A Simple Starter Guide to DIY Auto Maintenance

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With prices on the rise or simply high across so many product and service categories (gas included), now is a great time to start looking into money-saving DIY solutions. One area where you can start saving money immediately is in basic auto maintenance.

While automotive service and maintenance professionals play a critical role, there are times when it makes sense for your average driver to take on some basic automotive maintenance tasks. It's not just a matter of money vs. convenience; if you take the time to learn how to do auto maintenance properly and you get some practice, you may find yourself saving time as well.

Consider this: if you have a garage or other easily-accessed workspace available, and you have the tools or equipment you need, isn't really more convenient to do it yourself when it comes to the time it takes? Sure, it's more effort on your part, but it also takes effort to take your vehicle up to a shop, and you might find yourself looking for something to do while waiting for the maintenance to get done. Taking care of it yourself gives you something to do right upfront and ensures you control the pace of the maintenance, rather than waiting on someone else.

But if you've never really worked on your own car, where do you begin? Here are three basic types of maintenance to get you started on the DIY path.

#1 - Change Your Own Oil

This is one that seems intimidating to many first-time home mechanics, but the truth is that the basic steps couldn't be easier. In the simplest terms you want to 1) Remove the old oil and filter and 2) put the new filter on and the new oil in your vehicle. The steps to actually do that vary slightly from vehicle to vehicle, but you can generally find exact instructions by searching for "oil change" plus your make, model, and year online.

You will probably need a drain pan (just get a cheap plastic one), a funnel, and a basic toolset. In some cases, you may need to remove an oil filter housing or use a torque wrench, but generally speaking, a basic toolset, the jack that probably came with your car, the drain pan and the funnel will do the trick. Get yourself some nice synthetic oil and a filter that works for your vehicle (read comments on vehicle-specific forums to get an idea of which filters are preferred), double check your specifications online or in your owner's manual, and follow the steps for your vehicle. You'll be quite pleased with yourself once you knock your first oil change out. Make sure you write down the mileage, date, and oil/filter used.

One last note: Don't forget to recycle your old oil. Your local auto parts chain store should be able to take care of that for you.

#2 - Rotate Your Own Tires

Few auto maintenance tasks are easier to do at home than tire rotation. If you know to change a tire, you can rotate your tires. It's commonly said that you should rotate your tires every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, but that number varies slightly. The important thing is to remember to do it. If you have a new car with maintenance reminders, set custom reminders for the mileage markers you deem appropriate. Follow the best process for your particular car and equipment setup, and keep track of when you rotated them. If you need help with the specifics for your vehicle, once again search the particular make, model, and year, plus "tire rotation."

#3 - Keep Your Car Clean

Last, but certainly not least, take ownership of the appearance of your car. Sure, car washes and spas are convenient, but you can get similar-quality or better results just doing it yourself, and save some money over time in the process. Wash your car, wax your car, and detail your car yourself. Can't quite get the sand or dirt out of little crevices like the pros do? Buy a can of compressed air and blast it right out.

What matters here, and with all other DIY tasks, is regularity. When you get in the habit of taking care of your vehicle, you'll find yourself developing more and more good automotive maintenance habits. Rather than entrusting the care of your car to someone else, you'll take the lead, and find yourself learning new skills, and saving time and money as a result.