoy tinkering with what you have, there are several things on your car that are fairly easy to fix.
Which repairs are easiest to do?
Most cars still do have a lot of components that can be serviced by a non-mechanic, provided that have a reasonably decent set of tools. Here are just a few fixes that you should consider doing yourself:
- Changing the oil and filter
- Changing transmission fluid
- Swapping windshield wipers
- Checking brake pads and rotors
- Lubricating brake slider pins
- Light bulb swaps
- Headlight alignment
- Changing engine filters
- Changing cabin filters
- Tire changes
What tools should I get for maintaining my car?
If you want to be able to perform the basic repairs we mentioned above, the following tools are essential:
1.) Wrench, Allen/hex keys, pliers, flashlight and screwdriver sets
At the bare minimum, you will want sets of these tools. We recommend getting these first because they aren’t just handy for maintaining your vehicle—they’re going to be useful for doing common household repairs as well. On your car, you’ll be able to use them for accessing different panels, the engine, and parts of the interior.
2.) Oil wrench, oil pan, and funnel
Even if you leave everything else more complicated to a qualified mechanic, it’s good to know how to change your car’s oil. Changing your car’s oil yourself can save you thousands of dollars in maintenance fees over the lifetime of your vehicle. Oil wrenches, pans, and funnel aren’t very expensive investments and will allow you to easily change your car’s oil yourself without the mess.
3.) Tire iron
While tires are much more reliable than they used to be, flat tires are still one of the most common problems any driver can expect to face. When you do get a flat, it’s almost always going to happen without a mechanic nearby, which makes it important that you keep a tire iron as well as a spare tire in the trunk. Everyone who regularly drives should be able to change a tire, and having a tire iron on hand greatly reduces your risk of getting stuck somewhere because of a flat.
4.) Tire jack, chocks, and axle stands
These three items should also be in your trunk at all times to allow you to change tires safely. They’re also essential for allowing you to safely perform other repairs and maintenance that requires the car to be raised off the ground. Make sure you have tire jacks and axle stands that are rated for the type of vehicle you have and learn the specific areas of your car where the stands can be safely used. Don’t forget to use your chocks to prevent your car from rolling forward or backward when you’re working on it.
5.) Floor jack
While having a floor jack might seem redundant if you already have a tire jack and axle stands, having a floor jack at home just makes repairs and maintenance under your car simpler and safer to do. Be sure to purchase an appropriate jack for your car and to familiarize yourself with its operation.
6.) Jumper Cables
After flat tires, dead batteries are among the most common mishaps that can happen to you on the road. Jumper cables don’t take up much space so you should always have a pair that’s matched to your battery in your trunk at all times. And if you’re wondering if you could jump-start an electric car—yes, you can!
7.) Fire extinguisher
While vehicular fires are thankfully, quite rare these days, they’re always a risk especially when fuel and electrical systems are involved. Having a small one in the glove compartment or under the driver’s seat where you could easily access it as well as another in your garage can be prudent for preventing major damage in case of a fire.
While anyone can master all the ins and outs of their car given time and the inclination to study it in detail, they also have to consider spending considerable money on diagnostic and repair equipment to do some complex repairs on their own. For normal folks, this simply isn’t practical and most repairs not covered above should only be looked into by a qualified mechanic. However, it can’t hurt drivers to be prepared with the knowledge of how to do some common fixes, as this can have a positive impact on their safety as well as their maintenance costs.
What other tools should every driver have? What other basic maintenance and repair tasks should we all master? We’d love to hear from you!